Montville High School principal in slapboxing case to retire ahead of schedule

Montville — High school Principal Jeffrey Theodoss, one of three administrators fighting charges of failing to report classroom slapboxing last fall, will retire at the end of August.

Acting Superintendent Laurie Pallin said in a district-wide email Monday that Theodoss "reached the difficult decision that it would be best for students and staff to have consistent leadership as we begin the 2018-19 school year."

Heather Sangermano, the former principal at the district's Palmer Building, has overseen the high school since officials placed Theodoss on paid leave in April.

Theodoss, 64, of Shrewsbury, Mass., served as high school principal since 2012. He previously headed Foxboro (Mass.) High School for almost seven years. According to Pallin, his retirement comes "four months earlier than originally planned."

A message left at a phone listing for Theodoss was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.

Pallin described Theodoss as a "dedicated leader" who worked "tirelessly to meet the needs of students in the classroom, on the athletic field and in co-curricular activities."

Theodoss increased the high school graduation rate, reduced behavior referrals and saw the school named to the Advance Placement Honor Roll twice, Pallin said.

"He developed strong relationships with students, staff and parents, and he will be greatly missed," she added.

In May, Theodoss, Assistant Principal Tatiana Patten and Superintendent Brian Levesque pleaded not guilty to failing to report suspected abuse according to the state's mandated reporter law.

The charges followed investigations by the Department of Children and Families and State's Attorney's office into allegations that substitute teacher Ryan Fish supervised at least four in-class slapboxing matches last fall. School officials fired Fish and disciplined students a few days after Levesque received cellphone video footage of one of the fights. But police said the administrators did not alert authorities.

The administrators' attorneys argue the cases should be dismissed. Theodoss has declined to comment about the case on the record, but his attorney Richard Brown said he committed no crime. The administrators and Fish are due back in court for pre-trial hearings on Aug. 22.

The Board of Education has already approved staff shakeups and is bracing for potentially months without a resolution in the slapboxing case as two administrators still remain on paid leave. The school board will meet at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at the high school library, where it will consider naming Sangermano as the permanent high school principal.

The school board may also authorize Pallin to seek candidates for a newly created assistant principal position for the Palmer campus, which offers project-based learning, internships and special education services. With Sangermano filling in for Theodoss at the high school several months last school year, Palmer was left with a teacher in charge but not a full-time trained administrator, Pallin said.

"(Sangermano) came into a really tough situation and has done a superior job," said Board of Education Chairman Robert Mitchell.

Mitchell called Theodoss "a great principal."

"We lucked out when we got him from Foxboro. He was well liked by students and staff," he said.

b.kail@theday.com

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