‘Dirt’ Temporarily Derails All Three SPED Director Candidates

(File photograph.)

After what sources called “dirt” being dredged up on all three candidates for Haverhill’s special education director, the Haverhill School Committee Monday postponed its hiring decision until at least Thursday.

After conducting public interviews with three finalists during a special meeting Monday evening, committee members voted to have the city solicitor retain an outside third party to conduct “a full background investigation on all three,” according to School Committeeman Scott W. Wood Jr.  He told WHAV Monday night Mayor and committee Chairman James J. Fiorentini “made some calls today and talked about the issues.” Wood added he could not support giving a three-year contract “worth six figures a year to any candidate until all the information we were provided has been vetted and we have better knowledge of their histories.”

“Information was provided right before the meeting on all three candidates. Therefore, we decided to conduct a full background investigation on all three candidates to be completed for Thursday night,” Wood said. “Sometimes information is provided as sour grapes to sabotage a candidate, however, we need to make sure our due diligence is done.”

“We need more info. on candidates before making final decision. Hopefully we will have SPED director Thursday,” school committee President Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello told WHAV.

The SPED director finalist candidates interviewed were retired Warwick, R.I. Superintendent Richard D. D’Agostino; special education advocate Melissa J. Deyo-Silvia, of  Somerset; and current interim Director Kyle A. Riley, of Fall River. They were selected as finalists by a subcommittee comprised of School Committee Members Wood, Shaun P. Toohey and Gail M. Sullivan.

D’Agoistino was questioned by Wood about a 2015 Providence newspaper article circulated “by an individual or two” about an investigation into a Warwick school teacher accused of assault against a minor outside of that community. In response to “some innuendo made” on whether he had prior knowledge, D’Agostino told Wood it was “a personnel matter and those items are not revealed to the public.” D’Agostino added he had “immediately suspended the individual” while the matter was investigated and for himself, he “was never fired” and chose to retire from the Warwick district for “family reasons.”

“The individual allegedly did not do it. It became a very complicated situation and when you can not speak about certain things in public, the public wonders why. Publishing these stories had gone back and forth and it allegedly was recanted by an individual,” D’Agostino said.

Meanwhile, Fiorentini questioned Deyo-Silvia about a mid-year departure last January from the Somerset school district after serving as SPED director there for more than a year. She noted she had entered a district which “needed a lot of work” and encountered “very upset and disgruntled parents” with a SPED department which went “from one interim to another interim” and left parents there “not having anyone to trust.”

“What did it for me is my children were suffering a little bit from my working in town. I thought it would be so great because I could go to work at eight and I could leave at four and I was working from seven to seven. So it was actually longer than had I been commuting somewhere. So it was very invasive for our privacy because we would be shopping at the grocery store and people would walk up and ask me a question – corner me for half an hour asking why the superintendent

Also discussion was raised on purported claims Riley, in a previous position, “took eight weeks off” before leaving. In a letter to Fiorentini by Superintendent James F. Scully, obtained by WHAV this morning, Scully disputed the claims.

“I’d strongly suggest that you review the credibility of your sources. In my extensive research into the background and professional history of Kyle Riley, I have spoken to two superintendents who appear to place little or no credibility in both of your sources. One of these superintendents apparently began the process to remove one of the sources you referenced. The other superintendent supposedly would not renew the contract of your contact in the position the contact had previously held. In fact, I understand that the contact competed against Mr. Riley for his current position,” Scully wrote.

At the start of the interview meeting committee members and Fiorentini agreed to “ground rules” the successful candidate would be selected by a simple majority rather than plurality, or two thirds, vote. Also, if all three candidates receive votes, the field of finalists would be narrowed down to the highest two vote-getters.

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