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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Stonington school administrator can return to work after state investigation

    Stonington ― A middle school administrator has been authorized to return to work after completion of an investigation by state Department of Children and Families.

    In an email Tuesday, Superintendent Mary Anne Butler said that, after seven weeks, Stonington Middle School Dean of Students Daniel Pegnataro would return to work this week.

    “I am pleased to report that the State of Connecticut’s Education Professional Investigation Unit (EPIU) has found the allegations against you to be unsubstantiated, and the case has been dismissed,” wrote Butler in a Dec. 5 email to Pegnataro she provided to The Day.

    Butler added that she was unable to provide any further information due to state law concerning confidentiality and access to records.

    Pegnataro said Wednesday he had no comment on the investigation..

    According to records obtained Dec. 1 by The Day in response to a Nov. 20 Freedom of Information Act request, Pegnataro, who accepted the $102,477 per year position last August, was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 19 for the duration of the DCF investigation.

    The EPIU, which handles abuse and neglect investigations into educational professionals and school-related daycares, camps and transportation companies, was formed in 2020 to streamline and shorten investigations as well as ensure consistency in how they are handled.

    According to DCF data, the EPIU handled 676 investigations in 2022 and had handled 613 this year, as of Sept. 30.

    Peter Yazbak, communications director for DCF, said on Monday that approximately 91% of the unit’s investigations result in unsubstantiated findings.

    The Oct. 19 Notice of Administrative Leave with Pay by Butler, instructed Pegnataro to cooperate with the investigation and barred him from participating in district activities, or from having contact with staff, students and school property without her approval while the investigation was underway.

    Butler notified the Board of Education of the action against Pegnataro on Oct. 20, saying a staff member had been placed on leave “after receiving a complaint that is under investigation.”

    In an Oct. 30 email to the Board, Butler informed the board that the EPIU had begun an investigation based on a parent complaint, but was unable to provide the board with more information. She added the district had been instructed not to perform its own investigation into the matter.

    No complaint was provided in response to The Day’s Freedom of Information Act request, and it is unclear if the complaint was made to the district or to another agency.

    Alisha Stripling, director of finance and personnel for the district, in a letter accompanying the district’s response to the request, noted that some documents were redacted or withheld to protect student information in accordance with state law.

    Yazbak confirmed the investigation on Tuesday, but said the department could not provide any more information due to state and federal laws on confidentiality.

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