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    Monday, August 15, 2022

    Arbitration hearing called off for Montville assistant principal

    Montville — The high school administrator officials tried to fire for allegedly failing to properly respond to classroom slapboxing no longer faces an arbitration hearing, her lawyer and school officials said this week.

    Assistant Principal Tatiana Patten, on paid leave since Jan. 2, initially was set to make her case before the Board of Education on Thursday. But school officials and her labor attorney, Jim Parenteau, say the hearing was canceled.

    Neither party explained in detail why the hearing was called off, but Parenteau said Thursday that the school district "has stated they are not going forward with alleged claims of misconduct" that were detailed in a March 20 letter calling for Patten's termination.

    "The hearing is not going forward but she remains out on administrative leave," acting Superintendent Laurie Pallin said.

    Asked whether the parties had reached an agreement or if the Board of Education would hold off on any arbitration hearings until the outcome of criminal cases connected to the classroom fighting, Pallin said she could not comment.

    Board of Education Chairman Robert Mitchell confirmed the hearing was canceled, but he deferred questions to Pallin. Mitchell has said he cannot speak about specific personnel cases but previously noted, "An arrest is not a conviction. We're following the law."

    Patten, Superintendent Brian Levesque and Principal Jeffrey Theodoss are all on paid leave and facing charges for allegedly failing to report suspected abuse per the state's mandated reporter law.

    School officials fired 23-year-old substitute Ryan Fish in October, four days after videos surfaced of students fighting in his class.

    In the letter calling for her firing, Levesque claimed Patten learned of classroom fighting incidents before he did, "failed to act on it in a timely way" and "failed to adequately follow up" with a bullied student hospitalized for mental trauma.

    Parenteau said Thursday that "it is highly unlikely that Montville Public Schools would attempt to go forward with these claims in the future."

    Patten claims officials tried to scapegoat her. In a March 29 letter to the school district, obtained by The Day last month, Parenteau said the push to oust Patten was "mired in illegal gender discrimination." Patten argues school officials instructed her "not to say anything to anyone" and said Levesque and Theodoss were the first administrators "to receive tangible evidence regarding a potentially reportable incident."

    On Friday, no one picked up at a listing for Levesque and a message left with Theodoss was not immediately responded to.

    Levesque maintains he did not report the fighting to authorities because he was only aware of one incident that, from what he saw in a video, warranted Fish's termination but not calls to police or the Department of Children and Families.

    Police and DCF say the administrators should have reported the fighting as mandated reporters regardless of the number of incidents they were aware of at the time.

    Police said a DCF social worker tipped them off to the incidents in December.

    Emails obtained by The Day in April show Patten told Theodoss she first heard of the fighting from a guidance counselor who'd relayed a parent's message that fighting videos had been posted on social media in early October. While awaiting video proof, Patten said she planned to ask students and the school security officer about the alleged incidents the following week.

    Patten informed Theodoss of the guidance counselor's message in an email on Oct. 9, two days after Theodoss had forwarded her the fighting videos Levesque initially received from a school board member.

    Levesque claimed this showed a delay in Patten's reporting to superiors, which Parenteau disputes.

    The administrators are all due back in court on June 7. Fish, accused of allowing and encouraging the fighting, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges and is due back in court on June 20.

    b.kail@theday.com

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