Shelton High's Skerritt latest on administrative leave
Shelton High School now has its third principal in the past two weeks.
John Skerritt has joined Beth Smith on paid administrative leave, according to school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, adding that this decision was made after he received word from police that Skerritt was part of the ongoing criminal investigation.
“This action is not disciplinary in nature,” said Clouet, adding that Skerritt was informed of the decision Monday afternoon and Shelton Intermediate School Principal Ken Saranich will cover both schools until further notice. “(Skerritt) will be out until the investigation by Shelton police is concluded.”
Skerritt, the high school’s assistant principal, was tabbed as acting principal March 28, when Smith was placed on administrative leave. Clouet informed high school faculty Skerritt was placed on leave on Monday, April 8, and was planning to inform various high school student groups today, following the SATs, which were held this morning.
This latest move comes as the Shelton Police Department and the state’s attorney office continue an investigation into if high school administration properly followed protocols and procedures, in accordance with Connecticut state law, in handling a potentially criminal incident involving two students on Tuesday, March 26. Smith was placed on paid administrative leave two days later.
Clouet said he chose to place Skerritt on administrative leave after receiving official word from local law enforcement that the acting principal was also a focus of the investigation.
“To my knowledge, these two individuals are the extent of the investigation,” said Clouet. “Being placed on paid administrative leave is not disciplinary. I made the decisions in case for the good of the district and for the good of the individuals in question until this situation is resolved.”
Shelton Police Chief Shawn Sequeira has stated there is no timetable on the investigation but felt a decision could come sometime later week.
Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti was first to publicly announce that the investigation involved more than Smith and that law enforcement observed what were believed to be irregularities in the school’s handling of the situation involving the two students. Clouet, in response to the criminal investigation, placed Smith on paid administrative leave on March 28 but gave no specific reason for the decision, saying only that this was a “personnel matter.”
In the days following the start of the criminal investigation, rumors have swirled about the reasons behind the investigation and Smith’s present status. It reached a fever pitch after inaccurate reporting that implied that there had been an arrest and a school employee had been escorted off the campus.
That immediately led Clouet to say he was “concerned and extremely disappointed in the false reporting” on this matter by various media outlets. He also posted a statement on the school district’s website saying "Please beware of rumors. [Smith] was not escorted from the building by police. There has been no arrest. Our primary concern is the well-being of our students. In addition, Dr. Smith deserves respect and privacy as this process unfolds."”
“The situation centered around a complaint concerning two students,” said Lauretti, “and during that, the state’s attorney got involved with respect to how these complaints are being handled by school staff members.”
But Clouet as well as Board of Education members and even the Shelton teachers’ union head, Deborah Keller, have refused comment, citing the present law enforcement investigation as well as potential pending investigations by school officials. State Department of Children & Families’ officials also refused to confirm or deny any report was made concerning Shelton High School.
Lauretti has been critical of 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,” said Lauretti. “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 move forward.”