Teachers React to Investigative Report


On Tuesday, April 28, attorneys at Pullman and Comley LLC released their investigative report regarding the Danielle Watkins sex scandal and the administrator cover up that followed.  In this extensive 136-page report, the investigators uncover many details and explanations pertaining to the events that occurred.

Here’s what we’ve learned from this report:

  • SHS administrators assigned Danielle Watkins to teach a senior English class for the 2013-14 school year.  Enrolled in this class was the student who she had sexual relations with, named “V1” by the investigation.  SHS administrators were aware of Watkins’ struggles in terms of classroom performance and attendance for years prior to this.
  • In February/March 2014, Security Guard James Jordan was told by students that V1 was involved in a sexual relationship with Watkins.
  • Jordan informed Principal Donna Valentine and Assistant Principal Roth Nordin of the rumors, and they told Jordan that they were “aware of” or “looking into” the situation.
  • On May 13, 2014, teacher Kim Wheeler overheard three students discussing the relationship between V1 and Watkins in her classroom.  She reported what she heard to Assistant Principal Angela Thomas-Graves, who then reported it to Nordin.
  • In April/May 2014, Valentine initiated an internal investigation of these allegations, enlisting the help of SHS assistant principals, SHS security guards and resource officers, and a student informant.
  • In late May 2014, Valentine informed Assistant Superintendent Michael Fernandes and Executive Director of Human Resources Stephen Falcone of the claims of a relationship between Watkins and V1.
  • On June 6, 2014, Valentine faxed Fernandes signed statements from herself, Jordan, Nordin, Forker, and Wheeler describing information regarding Watkins and V1.  However, the statement that was submitted by Valentine to Fernandes from Jordan was not what Jordan had written.  In the original statement, Jordan asserts that he first learned of the rumors in “February or March.”  The statement that was sent to Fernandes was altered to say “March or April,” apparently to make it appear as though the school had reacted quicker to this entire situation. This faxed statement was not signed by Jordan, unlike the original version.
  • On June 23, 2014, Fernandes put Watkins on administrative leave.
  • Watkins’ misconduct is a felony, a violation of Title IX, and a reportable event under the mandated reporting laws.  From February 2014 to June 23, 2014, no one aware of the situation at SHS confronted Watkins, attempted to intervene to protect V1, ask V1 about the rumors, or otherwise checked on V1’s well-being.

After developing and analyzing facts, the attorneys at Pullman and Comley were able to make several conclusions about the scandal.  They believe that there was failure on all sides of the spectrum, from the SHS administrators, to the Central Office, to the Superintendent.  In addition to failing to take any action to protect V1 for months, Valentine, Nordin, Thomas-Graves, Fernandes, and Falcone failed to report the allegations to the Department of Children and Families, which is required by law.  Hamilton failed to comply with Connecticut law in that either the vast majority of school employees did not receive mandated reporter training or the records of their training were not kept.

The report claims that all of these failures reflect the dysfunctional and troubling leadership that has presided over SHS and Stamford Public Schools in recent years.  Interim Principal Tony Pavia said, “The report raises very serious questions and concerns and it’s my hope that the Board of Education will address it as soon as possible.”  Now that an in-depth investigation has been completed and the facts are more concrete, teachers have expressed similar feelings.

History Department Head Doug MacLehose said, “I’m disappointed.  You’d want to think that people in leadership positions would be doing the right thing.”

English teacher Fred Kelley expressed further disappointment in the leadership after reading the report. Kelley said, “The kids are why we are here.  We are not here for us.  We are here for them.”  Kelley also compared the situation to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.  He said, “We learn from Watergate that when covering up the truth, it always gets out.”

In the coming days, we will hear from Superintendent Hamilton and the Central Office with the actions they are planning to take based off of their findings from the report.  Teachers and administrators anxiously await decisions and actions made.  Pavia said, “It’s my hope that we can look into the report and find ways to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”  Math teacher Larry Katz agreed, “I just hope changes are made to make a positive impact on the school.”

As Stamford High and the Board of Education begin the process of hiring a new principal, they plan to use the findings of the report to identify characteristics that our new leader will need.  MacLehose, who is on the committee to hire the new principal, said that he’s “looking for someone who is willing to stand up for the best interests of the school as a whole.”  MacLehose said he wants to hire someone who is “humble enough to admit that they’re wrong, but strong enough to make a decision.”


The full report by Pullman and Comley LLC can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/item/Investigative-report-on-Stamford-High-School-39456.php