Hilton Head principal gets $35,000 in agreement to resign after sex allegations, documents say

The Beaufort County School District has agreed to continue paying Amanda O’Nan, the now former principal of Hilton Head Island High School, her full salary and benefits through June 30 — along with an additional $35,000 in damages and attorney fees — in exchange for her agreement not to sue the district over her removal, according to settlement documents contained in her personnel file, obtained Wednesday by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The settlement notes that the agreement is “in no way an admission of wrongdoing” from O’Nan and “shall not be construed to be an admission” by the district that “Ms. O’Nan’s claims were warranted or that any payment or compensation to Ms. O’Nan was required by law or equity.”

O’Nan led Hilton Head High for 12 years and is regarded as a popular and accomplished educator. She announced her resignation in a Facebook post May 7, almost four months after being placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of two investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct.

On March 12, the state Department of Education issued a public reprimand to O’Nan, its lowest form of discipline, after looking into whether O’Nan had conducted an after-hours extramarital affair in 2016 with an on-duty law enforcement officer on school grounds.

Eight days after the state’s ruling, interim superintendent Herb Berg sent an email to O’Nan outlining the district’s findings and informing her that he was going to recommend to the Board of Education that she be terminated “based on overall concerns with your unprofessional and inappropriate conduct, as well as your dishonesty during the administration’s investigation of your conduct,” according to information contained within O’Nan’s personnel file.

Since then, the district and O’Nan have been hammering out the terms of their agreement.

O’Nan’s annual salary was $106,271, according to school district spokesperson Jim Foster. Since being placed on leave Jan. 8, which barred O’Nan from stepping foot in the high school, she has earned $51,091.77 awaiting the district’s decision on her employment status.

In her resignation announcement on Facebook, O’Nan indicated that she was taking “the high road.”

According to her settlement with the district, O’Nan:

• Gets to resign from her position rather than be fired;

• Will receive $16,349.38, the amount that represents the remaining eight weeks of her contract;

• Will get paid for any vacation days she did not use while employed by the district;

• Will get an additional $35,000 “to be designated as compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs, for settlement of a disputed claim”;

• Gets a job reference from the district that uses negotiated language. The terms of her agreement state that all oral or written requests for references will go to the chief administrative and human resources officer, who will respond to references in writing with “Ms. O’Nan was employed in Beaufort County School District from December 17, 2002, through May 6, 2019. She voluntarily resigned from her employment with the District, effective May 6, 2019”;

• Has agreed to waive her right to any hearing before the Beaufort County School District’s Board of Education and/or its designated hearing officer;

• Agrees not to sue the district or any of its employees for any reason “arising from or relating in any way to her employment relationship with the District, or her separation from employment with the District, including, but not limited to, any claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.”

On the evening of May 7, when O’Nan announced her resignation on Facebook, her attorney, Ed Kubec, provided the Packet and the Gazette with a statement over text message that, in part, read:

“... after fighting for her students and the school for over 11 years, and fighting for her reputation for over 3 years, Amanda, like any champion fighter, assessed the toll the constant fight was taking on her life, knew when to stop the battle, and wisely decided to spend time enjoying her family and the rest of her life. Amanda is one of the most courageous persons I’ve ever met, and her resignation is a loss to the entire community.”

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