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Former PS 20 principal Sean Keaton acquitted

Sean Keaton, former principal of PS 20 in Fort Greene, was acquitted in a Brooklyn court last week of "menacing in the third degree," a charge stemming from an altercation with a teacher in the principal's office in 2009, Department of Education officials confirmed. But the DOE would not say whether Keaton would return to his post or whether the interim acting principal, Lena Barbera, would stay.

The original charges of assault and harassment were downgraded in November 2009. Keaton was placed on administrative leave in May 2009 while his case was pending and Barbera, an assistant principal at PS 261, was named interim acting principal. She could not be named as principal while Keaton's case was unresolved. PS 20 parents repeatedly cited the lack of a permanent principal as a problem during contentious hearings last fall over the expansion of another school in the building, The Urban Assembly Academy for Arts & Letters.

Now that Keaton has been acquitted, the Department of Education may move to appoint a  principal. At a Community Education Council Town Hall meeting in District 13 last night, DOE official Marc Sternberg and District 13 Superintendent James Machen said they could not comment on personnel matters but that they hoped to move  "as quickly as possible" to appoint a principal. Whether that person will be Lena Barbera or whether it is possible that Sean Keaton could return to the building, was unclear.

"If the person has been exonerated, he has a right to the position, pending DOE review," said Antoinette Isable, a spokesperson for the principal's union. "If he chooses to take on another assignment, the interim acting principal would go through the C-30 process  [the regulation governing the process of selection and appointment of principals and assistant principals]."

A $5 million civil suit against the city and Keaton by the aggrieved teacher is still ongoing, according to Hugo Ortega, a lawyer for Robert Segarra, the teachers' union representative at PS 20 who claimed Keaton kicked and punched him. Ortega said Keaton is in default of the civil lawsuit for never answering the summons and complaint against him.

More details as we get them.

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