During his chairman’s report at last night’s Board of Education meeting, Bruce Likly read a statement in response to recent articles in the Wilton Bulletin covering allegations being made against the Board of Education.

Seeming visibly upset as he read from his prepared remarks, Likly said, “the Wilton schools are not offering ‘hush money’ to anyone. Such allegations are offensive,” and later added, “nothing–NOTHING–untoward or unethical has transpired in this case. I regret that this case is playing out publicly, and that it has consumed such a vast amount of District, Board and Town time and resources… I’m happy to take the beating to protect the privacy of the families who legitimately utilize our special education services in the education of their children.”

Likly was referring to an article that ran on April 18 in the Wilton Bulletin, entitled, “Are Wilton Schools Offering ‘Hush Money’?” that covers the allegations being made by Wilton parent Marissa Lowthert, who charges that the Wilton school district has offered her more than $267,000 –misusing special education funds–“in return for my silence.”

Lowthert has aired a series of complaints and accusations against district officials, including the Board of Ed, administrators and superintendent Gary Richards, most notably regarding indoor air quality. [Ed. Note:  at last night’s BoE meeting there was also a report regarding results of an air quality assessment done at Miller-Driscoll, an assessment that resulted from the recent attention drawn to IAQ as a result of Lowthert’s complaints. The report found no IAQ problems at the school.]

In addition to addressing the BoE several times over the course of the last year, she has appeared in front of various boards in town–PTA, Board of Selectmen and most recently the Board of Finance–to present her concerns. She has since asked the Board of Finance to audit the special education offer made to her. The Wilton Bulletin has written about the some members of the BoF‘s being uncomfortable with the terms of the settlement offer, saying they’ve noted ‘red flags’ in the offer. They also published a copy of the settlement offer made to Lowthert, which they obtained through a FOIA request.

Here is the full text of Likly’s statement at last night’s BoE meeting: 

Like many Wilton residents, I have been surprised by some of the headlines appearing in the past few issues of the Bulletin. I recognize that these headlines were intentionally written to grab readers’ attention, which they certainly did. The articles have also generated discussion that some people are waiting for the Board to respond to. I’d like to take a minute tonight to offer a few comments.

First, the Wilton schools are not offering ‘hush money’ to anyone. Such allegations are offensive to me, to Dr. Richards and to my colleagues on the Board of Education.

And as much as I wish I could offer a point-by-point rebuttal to the accusations made by one Wilton parent, I am bound by several legal constraints. First and foremost is the fact that the Board is legally prohibited from participating in the discussions or negotiations of any special education settlement and we are further constrained from speaking publicly regarding specific special education cases. This is because individual students and their educational status are involved, and these children deserve–and are guaranteed by law–a right to privacy.

I would though, like to offer a general statement with regard to the Board of Education’s role in decisions about our Special Education students and the services provided to them. It’s quite simple. The board has no involvement in determining specific special education placements or programming. Instead the day-to-day operation of the district’s special education programs is the responsibility of the Superintendent, who by statue is the chief executive officer of the Board of Education. The Board’s role in special education is budgetary. We are responsible for ensuring adequate funding is available to support the program. Period.

When a parent expresses a desire for a child to receive special education services, there is a very clearly defined, legal process the the District must follow. It is usually a very collaborative process in which parents work with special education teachers, administrators and service providers from any number of areas–social, emotional, vision, hearing, motor skills, communication–to develop an appropriate course of action to meet a student’s particular needs.

From time to time a parent may disagree with the District’s education plan for their student. When that happens, there are a number of options available to challenge the District’s planned course of action. These options range from informal communication with an administrator all the way to a formal due process hearing before a State Department of Education hearing officer. A due process hearing can result in significant costs–as much as $15,000 per day in taxpayer dollars–so the Administration will always work hard to resolve situations before the escalate to this level.

With regard to the specific case that’s received so much media attention, the Board has had no direct involvement or conversations with the Administration about responding to the parent’s claims. Instead the board has been assured by Dr. Richards, our director of special services and our outside legal counsel that the District has acted well within federal and state-mandated policies and protocols for responding to parent concerns.

And while it may be tempting to jump to conclusions based on what has been reported thus far in the media, please understand that what has been made public is a very, very small part of what is certainly a highly complicated and private matter.

Please keep in mind that our administrators have decades of experience in the area of special education, and have dealt with thousand of special education students in the course of their careers. In other words, we have full confidence in their handling of this and every other special ed case.

With that I’d like to summarize my comments on this issue by restating that nothing–nothing– untoward or unethical has transpired in this case. I regret that this case is playing out publicly, and that it has consumed such a vast amount of District, Board and Town time and resources, but that decision was certainly beyond this Board’s control. I’m happy to take the beating to protect the privacy of the families who legitimately utilize our special education services in the education of their children.


3 replies on “BoE’s Likly: “Nothing Unethical” in Lowthert Case”

  1. Fully support the BOE and think our town has wasted too many resources on false accusations.

  2. Calling anyone a “kim Kardashian’ reflects on the writer. This family is not looking for fame; they apparently are seeking answers and transparency. And it would seem that people should care that IAQ testing is properly performed and maintenance including maintenance records are properly kept (it was revealed during this process that the records apparently were not kept despite its being required by law) and that transparency and respect are afforded all members of the community, even those who seek answers and ask difficult questions. There have been documented cases of adults having health issues in the building.

    Indoor Air Quality testing within the schools must be done at regular intervals by law. They were not over the last number of years yet the family was led to believe that the schools were in compliance when they were not.

    When the radon testing was done, it was done improperly and once the State was notified as to the extent by an outside source, the test results were not accepted by the State. (I would imagine that most people and certainly most real estate brokers know that a radon test should not be performed with open windows and there were many more open than was originally disclosed – and is a radon test supposed to be performed with an occupied building where doors, interior and exterior, are being opened and closed throughout the day?)

    Apparently, testing of CO2 was stopped within a classroom once it hit over 3,000 ppm showing a pattern of increasing levels over the day; yet, apparently, there would have been at least a few more hours of testing to be performed.

    Limits are set for our other schools at under 1000 ppm with NIOSH and OSHA specifying limits for adult males, not children, for 1000 ppm.

    Where are the instrument data readings and printouts? Who oversaw them and when? Apparently, the machines internally register the data as it performs the measurements. Then, the data while available to be read on its meter would be preserved internally allowing it to be downloaded for the reports, not subject to human error or interpretation.

    If not enough readings were performed over the appropriate amount of time and according to protocols required, then the readings must be discarded. If the readings are not produced by a method where the data was internally registered and collected for a printout but instead written down, that begs the question, why?

    Was the same individual who oversaw irregular protocols involved in or certify any other tests? Why would the same company or its affiliate be used?

    Why would the settlement offer include a requirement that the Lowtherts not be allowed to discuss, question or ‘communicate in any manner” as a resident and taxpayer of this town matters involving IAQ or any other Wilton Public School operational or capital projects?

    As taxpayers and residents, they have rights that should not be truncated or abrogated. We should encourage resident involvement. How does this position measure against an ongoing issue with low voter turnout or few voices during the budget process?

    What are the specific ‘deferred maintenance issues’ over the years? If they involved the air conditioning system installed in the early 2000s which apparently also included roof work, was the warranty that expires in 2014-2015 triggered? Why are people led to believe that the air conditioning system is 40-50 years old when a large portion was installed in about the last 10 years for almost $900,000?

    It came to my attention that perhaps the information about the water main break at M/D may need some clarification. Was that main truly 50 years old? Or was it the main that was put in in the last 10 years? According to a former selectman, that main was put in about 10 years ago. However, If it were installed even 50 years ago, didn’t most regulations require and most construction firms know the basic parameters to install properly basic infrastructure? Who from the town was overseeing this?

    Put aside the health issues that are critical to ensure a good learning and living environment, which apparently also required OSHA to require remediation in addressing similar issues for some teachers in Miller/Driscoll over the last decade, what about the fiduciary responsibility of the town to the residents’ investment in these buildings.

    Is there a list easily procured of the specifics of ‘deferred maintenance’ including what is being deferred, what it would cost to address/correct them, by whom…?

  3. I am in complete agreement with Mr. Woods and Mrs. Higgins. From what I have read it would appear that the BOE has taken the allegations very seriously. They have called for all the necessary testing and reports. If a test was not done properly it was redone. It would appear that all testing has come back showing no issues. I am sorry if that is not the outcome Mrs. Lowthert was hoping for. But it is time for her to stop. The members of the BOE and Dr. Richards have stood by and taken it on the chin for long enough. These are good people who are working tirelessly to ensure that the children of Wilton get the best education possible. That includes ALL children, special needs or not. She has defamed them individually, as a group and the town as a whole. It appears that she is now on a witch hunt, determined to find anything she can in order to save face. All at the expense of the Wilton taxpayer footing the bill for all this. Perhaps the BOE should consider countersuing her for the amount of taxpayer money spent on this issue. If Mrs. Lowthert is so unhappy with the education being offered to her children here in Wilton a quick call to a realtor can remedy that.

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