Barton retires as principal following settlement

McKinley High School principal has left the district after being offered her job back following a five-year legal battle

Crystal Barton has retired from Buffalo schools, less than a month after the Board of Education approved a settlement ending their long and costly efforts to fire the veteran administrator. 

Barton was on administrative leave for nearly five years before the settlement was approved on April 4, permitting her to return to her job as principal. As part of the deal, Barton was granted $200,000 for overtime and other compensation she might have earned if not suspended, in addition to nearly $645,000 in salary she was paid while on suspension. 

Her retirement on April 22 was quietly approved at a board meeting on May 18, according to board documents.


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Barton was principal of McKinley High School for over three decades before being placed on administrative leave in 2017 when a lawsuit was filed against the school district by the New York Civil Liberties Union. In the suit, Barton was accused of discriminating against McKinley’s LGBTQ students.

While that suit was dropped within the year, Barton remained on leave while being investigated by the district for misuse of student activity funds. When the investigation ended in late 2019, Barton was accused of mishandling nearly $10,000 in funds over three years — accusations she denied — and the district began its efforts to fire her.

Hearings scheduled for April 2020 were delayed because of the pandemic, and again last November when a hearing officer withdrew from the case.

Barton worked for the district for 42 years and was earning $135,942 a year. She remained president of the Buffalo Council of School Administrators throughout her leave.