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Kadri gets word he could be fired, wants 'neutral' arbitrator

By Greg Smith

Publication: theday.com

Published September 12. 2012 5:00PM   Updated September 13. 2012 12:49AM

Groton — The Board of Education has notified Superintendent Paul J. Kadri that it plans to consider firing him, and he has responded that he will request a hearing to confront his accusers in front of a third-party arbitrator, rather than the board, his attorney said Wednesday.

"The board sort of disqualified itself," said Gregg D. Adler, Kadri's attorney. He said too much has occurred in this case to expect board members to consider it objectively.

Kadri, who was placed on paid administrative leave in May during a probe into allegations that he mistreated school district employees, received a letter dated Sept. 10 from Board of Education Chairwoman Kirsten E. Hoyt, saying that the board is considering terminating his employment. The board voted last month to consider Kadri's firing.

Hoyt's letter alleges a pattern of bullying, belittling and intimidating behavior by Kadri toward his former executive assistant, Alisha Stripling, and other employees as reported by an investigator hired by the board.

"This has taken the form of screaming at them, pounding your fist, belittling and/or chastising employees in front of others, and other behaviors and actions that caused employees to fear for their safety and caused them anxiety, as well as resulted in valued employees resigning and/or retiring earlier than planned," Hoyt wrote.

The investigator's report also alleges unprofessional and unethical behavior such as using school district personnel to perform personal tasks during work hours, trying to persuade others to misuse grant funds, and requiring the former assistant superintendent to campaign for a school building project during her vacation time.

Hoyt wrote that the overwhelming majority of Kadri's alleged misconduct was directed at women.

"You have otherwise shown a lack of respect for the input and opinions of female employees, all in violation of the District's sexual harassment policy," Hoyt wrote.

She listed three behaviors that, by contract, would allow the board to fire Kadri: "insubordination against the rules or orders of the Board; moral misconduct; and other due and sufficient cause."

Kadri, who was hired in 2008 and whose current contract expires on June 30, 2014, said he is being falsely accused and was never offered the opportunity to present his own side of the story to the investigator, William T. Blake of Milford-based Harlow, Adams & Friedman.

"Having a Board rush to judgment instead of seeking the truth is what is shocking, disruptive, and very expensive," Kadri said Wednesday in a written statement.

"I would be the first one to say that I am not loved by everyone. Groton is a very political place and one doesn't have three years of not increasing taxes and improving test scores without ruffling some political feathers," Kadri said.

Adler said he is not yet sure whether Kadri wants the hearing to be held in public. He said a hearing with a "neutral arbitrator would make future litigation over this matter less likely."

As for his reason to believe a hearing before the Board of Education would violate Kadri's right to due process, Adler cites the termination letter, saying it was "written as if all of the facts have already been found," as well as unspecified statements by school board members.

Hoyt said she could not comment on the Kadri issue.

Interim Superintendent Randall Collins' contract with the board expires on Sept. 28. The board will interview candidates for his replacement on Tuesday.

"We are hopeful to have someone in place before the 28th when Dr. Collins leaves," Hoyt said.

Kadri is still being paid his $167,475 yearly salary and Collins is being paid the same salary but on a per diem basis — $641 per work day.

Kadri has 20 days from the receipt of the termination consideration notice to request a hearing. Once the school board has received the request, it will have 30 days to schedule a hearing.

Kadri was the subject of lawsuit filed in August 2011 against the Board of Education by Dottie Hoyt, the former assistant superintendent of schools, who is not related to the school board chairwoman. Hoyt alleged that her treatment under Kadri during the 2010-11 school year caused an anxiety disorder.

The lawsuit was settled in March for $197,000, with no findings of wrongdoing, liability or violation of any law, regulation or agreement.

g.smith@theday.com

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