Concord School Board Won't Decide Administrators' Fate Until Conclusion Of Independent Investigation

Sep 4, 2019

Parents testify before the Concord school board on the districts' handling of sexual assault allegations and polices.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The Concord school board says it will wait for the results of an independent investigation before deciding the fate of embattled superintendent Terri Forsten and Concord High School principal Tom Sica.

The two administrators are under fire for how they handled allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior by former teacher, Howie Leung. 

Until his arrest in April, Leung was a special ed teacher and club leader at Concord High School. He is facing felony charges for sexually assaulting a former student.

Tom Sica has been placed on administrative leave since June, after revelations that he had suspended a student in 2014 for raising concerns about Leung. Forsten, who joined the district in 2015, sparked outcry in August when she sent a letter to staff negatively characterizing media coverage of the scandal. She issued an apology soon after.

But on Tuesday night, parents and students said the apology was too little too late.

At a packed school board meeting, the citizens group Concord Advocates for Change delivered a petition to the board asking them to remove Forsten and Sica. The petition has garnered nearly 3,000 signatures.

During the public hearing, many said they have permanently lost trust in Forsten, despite her apology and the districts' recent work to implement new polices and staff training about student safety.

"I do not trust you," said Emma Parcells, a high school junior and former student of Leung. "My fellow students do not trust you to keep us safe. This is something that takes a long time to earn back."

Board Chair Jennifer Patterson says the board still needs more information before it can make a final decision about Sica and Forsten's employment.

"The reason we had the investigation in the first place was to understand that we had all the facts," she told NHPR after the meeting. "At the same time, what we heard tonight was also really important: the community’s feelings about what’s occurred, the community’s levels of confidence. That's also information that we’ll take into consideration."

Patterson says once it's completed in September, they will release portions of the report from their indpendent investigation, but confidentiality concerns would prevent them from releasing the full report.