The Public Eye

Former Sacramento principal fired after 2014 sexual, racial harassment allegations

Felisberto Cedros, the former principal at Hiram Johnson High School, speaks to teachers at a staff meeting on June 17, 2010. He has been fired from the district after the state and Sacramento City Unified School District determined he sexually and racially harassed an after-school worker.
Felisberto Cedros, the former principal at Hiram Johnson High School, speaks to teachers at a staff meeting on June 17, 2010. He has been fired from the district after the state and Sacramento City Unified School District determined he sexually and racially harassed an after-school worker. Sacramento Bee

A former Hiram Johnson High School principal accused in 2014 of racially and sexually harassing a black female after-school worker has been fired from a six-figure administrative job in the Sacramento City Unified School District office.

Felisberto Cedros was placed on administrative leave as principal and then moved to a district office job after Delecia Sydnor alleged that he had threatened to “whip” her and later told her she would “have enough time to pull your panties down” if she tried to report him.

Though the district concluded Cedros did not violate California law, the state Department of Education determined that he had violated laws related to harassment and retaliation.

The school district paid $175,000 last year to settle a lawsuit filed by Sydnor. For most of the last 16 months, Cedros has received full pay of between $110,000 and $139,000 in newly created jobs in the district office.

A Bee story in September reporting details of the case took some trustees by surprise. Two trustees said last week that they were not fully informed when the case was previously presented to them.

“The Bee story helped bring some additional information to our attention,” said board President Jay Hansen.

“When we had more facts, the board had more questions,” Hansen said. “We needed more answers. A lot of information came to light in a more in-depth review by the board members, including new information that helped us reach the conclusion we reached – that this employee needed to be terminated.”

Cedros could not be reached for comment. Neither the district nor Cedros admitted responsibility when the lawsuit was settled last May. The $175,000 payment was covered by Schools Insurance Authority, which pools insurance money for Sacramento City Unified and other districts.

The suit filed in August 2015 alleged that Cedros raised the specter of a retaliatory sexual assault when he warned Sydnor in September 2014 that he knew powerful people and that she would be making a mistake if she tried to report him.

“There are some people who will f--- you from behind,” Cedros allegedly said. “I am the type to f--- you from the front, and you will know it, and you will have enough time to pull your panties down.”

The suit also alleged that Cedros denied her a lunch break, screamed at her and threatened to terminate her after-school program.

In October 2014, Sydnor took medical leave from her job with Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center, which managed the district’s Youth Management Services program at Hiram Johnson. The next month, she filed a formal complaint with the district, citing a hostile working environment.

The California Department of Education complaint unit determined that Cedros violated state law, clearing the way for the lawsuit. The state cited the district’s own findings that eight Sydnor allegations were true, including Cedros’ pants statement and his threat to “whip” her if she failed to follow his instructions.

“This remark was particularly offensive to her as an African American,” the state report said.

The report also noted that Cedros gave false and misleading statements to investigators and referred to staff members as “the light-skinned chick” and “pretty boy.”

District trustee Christina Pritchett last week echoed Hansen’s view that the board had not been fully informed. After The Bee article, she said, the board “took appropriate action.”

“Obviously, there is not a whole lot we can say because it’s a personnel matter,” Pritchett said.

Cedros began working in the district in 1987 and was a principal at Kennedy High School before moving to Hiram Johnson High in 2010. In summer 2015, he was placed on paid administrative leave for two months, about the time the state report was issued.

That fall, he was moved to the district office and designated principal on special projects, earning $139,303, the same salary he earned as principal. In July 2016, he was demoted to assistant principal on special assignment, a post that paid $109,886 annually.

Nikki Milevsky, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, said the chain of decision-making was costly for taxpayers.

“We are appalled that Jay Hansen and other board members allowed the superintendent to create to what appears to be a no-show job for a proven sexual harasser,” she said. “It’s costing the taxpayers and the district a quarter million dollars in addition to the $175,000 paid out in settlement.”

“It wasn’t until The Bee raised the scandal that the board finally acted,” she said. “Voters should be outraged.”

District Superintendent José Banda said the district acted appropriately. “Personnel matters are complicated and take time to investigate and resolve,” he said in an email.

Hansen called the episode a learning experience, saying that it “makes us better board members and helps educate us on what are the best questions to ask.”

“We’re all volunteers on this school board,” Hansen said. “It’s an extraordinarily complex organization with 4,200 employees, 43,000 students and a $550 million budget.” He called the trustees “a group of people dedicated and committed.”

On the SCTA criticism, Hansen said, “Clearly the board acted and Cedros is no longer with Sac City. We will always have folks complain about something we should have known and acted on sooner. That’s why we welcome those who want to be authentic partners to help put our students first.”

San Francisco employment attorney Mary Patricia Hough said last week that her client, Sydnor, has moved on with her life.

“My sense of this is that she got closure and she’s fine,” Hough said.

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