Another Montville administrator placed on leave, not connected to fight probe

In this June 2011 file photo, Montville coach Phil Orbe is pictured at Dodd Stadium in Norwich after being named the 2011 All-Area Spring Sports baseball coach of the year.  (Tim Martin/The Day)
In this June 2011 file photo, Montville coach Phil Orbe is pictured at Dodd Stadium in Norwich after being named the 2011 All-Area Spring Sports baseball coach of the year. (Tim Martin/The Day)

Montville — Phil Orbe, the high school's interim assistant principal since January, has been placed on paid leave pending "an investigation into an incident," according to an email the assistant superintendent sent school board members Monday.

The investigation into Orbe "only relates to comments made to a student," according to an emailed statement from Assistant Superintendent Laurie Pallin Monday evening. Pallin's statement didn't describe the nature of the comments or when they allegedly took place.

The move comes as students returned from spring break just days after an administrative shakeup following the April 12 arrest of substitute teacher Ryan Fish, who allegedly refereed multiple slapboxing bouts in the middle of math class last fall.

The district placed Superintendent Brian Levesque and high school Principal Jeffrey Theodoss on paid leave last week. Police arrested Levesque, Theodoss and Assistant Principal Tatiana Patten Thursday for allegedly failing to report suspected abuse per the state's mandated reporter law.

A long-time successful baseball coach, Orbe served as athletic director for a few years before officials named him interim assistant principal to fill in for Patten, who was placed on paid leave Jan. 2 pending an investigation without explanation from school officials. Levesque at the time said Patten's leave was connected to an investigation that led to the October firing of a substitute teacher, but he didn't name Fish.

Pallin's email to board members, obtained by The Day, did not reference the inquiry that led to charges against Levesque, Theodoss and Patten. 

Pallin said Monday night she wanted "to be very clear" that the inquiry into Orbe's alleged comments to a student "has absolutely nothing to do with the previous situation, in which three other administrators were put on leave."

Messages left with Orbe were not immediately returned Monday night.

Board of Education Chairman Robert Mitchell described the situation as a personnel matter on which he could not comment.

Mitchell said he was unaware of the incident under investigation related to Orbe, yet he said it was his understanding the matter was "a completely separate incident" from the situation involving Fish and the other administrators.

Heather Sangermano, formerly Montville's Palmer Building principal, assumed the role of acting high school principal Monday. When the move was announced last week, Pallin noted Sangermano would be working closely alongside Orbe.

"Jason Daly from Tyl Middle School will be helping out at MHS for the next several days while I consider the best way to fill this position temporarily," Pallin told school board members.

Pallin told the board she placed Orbe on leave on the advice of the district's attorney.

Montville Police Lt. Leonard Bunnell said he was not aware of any police complaints or "anything about any statements that involve Orbe."

Fish, 23, was fired Oct. 10 after videos of at least one of the fights circulated among parents and administrators.

No student was seriously injured in the fights, of which there were allegedly at least four between September and October. But police only learned about the incidents in December when a DCF social worker told them a 15-year-old student had reported being assaulted by three students during school.

Bunnell said the investigation into the classroom fighting and its reporting, remains ongoing.

b.kail@theday.com

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