New London school administrator placed on leave — again

New London — A New London school administrator who was placed on leave in May while the school investigated undisclosed concerns about his conduct while working at the middle school is again on leave.

Lawrence Washington, the former director of the STEM magnet program at the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, was placed on paid administrative leave “so that we can conduct an internal investigation of a claim that came forward,” Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie wrote last week in a confidential email to members of the Board of Education.

The email is not specific about the “claim,” nor does it mention the date Washington was placed on leave or whether he remains on leave. The district has not released information about Washington requested by The Day as part of a pending Freedom of Information request.

Ritchie had named Washington the districtwide director of health and physical education K-12 and athletic director at the high school. The change in position was part of a restructuring of administrators by Ritchie prior to the start of the new school year.

Washington, who has worked in several administrative positions since his hire by the district in the 2011-12 school year, was first placed on leave May 10.

That suspension came at a time when a handful of administrators and teachers were placed on leave for various reasons while police investigated former middle school behavioral specialist Corriche Gaskin. Gaskin has since been charged with sexually assaulting two underage middle school girls and using his cell phone to record his sexual encounters with students and other teachers.

Two other former middle school employees were also arrested, one on charges he sexually assaulted an underage student and another for failing to fulfill her role as a mandated reporter and report instances of child neglect or abuse.

There is no known connection between Washington and Gaskin’s alleged crimes.

Ritchie did not comment on Washington’s latest suspension but in her letter to the school board wrote, “This is not connected to the police department. We need to follow procedure and will continue to do so.”

School board member Jason Catala on Monday confirmed that school board members were notified by Ritchie of Washington’s suspension last week. He said Ritchie was “very vague” in her explanation and his initial reaction to the news was “we need more information.”

“With all that’s been going on — he was on leave and now he’s back and now back on leave — the board and public deserve more information,” Catala said. “We didn’t get any information that he was back.”

While Catala credited Ritchie with taking all claims against school employees seriously, he said the scant details offered by the district only raise more questions. Other school board employees have said that discussion about school employees raises potential legal issues for the board should the board become the arbiter during disciplinary procedures.

But Catala said the board also remains in the dark about employees such as former middle school director Alison Burdick, who was among other placed on leave in May. Burdick, who was placed on leave for allegedly sharing information about students with police without school authorization during the pending investigation into Gaskin, has a pending lawsuit against the district related to her suspension.

Ritchie has since named Burdick the new director of adult education, though it is unclear whether she has started in her new position.

“We need information. We’re at a point where we’re trying to heal. We have a district that’s scarred right now,” Catala said.

The school district has not responded to requests by The Day to clarify which employees remain on paid administrative leave.

Washington is a former school administrator from Pennsylvania who was named assistant principal at New London High School on July 1, 2012. He was named the assistant principal at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School on Oct. 27, 2013, in which capacity he reported to Burdick. He was named the director of STEM at the middle school on Sept. 3, 2015, with a salary of $131,748.

Washington could not be reached to comment Monday.


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