Groton — The school board on Monday appointed a new interim superintendent who, according to published reports, was fired late last year as Bridgeport superintendent by a state-appointed school board.
The board also agreed Monday to delve further into the handling of school district finances by Superintendent Paul Kadri, who remains on leave because of accusations he mistreated a host of mostly female school employees.
The board voted unanimously Monday to appoint John Ramos, who headed the Bridgeport schools, the state's second-largest school district, from 2005 to 2011. Ramos said Monday that his departure from Bridgeport was by "mutual agreement."
He is the former principal and assistant superintendent in Norwalk who served as the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Education. Published reports show a dysfunctional Bridgeport school board was dissolved in favor of a state-appointed board last year. The new board voted to terminate Ramos' contract effective Jan. 1.
Board of Education Chairwoman Kirsten Hoyt said Ramos was prepared to work through June 2013, if needed. Hoyt said his exit from Bridgeport "was based on nothing more than a difference in strategy with a new school board."
"While bringing about significant changes in a large and highly diverse school district plagued with high poverty rates, Dr. Ramos also maintained the support and professional respect of the Bridgeport community," Hoyt said. "Even in the midst of disagreements, Dr. Ramos still received praise for the depth of his experience, the commitment he brought to his job, and the dignified manner in which he always conducted himself."
A contract is being negotiated, but Hoyt said Ramos will not receive medical benefits. The school board is expected to further scrutinize the contract with Ramos before it is signed.
Ramos will replace departing interim school Superintendent Randall Collins, who was praised by the board for his work during a tumultuous time for the school system.
Collins has been filling in for Kadri, who the school board has notified they are considering firing. Kadri was present Monday when the board voted unanimously to send out a request for proposals on the cost of a forensic audit. There are allegations Kadri may have misused grant funds.
The issue materialized during an investigation into Kadri's alleged misconduct. Former grants facilitator Dana Parfitt, who left the system in 2009, said Kadri, "would try to use funds for purposes that did not fall within their required purpose." She said she was concerned that Kadri, "was asking her to misstate the manner in which funds were to be used, or had been used," according to the report.
The school board said a forensic audit may include the grant funds or the entire budget.
Kadri declined to comment directly on the school board's decision but said in a statement that most grants are audited by the state and any abnormality would have been sent back for revisions.
Kadri said he is an expert "on the effective and equitable use of funds," and his priority-based budgeting "involves making sure the highest priority items are funded first from the most restrictive funds possible."
"When Mrs. Parfitt states that I tried to use the funds for purposes outside of what they were intended, she was referring to my efforts to explore if grant funds could be used for higher priority items …" he said in his statement.
He said his new methods were not supported by some employees.
Kadri, who denies all the allegations, is expected to request a hearing before the board to confront his accusers. His attorney, Gregg Adler, has said he plans to ask for an independent arbitrator rather than the board.