Tom Sica resigns as Concord High Principal following investigation 

Monitor staff
Published: 11/4/2019 7:31:46 PM

Concord High School Principal Tom Sica has resigned, three days after former Superintendent Terri Forsten did the same, leaving vacancies in two of the district’s top positions.

The Concord School Board unanimously voted to accept Sica’s resignation at Monday night’s school board meeting at Mill Brook School. The board will now begin a search for an interim and then permanent principal for Concord High.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board unsealed minutes from a Sept. 25 meeting where they voted to terminate Sica’s employment. That unanimous vote came two days after the board received a report from an independent attorney hired to investigate his and other administrators’ response to student reports of misconduct.

The Concord School Board also voted to terminate Superintendent Terri Forsten’s employment on Sept. 25. They announced her resignation Friday night at a special meeting.

“This will allow the district to move forward under new leadership,” School Board President Jennifer Patterson said Monday.

The community lobbied for the dismissal of Sica and Forsten in the months following the arrest of former teacher Howie Leung in April on charges of sexually assaulting a former Concord student.

Sica’s absence from the public eye began before graduation, following a story published by the Monitor about Sica’s suspension of student Ana Goble after she told friends at Rundlett she felt Leung’s behavior with female students made her uncomfortable.

Goble, who was in seventh grade at the time in 2014, was called into Sica’s office the day before Christmas break, accused of spreading “malicious and slanderous gossip” and suspended for three days.

Forsten said Sica was on a paid “voluntary leave of absence,” while the district investigated his handling of student complaints about Leung but he continued to work throughout the summer.

The board has hired an interim superintendent, Franklyn Bass, who was present at the school board meeting on Monday night, to lead the district while it searches for a replacement for Forsten.

The board said it hopes to hire a new superintendent with community input by July 2020.

“I do have some prepared remarks tonight, but after what I heard, I do have to take a breath and pause,” Bass said. “The depth of your pain, your fear, your sense of abandonment, your wonder about what’s going to happen next, your feeling of anger and frustration and wondering where the leaders are that are supposed to be there to help you – I felt that.”

“I’ve read the newspaper articles and I’ve talked to people, but I never would have gotten the depth of what I heard tonight by not being here, so I thank you for that, and clearly we have a lot of work to do,” he continued. “As one person brought up earlier, if we don’t have the teachers and the students trusting us and believing us, we’re dead in the water.”

Bass, who previously served as superintendent of the Pelham and Dresden school districts, said his number one goal as interim superintendent is to restore the community’s trust in the school district.

Bass, who has been hired on a part-time basis, explained that he will work a few hours every day at Concord High School, in addition to working in the district office. He said he will return calls and emails from members of the community within 24 hours. He said he will work with the state Department of Education to ensure all educators are properly certified.

The school board is in the midst of clarifying Bass’s role in the community during his time serving as the district’s leader. He will likely start at some point this week.

Bass will be paid a daily rate of $750 rate, three days a week. His contract spans for one year only.

During public comment, members of the community applauded the board for removing Sica and Forsten. They maintained that they are still looking for more information about how administrators responded to reports about Leung before his arrest.

Perkins released a 10-page report to the public on Thursday that recommended next steps for the district, but did not mention Sica, Forsten, Leung or any other staff members. The board has not stated why it decided to terminate Sica’s employment, or what information was in the 100-plus page report it received from the independent investigator in September.

Lawyer and former school board member Bill Glahn, who also was the chair of the board of Derryfield School for 12 years, said that in his legal practice, he has represented a number of independent schools that have been engaged in investigations exactly like the one in Concord. He said, for the most part, the reports that have been prepared remain confidential because of personnel reasons.

“However, in almost all of those instances, schools do put out a summary which explains in general terms, ‘what happened? What was the problem and how was it addressed?” he said. “And then, ‘How do we learn from that? How do we move forward?”

“You need to give a general summary of what kinds of things were found, why weren’t certain steps taken,” Glahn continued. “I do encourage you to provide more information.”

Betsy McNamara, whose son had Leung as a teacher, said that it’s difficult to evaluate how the district is moving forward without knowing what happened in the first place.

“If we don’t know what went wrong, how will we know when you’re getting it right?” she said.

During the meeting, Patterson took a moment to update the community on work the district has been doing in recent months. She said business administrator Jack Dunn has obtained his business administrator credential from the Department of Education and that human resources director Larry Prince is almost done with his audit on the certification status of other educators in the district.

“We still need to reach a resolution of Donna Palley’s certification status and role within the district,” Patterson added. Palley, who was served as Concord’s assistant superintendent for eight years, is not certified for that role.

Patterson also addressed some questions sent to the board by members of the public. She said the board is still in the process of preparing written answers.

One question the public submitted was why Sica was still being paid by the district while he was on “voluntary leave.” In four months while on administrative leave, Sica made $42,449.84. His regular salary for this year is $137,962.

Patterson said that by law, Sica had the right to remain on paid leave while the issues that led to his being placed on leave were resolved. Had the district and Mr. Sica not resolved this matter by agreement, the terms of his contract and state law would have required a hearing before the board, the state board of education, and, if necessary, an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Patterson said.

“Had Mr. Sica elected to exercise those rights, this matter may have remained unresolved for a year or more,” she said.

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