WSESD Board Public Statement

WSESD School Board Public Statement (12/10/2021)
Windham Southeast School District
53 Green St.

Public Statement by the WSESD School Board
December 10, 2021

We, the members of the WSESD School Board (the Board), are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community and, like you, are horrified by the revelations shared in Ms. Haskins-Rogers’ August 2021 article in the Commons and other information reported to us since then.

Our strong personal reactions made all of us open to taking many of the steps that were suggested by members of the community. In particular, we have been impacted by the open letter signed by 167 people which has called for, among other things, an open investigation and an assessment of the districts present-day climate and functioning.

Since this letter, we have heard your concerns about the speed with which we have proceeded; frustrations we have also felt personally. But as quickly as we might wish to bring accountability and healing to what many of you have described as an institutional betrayal, we feel bound by our roles as elected officials to proceed with due diligence—a stepwise process, but one inspired by empathy for all those affected. We remain committed to a prudent process that:

Supports all our students—past, present and future, but especially those who have been harmed or who remain vulnerable today.
Respects the dedication of all those teachers and staff who serve with maturity, integrity and with only the best interests of children in mind.
Stewards the resources of our district, with budgets created from taxes paid by the hard-working families in our communities.
Responds to the present-day crises affecting our youth, who have experienced untold levels of disruption and distress throughout this pandemic.

And in seeking a balance of the above goals, we wish to respond to these circumstances in ways that promote transparency, accountability, and healing. We are deeply sorry for the hurt that many of you feel, and we are committed to taking the steps
necessary to bring our past to light as we protect our future.

Steps we have taken so far

We freely admit that these revelations were unexpected, and that the path forward was not immediately clear. We apologize for the uncomfortable delay in sharing our activities, most of which, by necessity, had to be considered in executive session. We
have not been inactive but working on the steps outlined below.

School Climate Investigation: An assessment of WSESDs present-day school climate was called for in the community letter, a recommendation the Board has appreciated and acted upon. The climate assessment has begun, initially with a historical review of climate data going back several years to the present day. Climate surveys are best understood in relation to national norms and the District’s own historical trends. WSESD’s data will be examined for patterns or concerns, a process we expect will overlap, collaboratively and concurrently, with the District’s dedicated work supporting students, using data to support decision-making, and its multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). The District’s recent climate assessments have used, including in 2021, the nationally-normed Panorama Student Survey (, data that will complement existing efforts to improve climate through strategic action and outcomes measurement. The Board expects to receive regular updates on the climate assessment from its District leaders and consultants.

Identifying an Independent Investigator: We have decided that the investigation must be done by a separate investigator with a broad scope that protects the confidentiality of the sources. This scope will not include defending the district from any claims that may arise over the course of the investigation. We have been researching, interviewing, and considering firms to investigate this matter on behalf of the district.

Determining the Scope of the Investigation: While the complete scope and engagement agreement has not been finalized and will evolve, we will give the investigator broad latitude in determining how the investigation should be conducted and the relevant timeframes to include. We will ask the investigator to prioritize identifying past and current employees or staff who may have known about relevant incidents and/or failed to act. Additionally, we will ask the investigator to provide opportunities for individuals to share information in as many ways as possible, including anonymously, to ensure the findings are comprehensive.

Considering Findings: Once the scope of the investigation has been determined, the Board will not be involved in guiding its progress. The Board and District will receive regular updates from the investigator and will prioritize providing information to law enforcement and appropriate state agencies over public disclosures. We will share information publicly whenever possible as long as doing so does not compromise the integrity of the overall investigation or any ongoing legal, law enforcement or personnel matters that may be connected to findings.

Reporting of Findings: The Board and District will not review any findings that contain the names of people who choose to come forward unless doing so is necessary for an appropriate response. This Board will be advised of the names of staff or former staff who have been accused of wrongdoing as these incidents may require immediate steps or response. Issues involving current staff will be referred to the District, which will follow its normal procedures in forming a response, with oversight by the Board. The Board will make its final decisions regarding the public release of findings in consultation with the investigator and law enforcement, but prioritizing respect for the privacy of those who do not wish to be identified. Law enforcement officials and/or state agencies will make their own determination about the release of information as it becomes available.

Historical Insurance Records Review: We have been working with our insurance providers to identify all notification requirements under our liability policies going back decades. In many cases, this has involved concerted efforts by our office staff and insurance agent to locate actual policies or evidence of policies. While there certainly is, and will be, differences of opinion regarding the speed and direction of our efforts, we hope all will understand that any steps we take to address these circumstances will require access to district funds and insurance support. We cannot take actions that might void insurance security.

We, the WSESD Board, affirm our dedication to a process that promotes accountability, transparency and healing, and apologize for the stress and pain that stems from the process that has unfolded thus far. We will continue to work closely with district administration and are eager to see these issues fully and compassionately explored. WSESD is committed to learning from our mistakes, and leveraging the knowledge gained to nourish safe and empathetic educational communities supported by talented
staff, visionary leaders, and a dedicated Board that remains accountable to the public and steadfast in our advocacy for children.

– WSESD Board of Directors

Comments | 2

  • Wasn't this about a student sexually assaulted by a teacher?

    If one is unaware of the underlying issue, this board statement would tell them nothing.

    (Hmmm.. stress, investigations, climate, insurance, findings, safety…. could be lots of things… the board wants kids to be safe from climate change?)

  • No mention of alleged sexual abuse in WSESD statement

    The WSESD board has avoided mentioning the reasons for the investigation that they promise in this statement. Here is a link to my viewpoint that was published in The Commons in August. Since its publication, others have informally reported alleged sexual abuse by employees of BUHS

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