Board Terminates Former Principal Donna Valentine

Donna Valentine (middle) during the termination proceedings with lawyers Ryan O’Neill (left) and Mark Sherman (right)

Emily Magyari and Andrea Hunt

On Monday January 25, the Stamford Board of Education voted 8-0-1 to terminate the employment of former Stamford High Principal Donna Valentine. This vote was in response to a recommendation to terminate made by impartial hearing officer Peter Adomeit earlier this month.

The proceedings began with Ryan O’Neill, the attorney representing Valentine, delivering a 30-minute plea to the Board of Education advocating against her termination. Throughout the plea, O’Neill cited a disparity between the punishments of the other administrators and teachers involved and what Valentine received. He referred to Valentine as a “punching bag” and a “scapegoat,” and argued the report by the hearing officer was “high on emotion and rhetoric.” Following O’Neill’s argument, Floyd Dugas, the attorney representing administration, delivered his plea to affirm the hearing officer’s decision. Dugas claimed that Valentine “failed to provide a safe environment” at Stamford High. He said that she failed to protect students from further harm and had broken the law by not reporting her suspicions regarding a student-teacher sex scandal to the Department of Children and Families.

Following the pleas, the BOE entered a private executive session for approximately an hour and 20 minutes. During this time, a teary-eyed Valentine spoke to the Round Table about her situation. She said “I miss Stamford High and I wish people had facts, because they were lied to.” Valentine went on to say that she loved her job as principal and she misses the school and the kids. “I was an awesome principal,” she said.

I was an awesome principal.”

— Former SHS Principal Donna Valentine

After the executive session ended, the BOE proceeded to vote on the termination of Valentine’s employment. They voted 8-0-1 on four separate counts including inefficiency based on fact, moral misconduct, and insubordination.  The one abstention was cast by first-year BOE member Mike Altamura.  After the meeting, Altamura explained his abstention to the Round Table. “The report and the testimony was not convincing enough for me to terminate Dr. Valentine,” Altamura said. “Because we could not hold the other teachers and administrators accountable that were involved, I felt it was unfair to single out a particular individual.”

After the vote, O’Neill said, “We will be looking at our next steps,” likely alluding to a potential appeal in the state court system.