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Groton — The Board of Education has agreed to let an independent arbitrator handle the upcoming termination hearing for Superintendent Paul Kadri.
School board attorney Floyd Dugas negotiated an agreement with Kadri’s attorney, Gregg Adler, to appoint Timothy Bornstein as the hearing officer instead of the board, according to school board Chairwoman Kirsten Hoyt. Bornstein’s decision will be final.
“The board has agreed to this out of an abundance of caution and to remove any argument that the party deciding the case had predetermined the outcome and therefore denied Mr. Kadri due process,” Hoyt said.
The hearing will be closed to the public, according to the agreement, which comes a week after Kadri was denied his request for an arbitrator. Dugas had argued that Kadri’s contract calls for the school board to be the deciding body at a termination hearing.
Kadri, who was placed on paid leave in May due to accusations of abusive and unprofessional behavior toward school employees, denies the allegations and claims he was being prejudged and could not receive fair treatment from the same board that had voted to consider his firing.
Kadri also responded to the initial denial with a list of concerns about the potential bias of six of the board’s nine members. The board denies those claims.
As a result of the agreement, the Oct. 30 termination hearing date was canceled. The new hearing dates are set for Nov. 20, Dec. 11, Dec. 14 and Dec. 20 with an agreement that the proceedings be completed prior to Dec. 30.
“I’m pleased by this because it allows a decision by a neutral decision maker, which is what we’ve been asking for,” Adler said.
Adler said he expects the school board to take on the role of prosecutor in the hearing, while he cross-examines witnesses.
Kadri’s termination hearing comes in the wake of a damaging report by an investigator hired by the school board to interview school employees. Some employees said they feared for their safety, and others said Kadri’s behavior caused them anxiety. Other employees accused Kadri of things such as asking school district personnel to perform personal tasks during work hours and attempting to misuse grant funds.
“They essentially have to show they have grounds to terminate Paul,” Adler said. “The board insisted it be held in private. As much as (Kadri) preferred to have it in public, the primary goal is to have a fair hearing.”
Adler said both he and Dugas agreed to Bornstein as arbitrator. He described Bornstein as a well-respected professional arbitrator who typically resolves disputes in collective bargaining agreements.
As part of the agreement between Kadri and the school board, Kadri is responsible for $500 of the cost of the arbitrator per hearing while the school board shoulders the balance.