Shelton Superintendent of Schools Chris Clouet said he spent Monday reassuring staff, students and parents that activities at the high school would continue as planned during an ongoing investigation that led to Headmaster Beth Smith’s forced administrative leave last week.
“I met with dozens of students, and they were understandably concerned with everything going on,” Clouet said. “What I took away from our meetings, with students, parents and staff, is a unity as a school community ... to work together to maintain the quality of service that everyone has come to expect from Shelton High School.”
Clouet said meeting with the school community was imperative as reports surfaced that the state’s attorney office and Shelton Police Department are conducting a “criminal investigation involving multiple staff members” at Shelton High School. School, city and school official have not specified the cause or scope of the investigation.
Mayor Mark Lauretti said Monday — and police Chief Shawn Sequeira confirmed — that the investigation is focusing on more than just Smith’s actions in connection with an incident with two school students early last week. Lauretti said several school staff are being investigated, including, according to a published report in The Hartford Courant, the acting high school principal, John Skerritt.
Sequeira said his department is investigating whether school personnel are following the proper procedures, in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes, when dealing with potentially criminal situations.
Sequeira would not comment on what specifically led to this investigation, saying only that the department was called to the high school on an incident involving students.
“While working on the alleged case concerning the students, this separate case came up,” said the chief.
Smith was placed on paid leave Thursday on what Clouet termed a “personnel matter.”
“I think it is in everyone’s best interest to not add unnecessary commentary to this situation,” Clouet said. “I have spoken with staff. I have communicated with students and with parents. That’s where the focus should be right now.”
But Lauretti criticized Clouet’s actions in this process.
“By putting Beth Smith on administrative leave, (Clouet) may have called attention to a situation when it may have been premature,” Lauretti said. “What if nothing comes down from this, then what? Why not reassign her until everything is done. All kinds of mistakes have been made here.”
“I think these kinds of comments are exactly what we do not need right now,” responded Clouet. “People should be more circumspect. We need to respect each other and respect the process. Once the investigation is completed, and I all the information in hand, I will make statement about how we kove forward.”
Clouet has confirmed that multiple agencies, including law enforcement, performing an investigation into Smith but would not elaborate, saying only that it involved an incident which occurred early last week. State Department of Children & Families’ Gary Kleeblatt said that under state law, he was unable to confirm or deny any report was made concerning Shelton High School.
Sequeira would not comment on if any arrests were pending, saying “we would like to wrap this up as soon as possible, but I can give no time line. That’s when things can slip through the cracks. I prefer to be as efficient, accurate, clear and concise as possible. We do not limit our investigation to one individual because you never know where the investigation will lead.”