Thursday, February 22, 2024

Stratford Board of Education in Disarray

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Dr. Osunde Cleared of All Charges

Assistant Superintendent Resigns

Stratford Superintendent of Schools Uyi Osunde remains on paid administrative leave despite a criminal charge stemming from an arrest last November being dismissed.

“The single misdemeanor charge against Dr. Osunde was dismissed on January 31, 2024, in New Haven Superior Court (Baio, J.).  In summarily disposing the charges, the State questioned the actions of the purported victim who admitted she was not afraid of him and did not want him arrested. Ultimately the State agreed with Dr. Osunde that the misdemeanor charge should not have been brought, in light of the true circumstances. In an unusual statement, Dr. Osunde was complimented about how he handled the matter that evening, which he has maintained throughout. Dr. Osunde has been an outstanding and impactful education leader in the State of Connecticut for a long time and he is eager to return to serving the students, faculty, and members of the Stratford community.”

Ray Hassett, Esq.,

Attorney for Dr. Uyi Osunde

Osunde was charged on November. 25th with second-degree breach of peace in New Haven in connection with a domestic incident. Dr. Osunde immediately contacted the Stratford Board of Education. He was placed on leave following a 4-3 vote by the Stratford Board of Education in December.

In Attorney Hassett’s statement, the state “questioned the actions” of the victim, and agreed that the misdemeanor breach of peace charge shouldn’t have been brought. A transcript of the proceeding was not immediately available. 

Osunde will remain on leave pending the results of the Stratford Board of Education’s investigation, according to the Connecticut Post and Mirror. “The criminal charge against the superintendent of schools stemming from a domestic incident last year has been dropped, but he is still suspended from his job while the school board awaits police body camera footage and other information related to the incident.”

According to reporting by the Connecticut Post, “Regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, Board of Education Chair Michael Henrick said Osunde remains suspended from his role pending the board’s own investigation, being conducted by its lawyers.”

“With charges of this nature, we owe the students, the parents, the families, and the staff our own independent investigation into the incident and the behaviors that surrounded it,” he said.

Heather Borges, the district’s Director of Pupil Personnel Services, has been serving as acting superintendent while Osunde is on leave.

The school board’s lawyers have asked for body camera footage from police officers who responded to the incident, Henrick has said. Hearst Connecticut Media has also requested the footage. 

“That’s what the attorneys are waiting on now,” Henrick said, referring to the video, adding that the school board’s lawyers will also look at other, unspecified information, and that it’s unclear how long the process will take.

Once the investigation is concluded, Henrick said a report will be prepared for the school board. If the board opts to, they could seek to terminate Osunde at a special meeting during which the issue would likely be deliberated in executive session prior to a public vote.

“We want to make sure the person at the helm of our students and staff possesses the utmost character,” Henrick said. “We need to put our students and staff at the head of the list and ensure their safety and concerns are our number one priority.”

While it may take time — and money — to resolve the issue, Henrick said Borges has been critical to maintaining continuity in the school system.

“We’d like to bring this to a timely resolution but we have to let the process play out,” Henrick said. “The body cams are integral to our attorneys’ investigation, but we want to make sure we look at all the aspects of what happened. We’re obligated to take the time and go through this process and make sure we get it right.”

According to a police report, shortly after 7:30 p.m. on November 25th, officers were dispatched to Osunde’s New Haven home for a disturbance. When officers arrived, they were met at the front door by Osunde, who directed them to the person who called police and who appeared upset, the report stated.

The report said the complainant told officers Osunde had been drinking alcohol, which had accidentally spilled, causing Osunde to get angry. The ensuing argument continued into the bathroom, where the complainant said she felt threatened because Osunde was blocking the door and approaching her, causing her to fall backward into the tub, according to the report.

After she got up, she told police, Osunde “kept prompting her to hit him, and that he stated he would throw her from the window and break her bones,” according to the report. Police said he also used his foot to prevent the complainant from closing a door, breaking the frame.

The report said Osunde told officers he had been watching a football game on television when the complainant suddenly switched the channel to another show. He said he went upstairs and was playing on his phone, and shortly afterward the complainant came in. Osunde said the complainant hit the phone out of his hand, which led to him yelling in her face, police said.

Assistant Superintendent Also Leaves

Assistant Superintendent Fallon Daniels has resigned just weeks after she was abruptly placed on leave due to what district officials described as “work-related issues”, and her former position will soon be advertised.

Daniels, an administrator who was elevated to the district’s chief deputy role last year, voluntarily stepped down from her position on January 30th, according to Acting Superintendent Heather Borges. 

Borges said in an email that Daniels resigned due to personal reasons, but did not elaborate about the circumstances surrounding her departure. In early January, Borges made the decision to suspend Daniels over an unspecified personnel matter.  

District officials are now preparing to begin a search for a new assistant superintendent to help run the school system. In the meantime, Borges said she has tapped former Wilton Assistant Superintendent Arlene Gottesman, who retired in 2011, to serve as an interim assistant schools chief.  

“The position will be posted in the next few weeks and we will follow our hiring process to fill the position,” Borges said, referring to an online job board the district uses to advertise unfilled positions. 

Daniels’ resignation has added further uncertainty to the future of the school system’s leadership.

Osunde promoted Daniels to the district’s second-in-command role last May, nearly a year after she was first hired. She had been charged with refining the school system’s curriculum, rolling out a new student code of conduct and helping improve training for teachers, among other tasks.

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