Ex-Concord High principal’s teaching credentials in N.H. revoked

  • Sica

  • Concord High School principal Tom Sica takes a video of the marching band at the school's entrance on the first day of school for the freshmen class on August 30, 2017. Geoff Forester

Monitor staff
Published: 6/15/2020 3:19:06 PM

The New Hampshire Department of Education has revoked the teaching credentials of former Concord High School Principal Tom Sica months after his termination from the district.

Sica voluntarily surrendered his teaching certificate and his name was added Monday morning to the state’s list of educators who have had their credentials revoked, said department spokesman Grant Bosse.

The details of the agreement are confidential, but the department said action was taken after Sica was accused of engaging in “unprofessional conduct” to include failing to ensure the safety and well-being of students. Sica is now prohibited from ever applying or reapplying for any other credential issued by the state Department of Education.

This past September, the Concord School Board voted to terminate Sica’s employment after it received a 100-page report from an independent attorney hired to investigate administrators’ response to allegations against former teacher Howie Leung, who was arrested in April 2019 on charges that he raped a former Concord student. The school board also voted to fire former Superintendent Terri Forsten. Both Sica and Forsten ultimately resigned.

Since then, the 100-page report that brought about those leadership changes has not yet been publicly released. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, the Concord Monitor and Concord parent Dellie Champagne filed a lawsuit against the district in November to obtain the report, which was drafted by Massachusetts attorney Djuna Perkins.

The district argued for months that the report could not be made public because it involved “internal personnel practices.” However, a recent New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling compelled the district to rethink its position. The court ruled earlier this month that documents relating to internal personal practices are not automatically exempt from the state’s right-to-know law, and now the district says it will release a redacted copy of the report that details how administrators handled complaints against Leung in 2014 and 2018.

Leung is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a former a Concord student in and around Rundlett and during the summers of 2015 and 2016 at the Fessenden Summer ELL Program in Newton, Mass., according to court documents. Leung, who was employed by the Concord School District for 13 years, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to stand trial in November.

Since Leung’s arrest more than one year ago, members of the community came forward to say they shared concerns about his behavior in and outside the classroom. Ana Goble, who graduated this past Saturday from Concord High, was suspended by Sica when she was a student at Rundlett Middle School in 2014 after she questioned the way Leung treated some of her female classmates. Sica suspended her for spreading “malicious and slanderous gossip.” She told the Monitor last year that Leung showed favoritism toward certain female students and crossed boundaries, which made her feel uncomfortable.

Both Leung and Sica moved up to the high school in 2016, along with Goble and her classmates. There, students say inappropriate behavior from Leung continued.

In 2018, district administration did not report to police when several female students told officials they had seen Leung kiss a classmate in his car. Two union representatives – a guidance counselor and an art teacher – later tired to discredit the students who had come forward and discourage Concord High leadership from alerting the state’s Department of Education.

Those written conversations were revealed in response to a series of right-to-know requests filed by the Monitor. Another request produced more than 300 emails that revealed Sica continued to work after Forsten announced in June 2019 that he was going on a paid “voluntary leave of absence.” That absence coincided with Perkins’s independent investigation, but emails showed that Sica continued to work off site for months.

Members of the school board later said they felt mislead, not knowing that Sica had been allowed to continue to work in a limited capacity.

For Goble’s mother, Kate Frey, the fact that Sica remained on the job was just one of many decisions she felt the district hid from parents and students. She said the past few years have been very difficult on her family, but the news Monday from the Department of Education about Sica finally gave her some relief.

“I’m hopeful that we will see the full report with the necessary redactions to protect student privacy very soon,” Frey said. “I’m really thankful that the DOE worked to get the report and that they were proactive with the appropriate discipline. Not knowing what’s in the report at this time, I can’t speculate about why Sica’s teaching credential’s were revoked, but I can say that there had to have been a severe lack of oversight of staff to ensure student safety.”

The Department of Education declined Monday to comment on the agreement it reached with Sica or provide further details on what led to the revocation of his teaching certificate.

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