Cranston House principal temporarily replaced at Norwich Free Academy

Norwich — The principal of the Cranston House for freshmen at Norwich Free Academy has been replaced temporarily, in a change announced to staff on Friday.

Cranston House Principal Bryant Sheldon has been absent from his position since Thursday, sources told The Day.

In response to several questions about the move, NFA spokesman Geoff Serra issued a statement: “NFA does not discuss personnel matters, and NFA is unable to comment further on these matters at this time.”

Head of School David Klein sent a note to NFA faculty and staff Friday announcing “a temporary leadership change on campus,” stating that Cranston House administrative intern Mykel Bridget Czaja will serve as acting Cranston House principal “until further notice.” Czaja has two years of experience as the administrative intern for the ninth-grade program, the note said.

Klein said he will meet with Cranston House faculty and staff Monday.

Unlike other recent staff moves at NFA, Sheldon had no apparent connection to an ongoing police investigation into the school’s response to allegations that former assistant coach Anthony Facchini had engaged in sexual relations with two students. Facchini was charged Sept. 12, 2018, with two counts of second-degree sexual assault for alleged relations with students in 2017 and 2018.

Facchini pleaded not guilty and his next court appearance is scheduled for March 14 in New London Superior Court.

The police arrest warrant and several search warrants released by New London Superior Court named several NFA officials who allegedly were aware of the allegations and failed to report them to police or the state Department of Children and Families as required by state law for allegations of abuse or neglect of minors. State law prohibits school personnel, including coaches, from engaging in sexual relations with students.

According to the warrants, NFA Curriculum Director Denise Grant and Physical Education and Health Education Department head Susan Hopkins-Terrell learned of the first alleged relationship in April 2017, and Grant reported it to NFA Director of Campus Security Kevin Rodino.

In Rodino’s initial investigation report obtained by police, he said he met with Klein, then-Athletic Director Eric Swallow and Director of Student Affairs John Iovino to discuss the allegations. It was decided that Swallow would ask Facchini about the allegations, and Director of Guidance and School Counseling Jessica St. George would ask the student. Both Facchini and the student denied the allegations, which Rodino dismissed as unsubstantiated.

The warrant, however, also cited Rodino’s report and said if Facchini had admitted to the relationship, “Facchini would be advised the social interaction should stop immediately,” police wrote.

The NFA board of trustees voted unanimously on Jan. 14 to clear Klein of any wrongdoing in the school’s response to the allegations after reviewing an investigative report by hired attorney Matthew Curtin. The board also authorized Klein to receive the investigation report from Curtin and implement any recommendations Klein deemed appropriate.

Within days, Klein placed Rodino, Grant and Hopkins-Terrell on paid administrative leave.

Sheldon is not named in any of the police warrants in the Facchini investigation.

c.bessette@theday.com

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