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NFA Head of School David Klein to depart for Trumbull post next July

Norwich — Norwich Free Academy Head of School David Klein will leave the academy at the end of the school year to become president of St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, he announced Wednesday in an email letter to NFA staff and board of trustees.

“Good afternoon. I am writing to inform you of a new professional opportunity in my life,” Klein wrote in the letter. “I was recruited for and selected as the next President of a newly independent College Preparatory Catholic High School. I will continue as the NFA Head of School for the entirety of this current school year and assume my new leadership position on July 1, 2020. More specifically, my final day at NFA will be June 30, 2020.”

Klein, who was not available for comment Wednesday night, wrote that he was recruited for the position and had not been seeking to leave NFA, where he has served as head of school since 2011.

“This unique professional opportunity found me in July, and I pursued it because it aligns so perfectly with my deep Catholic faith,” he wrote. “I was not seeking a new job, and this position is the only one I have sought since I began my NFA tenure in October 2011. I am excited about the opportunity to serve in a religious educational setting.”

NFA board of trustees Chairwoman Sarette Williams said in a news statement Wednesday that Klein notified her and Vice Chairman Devol Joyner of his new appointment during a meeting Aug. 29. In the statement, Williams thanked Klein for giving the board of trustees 10-months’ notice of his pending departure and called his tenure as NFA head of school “stellar,” and the board will start the process to seek his successor.

Williams said Klein’s ability gave confidence to trustees, citing his fiscal restraint that kept tuition in check for the academy’s eight sending towns — which Klein renamed as “partner districts” — his defense of the academy’s independent governance as a privately endowed academy and his ability to keep NFA’s enrollment stable in an increasingly competitive high school choice market.

But for the past two years, NFA and Klein have been at the center of controversy. A year ago, on Sept. 12, police and FBI teams combed the NFA campus, seizing computers and electronic equipment after arresting former coach Anthony Facchini on two counts of second-degree sexual assault for alleged sexual relations with two female students.

The police investigation broadened to NFA staff members who might have had knowledge or suspicions of the allegations and did not report them to the state Department of Children and Families, as required by state law. Arrest and search warrants revealed that Klein and other administrators discussed an initial allegation in April 2017, but then-Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino dismissed the claims as unsubstantiated after both Facchini and the student denied the relationship.

The board of trustees conducted its own independent investigation and cleared Klein of any wrongdoing and authorized him to handle any internal discipline. Rodino initially was placed on paid leave and was arrested by Norwich police on charges of failure to report, tampering with evidence, issuing a false statement and interfering with police. Rodino retired from NFA in July. NFA Curriculum Director Denise Grant, who first brought the suspicions to Rodino, remains on paid leave.

Prior to the police investigation, NFA successfully fought attempts by the state legislature that would have dramatically altered NFA’s governance structure and budget process. Proposed bills would have mandated the partner towns have a seat on the board of trustees and would have mandated budget public hearings prior to adoption of the annual NFA budget.

The efforts failed in each of the past two legislative sessions.

In his letter to staff and the board, Klein outlined several major tasks he hopes to accomplish this school year, including contract negotiations with the NFA teachers’ union, a new contract with the partner districts, develop an administrative reorganization plan and “carefully monitor legislative activity regarding independent governance.”

In a letter to the St. Joseph school community dated “September 2019,” board of directors Chairman Christopher Wilson said Klein has the credentials to lead the school’s faith-based mission and vision, with a focus on high performance.

“His career exemplifies a commitment to creating a vibrant educational community that encourages initiative, creativity, and well-being,” Wilson wrote. “He values a supportive school culture that fosters caring relationships between adults and young people. David is a leader of exceptional integrity, respect and accomplishment. The Board and the Search Committee are confident he has the vision and drive to lead the entire St. Joseph community into the future.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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