Two NFA officials placed on leave

Norwich — Two Norwich Free Academy officials have been placed on paid leave in an apparent response to the school’s investigation into how officials responded to allegations in April 2017 that an assistant coach had engaged in sexual relations with a student.

Without naming the two school officials placed on administrative leave, NFA announced Wednesday that Assistant Campus Safety Director Stephany Bakoulis will oversee management of the Campus Safety Department, apparently taking over for Director Kevin Rodino.

And Head of School David Klein and curriculum consultant Mike Wasta will take over the Office of Curriculum & Instruction. The statement said Wasta has worked with NFA for five years “on ongoing campus learning initiatives.” They apparently will take on the duties of current Director of Curriculum and Instruction Denise Grant.

Both Grant and Rodino remain listed on the NFA staff directory on the school website, and Grant’s voicemail message is still on her phone.

“As is our practice, Norwich Free Academy will not publicly comment on individual personnel matters,” NFA spokesman Geoff Serra said in an email response to questions asking for the identity of the officials placed on leave.

“Head of School David Klein will be meeting with the Department Heads and the Campus Safety staff this week to ensure a seamless transition of leadership and a smooth continuation of daily operations,” the statement announcing the changes said.

Rodino and Grant are included in police warrant narratives chronicling the school’s response in April 2017 to allegations that then assistant coach Anthony Facchini had been engaged in a sexual relationship with a student. The actions of several NFA administrators, including Klein, are part of the police investigation. Academy officials dismissed the allegation after just a two-day internal investigation and never reported to the state Department of Children and Families as required.

After a second allegation was reported to state authorities and police, Facchini, 25, of Norwich was charged by Norwich police on Sept. 12, 2018 with two counts of second-degree sexual assault in connection with allegations he had had sexual relations with two NFA students in 2017 and 2018.

The NFA board of trustees last week cleared Klein of any wrongdoing after the board received an oral review by its investigation attorney, Matthew Curtin. The trustees directed Klein to take any administrative actions he deemed appropriate in response to the independent investigation.

The police investigation continues, and Norwich police Lt. Chris Conley said Wednesday no arrests are pending immediately.

According to the police arrest warrant and search warrants obtained for NFA computers, emails and investigation documents, top NFA officials learned of the first allegations in April 2017, when Curriculum Director Grant called Campus Safety Director Rodino after she learned of the allegation. Rodino called the initial call anonymous, but Grant told police Rodino knew she was the caller and even returned her call on her office desk phone.

Rodino’s initial investigation report, which was obtained by police, stated that Rodino met with Klein, Director of Student Affairs John Iovino and then-Athletic Director Eric Swallow regarding the allegation. The report said the administrators asked Swallow to interview Facchini and Director of Guidance Jessica St. George to talk to the alleged student victim.

School officials quickly closed the investigation after both Facchini and the student denied they were in a sexual relationship. In the arrest warrant affidavit, Facchini told police on the eve of his meeting with Swallow, he asked the student victim to delete all communications between the two in her cellphone and to deny the relationship if questioned.

According to police, Rodino’s initial report also did not indicate school officials intended to report the allegations to police or to the DCF — as required by state law for all school personnel — even if Facchini had acknowledged the relationship.

“Rodino states in the initial report that it was decided, after advising Iovino, Klein and Athletic Director Eric Swallow, that Swallow would meet with Facchini regarding this matter to gain additional information,” police wrote in the search warrant affidavit. “Rodino also noted that if the allegations were found to be true, Facchini would be advised the social interaction should stop immediately.”

Swallow resigned on Sept. 10, two days before police arrested Facchini on Sept. 12.

Weeks later, police obtained warrants for emails associated with six top NFA officials — Klein, Iovino, Rodino, Swallow, St. George and Shattuck House Principal Kristin Peckrul — in the investigation. Police also wrote in warrants that NFA failed to provide all requested documents, including 80 pages missing from Rodino’s hard-back notebook he used for the internal investigation, and that NFA redacted names of students.

c.bessette@theday.com

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