The debate over special education staff reassignments and layoffs in North Haven has gotten the attention of Hartford.
In a letter dated June 14, State Representative Yaccarino (R-North Haven) and State Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven) criticized superintendent Robert Cronin's lack of communication with elected officials and town residents about his decision to reduce special education staff at the town's public schools.
Yaccarino first became aware of the brewing controversy during a visit to North Haven's alternative high school.
"I started hearing the story from a lot of people around town," Yaccarino said this afternoon by phone. "A lot of parents seemed furious that these cuts were being made without their input or knowledge."
In response to the outcry, Yaccarino contacted the State Department of Education in Hartford, and reached out personally to Dr. Cronin.
"The Department of Education said they would look into it," said Yaccarino. "The superintendent never called me back.
Cronin did not return calls for this article.
Communicating with Fasano earlier this week, the pair drafted a letter that calls into question not only process through which the special education cuts were announced, but also the superintendent's hiring of Dana Corriveau, the co-author of a State Department of Education report on North Haven's special education program conducted in April.
That report, available as a PDF, can be read here.
Contained in Yaccarino and Fasano's letter are eleven questions related to the reorganization of the town's special education program, including, "Who decided to hire Dana Corriveau?", "How is the Town going to handle our caseload?", and, "What is the plan in full to protect and educate the special needs children in North Haven?"
The pair also make note of controversial decisions Cronin made in the past, writing: "I know you are new to North Haven, but this is not how we operate our educational system in North Haven nor is it how we operate our government, a lesson I think you may have learned in Naugatuck when you served as Superintendent."
During his tenure as superintendent in other districts, Cronin gained a reputation for implementing sweeping reconfigurations of school systems, starting with Naugatuck, which he left in 2007, and followed by Region 14 (Woodbury/Bethlehem), where his decision to redistribute grade levels between schools led a group of parents to file a lawsuit.
After a lengthy legal battle, the courts overturned the reconfiguration proposal.
According to Yaccarino, the issue in North Haven is one of bad communication.
"You don't make decisions of this magnitude without going through the proper channels," said the Representative.
Towards the end of the document, the legislators urge the superintendent to "cease any and all actions," and insist that a series of public hearings addressing the layoffs, the monitoring report, and the staffing decisions going forward take place.
On Tuesday, it was announced that all decisions regarding special education staffing would be frozen until after a June 21 public meeting to address parental concerns.
Ultimately, the choice on how to proceed remains Dr. Cronin's, a dynamic both First Selectman Michael Freda and Yaccarino are quick to point out.
"I'm writing this letter as a North Haven resident and taxpayer," said Yaccarino. "I, like a lot of people in town, just want to know: What is the plan?"