Concord School District leaders stand by principal hiring despite past lawsuit

By CATHERINE McLAUGHLIN

Monitor staff

Published: 05-23-2024 4:50 PM

The Concord School District is standing by its hiring process and selection of Kyle Repucci as the next principal of Broken Ground School after more details of a lawsuit accusing him of wrongful termination and his early departure from his post as superintendent of Rochester schools became more widely known.

Members of a committee that interviewed candidates for the principal position were not aware of the civil lawsuit accusing Repucci of retaliating against an employee who did not agree with his request to access teacher emails.

School board members and Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said they learned of the lawsuit after he had been selected as the finalist for the principal position. Repucci confirmed that it was not discussed in the interviews prior to his selection as a finalist.

Murphy said she met with Repucci about the suit, which ended in a $30,000 settlement this spring. 

“I continued to get the same answer: that his skills as a leader and as a teacher and as a principal were outstanding. And so we went forward with it,” Murphy said. “After careful review of all the information that I had, it was an issue that I determined was not a reason that he wouldn't be continued to be offered the position.” 

While Murphy and school board leaders said they stand by their selection of Repucci, Broken Ground teachers and members of the interview committee have said they want more information about whether his employment history was thoroughly vetted. 

After Repucci was chosen by the review committee, Concord School Board members received letters of concern about his leadership in Rochester, Vice President Brenda Hastings said. The board asked Murphy for assurances that she had thoroughly looked into his employment history and that she remained confident he was the best candidate, which Hastings said they received.

“It came back as overwhelming, unanimous support,” Hastings said. 

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Repucci was unanimously approved by the Concord School Board earlier this month to replace retiring Broken Ground Principal Susan Lauze, who led the school for more than 20 years. In his public questioning by the Concord School Board, the lawsuit or whether any friction prompted his decision to leave Rochester were not addressed. He explained his career shift as a desire to get back into schools closer to students and teachers. 

In an interview, Repucci reaffirmed that desire as the sole reason he left Rochester, where he had been an administrator for eight years. 

“Any legal matter that the district was involved in had no part in my decision to return to being a principal,” he said. “I'm very happy with my time in Rochester. I think we did a lot of good.”

Repucci informed his district in December that he would not seek a renewal of his contract when it expired June. He did not complete that term — Monday was his final day. After his move to Concord was announced, Rochester’s school board approved a $60,000 payout of his remaining contract.

The chair of the Rochester School Board, Shane Downs, responded to a request for comment by providing a press release in which the board “released Superintendent Kyle Repucci from his responsibilities” to begin his new role in Concord and facilitate a smoother transition for his successor. 

Rochester lawsuit

In 2022, the Rochester School District, Repucci and members of the school board were sued for wrongful termination by former Chief Technology Officer David Yasenchock, who claimed he was fired because he objected to an order from Repucci to turn over emails in school computers between members of the teachers union and the school board.  

Yasenchock, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, questioned the legality and ethics of the request and said he was confronted by Repucci. Yasenchock accused the district of hiring Municipal Resources Incorporated to conduct a sham investigation that led to his wrongful termination. He argued he was entitled to protection as a whistleblower.

Rochester said it fired Yasenchock for insubordination and fraudulent changes to timecards and sought to dismiss his claims. The lawsuit was scheduled to go to court this spring, but the district instead paid Yasenchock a $30,000 settlement, according to court documents and a copy of the settlement agreement on file in the city of Rochester. 

As is common in such settlements, the agreement prevents the parties from discussing the suit, its allegations and the terms of the resolution other than to say “The parties were able to resolve their differences to their mutual satisfaction.” 

The suit didn't change Murphy’s mind that he wad the best candidate for the job.

“I think that the process and the due diligence that is expected in the school district was done,” Murphy said. “I was aware, and I indicated that the allegations were unfounded and that there was a resolution between the two parties.”

She relayed her opinion to the school board before the vote to hire him.

“The superintendent reviewed the settlement and briefed the board,” Concord School Board President Pamela Walsh said. “He was thoroughly looked into.”  

Concord concerns

Since teachers on the interview committee and at Broken Ground School were not able to question Repucci directly about conflicts in Rochester, they are looking for greater confidence from district leaders that he was rigorously vetted, said Michael Macri, president of Concord’s teachers union and a teacher at Broken Ground.

“They trusted going into the interview process that he was a candidate the school board and superintendent were comfortable with,” and had “no qualms” about recommending him, Macri said.  “As more information has come out, they want to be assured that the district is looking at this thoroughly.”

Hastings affirmed her confidence in the hiring process but also said some details about Repucci’s record — including specifics of the allegations made in the suit that were not widely known at the time – raise “red flags” and merit further discussion. 

“We asked questions, and those questions were answered. As board members, that’s what we have to go on,” Hastings said. “I believe the superintendent and hiring committee did their jobs thoroughly — and well. But in light of things coming out, I want to double-check and be sure.”

Repucci confirmed that he was asked about the lawsuit by Murphy but not by the interview committee. He noted that serving as a superintendent, “it was my practice when I interviewed administrators to ask about any legal involvement.”

Because the suit ended in a settlement, both Murphy and Walsh said the claims made against Repucci amounted to allegations.

“Lawsuits are not uncommon when employees are released,” Walsh said. “I would love to be able to tell everyone about this litigation. But it’s not Concord’s.”

Given the concern over the interview committee’s lack of awareness of the lawsuit, Walsh said the district will continue to look at its hiring process and how to improve it.

“I understand why members of the interview committee wish they had had that information,” she said. “And we should look at that.” 

Walsh said the board has encouraged the district to set up further meetings with Repucci, teachers and parents, something Hasting emphasized as key.

“We need to be as honest as we can be with staff and parents about why the decisions made have been made, so that people can feel comfortable and confident moving forward,” Hastings said.  

Repucci emphasized his continuing excitement to start his position in Concord and connect with students, parents and teachers.

“I think my resume speaks for itself,” Repucci said. “I've worked very hard in all the communities that I've served to build relationships. I look forward to doing that and following in the very strong leadership footsteps that Principal Lauze has left for me at Broken Ground.”