Separation Pact Details JPS Teacher Resignation

A Jamestown Public Schools teacher will receive restitution for legal fees, drop an ongoing lawsuit and participate in a resignation incentive program.

Larry Bentzoni, who was involved in a lawsuit against the school district filed in April, came to terms in a separation agreement ahead of his resignation.

Details of the separation agreement were revealed after The Post-Journal submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the school district.

The separation agreement and resignation were both unanimously accepted by the Jamestown Board of Education at Tuesday’s special meeting. The resignation will become effective June 30, 2019.

In the agreement, Bentzoni will receive $2,000 within 30 days of a notice of discontinuance, which refers to when a plaintiff in a court proceeding chooses to end the case against a defendant prior to an official judgment. He will also receive three months of health insurance.

The payment is cited for alleged costs Bentzoni incurred from defending himself during legal proceedings involving criminal charges that stemmed from a 2018 classroom incident with a student in a Jamestown High School classroom.

Bentzoni was placed “in an alternate work assignment” following the incident on Nov. 16, 2018.

The separation agreement states the school district met with Bentzoni on various occasions from the time of the November incident. On March 21, both parties met and Bentzoni was informed of the school district’s “significant concerns” with his “conduct toward a student.”

According to court records, Bentzoni allegedly admitted to placing his hands on the shoulders of a student, who was allegedly disrupting the class in an attempt to guide the individual back to his seat. A verbal exchange ensued before the student left the classroom that included Bentzoni asking, “Have you ever seen a teacher kick a student’s (expletive)?”

A complaint submitted to a school resource officer and the Jamestown Police Department by the student’s father who alleged that Bentzoni struck the student without provocation.

Bentzoni previously pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct. The charge was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal for 12 months in Jamestown City Court on Tuesday. Original charges included endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree harassment. Jamestown attorney Peter Pillittieri, who is representing Bentzoni on criminal charges, said the charge will be dismissed in its entirety if Bentzoni does not violate the law for a year.

Bentzoni filed a petition with the Supreme Court in Chautauqua County against the school district on April 11 seeking repayment of legal fees incurred from defending himself against the charges that were brought against him last year. Claire Sellers, a staff attorney from the New York State United Teachers union, represented Bentzoni in the lawsuit and the separation agreement.

Bentzoni effectively agreed to discontinue his suit against the school district favoring the separation agreement.

Bentzoni claimed he spent $2,000 on legal representation as of April 11. In November, he sent a letter to the school requesting “defense and indemnifcation” from the district. He was notified by JPS around Dec. 13, 2018, that he would not be receiving any assistance from the school district.

Furthermore, the separation agreement allows Bentzoni to participate in a resignation incentive program that was approved by the board at an April 16 meeting, despite not meeting the minimum of teacher participation previously stipulated.

The board of education previously approved a resignation incentive program for Jamestown Teacher’s Association members and Jamestown Principal’s Association members. For the JTA program, a minimum of 15 teachers are required to participate for it to be valid.

Bentzoni, according to the memorandum, will receive $25,000 in four payments over four years. The first payment will be in the form of $7,000 in August.

In addition to his resignation, Bentzoni agreed to not seek employment within the district in any capacity in the future. The district will have no obligation to consider any application for any position in the district including volunteer work.

Bentzoni is also prohibited from entering district property going forward unless a written request is approved by the superintendent.