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Palmer Denounces ‘Erroneous Rumors’ About KHS Leaves of Absence

Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer today denounced “numerous erroneous rumors” about the placing on administrative leave of the Kings Highway Elementary School (KHS) principal and four staff members.

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KHS Principal Mary Lou DiBella: unexplained absence. Westport Schools photo

“While I realize that there is a natural tendency to seek more detailed communication, in matters such as this, the District is bound to keep our messages to you at this level of generality,” she said in a Saturday afternoon email to parents.

It came five days after the Jan. 28 announcement that Principal Mary Lou DiBella and the staff members have been placed on paid professional leave without prejudice and would be absent for “at least the next few days” while the district reviews unspecified allegations.

“It would be inappropriate to make any assumptions about any individuals at this time, and I ask for your patience as we work to resolve the issues at hand,” Palmer said in the latest email, which disclosed for the first time that four staff members in addition to DiBella were affected.

“Unfortunately, there are numerous erroneous rumors in our community which can harm our school’s or individuals’ reputations,” she said.

“In order to support the optimal resolution of these matters, conjecture and statements trying to ‘connect the dots’ will serve to undermine those efforts.”

Palmer explained that other administrators would be assigned to KHS to cover the five absences while the district “continues to gather information about the allegations.”

“Dr. Valerie Babich, Coordinator of Psychological Services, will oversee all special education services in concert with Dr. Tina Mannarino, Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services,” the superintendent said.

“Additionally, Ali Moran, Coordinator of PreK-5 Math, and Michele Cerino, Coordinator of PreK-5 Language Arts, will provide on-site administrative support to the daily operations of the school.

“Ms. Moran has served as an assistant principal in our District, and Ms. Cerino joined our team this year after spending years as a successful elementary principal. Tracey Carbone, Assistant Principal of KHS, will serve as acting principal during this time.

“The school is well-staffed to ensure that normal operations continue at this time, and our Central Office team of administrators is on call if any further needs arise.”

Palmer concluded: “KHS is a caring, supportive school. Your focus on our partnership to ensure every child has a happy, healthy day at school each day will help us all move forward right now. 

“As I am able to share further updates, I will do so.” 

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