A Montville school superintendent, principal and assistant principal are all on leave after being arrested on charges of failing to tell authorities about an alleged student "fight club," supervised by a substitute teacher at the high school, according to state police. Now the district is working to ensure operations continue as usual amid the leadership shakeup.
Montville Superintendent Brian Levesque, 45, of Brooklyn, Principal Jeffrey Theodoss, 64, of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and 59-year-old assistant principal Tatiana Patten, of Niantic, are all charged with failing to report abuse.
The three administrators have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the police investigation and an internal school probe, Assistant Superintendent Laurie Pallin said. Pallin has become the face of the school district while Levesque remains on leave pending the outcome of this investigation.
“We want to assure parents that leadership is in place at all Montville schools as students return on Monday from spring break,” Pallin explained in a statement.
Pallin will remain the assistant superintendent, but take on the role of superintendent for the time being. She has worked in the Montville School District for 25 years.
Montville High School 'Fight Club' Case Has Multiple Players
Montville named replacements for the other administrators Friday.
Heather Sangermano, current principal of Montville's Palmer Building, will become the acting principal for Montville High School. She has worked as a principal in the district for six years.
Sangermano will work closely with acting assistant principal Phil Orbe.
“I am completely confident that Heather will be able to seamlessly step into this new role, so that we can remain focused on the education of our students,” Pallin said.
The Board of Education is set to meet Tuesday, April 24 to discuss the specific long-term plans.
The former substitute teacher, Ryan Fish, was arrested last week and charged with two counts of risk of injury to a child, four counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and breach of peace. The 23-year-old from Bozrah, who was accused of overseeing the "fight club," was fired from the school in October after videos of fighting in his math classroom surfaced, state police said. He pleaded not guilty to charges.
The board of education in Montville held a special meeting Thursday at the Montville High School library at 5 p.m. to discuss a "personnel matter related to the incident at the high school." The meeting went into executive session and officials declined to make any public comments on what was discussed.
Parents who spoke with NBC Connecticut expressed concerns about the judgment shown by the three administrators now on leave.
“What if the fight got very serious and something happened to these children where they permanently injured because of this teacher encouraging that or what if my daughter or anybody else’s child would have been struck?" said Montville parent Rebecca Coy.
Coy’s then 15-year-old daughter told her a fight broke out in one of her classes six months ago.
“I hate to say this but their judgment call was very inappropriate,” Coy said.
Coy told NBC Connecticut that back in October her daughter showed her cell phone video taken by a classmate of two boys fighting in a study hall class, and the substitute teacher did nothing to intervene.
“They failed to protect the students by allowing this teacher to engage in this behavior, then they totally did not make the right call by calling the police, as soon as they knew this happened they should have contacted the police and Department of Children and Families, right away,” Coy said.
Levesque, Theodoss and Patten are due in court on May 3.
Levesque and Patten did not immediately return messages left at their homes. NBC Connecticut was unable to immediately reach Theodoss.