Amid tumult over fights, Montville schools announce leadership lineup

Montville — School officials named interim district and high school leaders Friday in the wake of three administrators being placed on leave pending internal and criminal investigations into alleged failures to report classroom fighting last fall.

Assistant Superintendent Laurie Pallin announced Friday she will remain in her current position but will fill the role of superintendent until the Board of Education advises otherwise.

"We want to assure parents that leadership is in place at all Montville schools as students return on Monday from spring break," she said in a statement.

Superintendent Brian Levesque, high school Principal Jeffrey Theodoss and Assistant Principal Tatiana Patten turned themselves in to state police Thursday morning when they learned Norwich Superior Court had issued warrants for their arrests, state police said.

Police charged each with failure to report abuse under the state's mandated reporter law after classroom fighting allegedly supervised by substitute teacher Ryan Fish went unreported to authorities.

Levesque could not be reached for comment Friday and his district email address directs people to contact Pallin. Messages left for Theodoss and Patten were not returned.

Pallin has worked in the district for 25 years, and twice has filled the top role while the superintendent was on medical leave.

"Now, more than ever, we need a strong leader to guide us through these difficult times, and I am up to the challenge," she said. "My hope is that we can get back to some sense of normalcy and return our focus to our students and their education."

Heather Sangermano, Montville's Palmer Building principal, will assume the role of acting principal for the high school on Monday.

Pallin described Sangermano as a "highly effective principal in the district for six years."

Sangermano will work closely alongside acting Assistant Principal Phil Orbe, Pallin said. Orbe served as athletic director before being named interim assistant principal after Patten was placed on leave in January. At that time, Levesque said Patten's leave was connected to an incident involving the termination of a substitute in October.

School officials, aware of at least one of four alleged fights, fired Fish on Oct. 10. Police last week charged Fish with two counts of risk of injury to a minor, second-degree breach of peace and four counts of second-degree reckless endangerment.

Police identified four juveniles — one 14-year-old boy, one 15-year-old boy and two 16-year-old boys — as victims. At least one of them was not a willing participant in the fights, police said, and at least three of them weren't assigned to Fish's classroom.

Fish, 23, told police he knew of four fights in his classroom; he said they began in September as horseplay and became more serious, according to his arrest warrant affidavit.

Police say they only became aware of the fights in December, when a Department of Children and Families social worker told them a 15-year-old student had reported being assaulted by three students during school.

Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison, up to a $2,000 fine, or both.

The Board of Education, which met in executive session Thursday night to discuss personnel matters, is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

b.kail@theday.com

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