The Darien Board of Education formally and unanimously accepted schools Superintendent Stephen Falcone's resignation Tuesday night and appointed Assistant Superintendent Timothy Canty to take Falcone's place on a temporary basis.
In several unanimous votes, the board decided to accept Falcone's resignation, appoint Canty as acting superintendent, find an interim superintendent and start a "national" search for a new superintendent.
Board Chairperson Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross, reading a statement before the votes, indicated the board was dissatisfied with Falcone. Hagerty said that "at this time the board has concluded that new leadership is required."
She particuarly noted a letter sent to Falcone from "a respected staff member" (who was unnamed) in September 2012 in which serious concerns were voiced about the direction of the district's special education policy.
Hagerty-Ross said Falcone had not told the board or anyone else about that communication, and she and the board thought Falcone should have done so.
Here is the entire statement Hagerty-Ross' read on behalf of the board at the start of Tuesday night's meeting:
"Today the Darien Board of Education received a resignation letter from Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Falcone. We have accepted Dr. Falcone's resignation, and we thank him for his three years of service as superintendent and for his other services to the district in various educational capacities.
"For many months now, the district has been in turmoil over concerns regarding special education procedures, practices and services.
"The board and the administration have made significant efforts to address these concerns, including establishing new procedures with the assistance of a consultant, conducting training sessions with staff and parents, establishing formal dispute-resolution proceedings, retaining the services of an independent investigator and appointing an ombudsman.
"However, concerns have continued, and at this time the board has concluded that new leadership is required.
"For example, just this Friday the board learned that in September 2012, Dr. Falcone received a letter from a respected staff member outlining numerous concerns about our schools' special education procedures and practices put in place at the start of the 2012-2013 school year.
"However, Dr. Falcone did not share this letter with anyone, including the board. While we understand that Dr. Falcone would wish to address on his own the serious concerns expressed, we disagree with that approach and believe that consulting with the board was necessary.
"After substantial consideration, we have decided to accept Dr. Falcone's resignation.
"The board will name Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Mr. Timothy Canty as acting superintendent for the time being. It will promptly retain an interim superintendent while conducting a national search for Dr. Falcone's successor.
"We realize that this has been a very difficult time for Darien Public Schools and the community of Darien. The board members are fully committed to working with the school community to rebuild trust and chart a new course for our students. Thank you."
After a behind-closed-doors meeting with the Darien Board of Education on Monday night, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone has submitted his letter of resignation.
Falcone sent an email to Darien Public Schools staff on Tuesday announcing his resignation, according to the Darien Times, which said Board of Education Chairperson Betsy Hagerty-Ross said she will address the matter at tonight's board meeting, at 7:30 p.m. in the district headquarters at 35 Leroy Ave.
The board's Monday night meeting with Falcone ran from 7 p.m. to 11:50 p.m., Hagerty-Ross told Darien Patch.
Falcone was appointed superintendent of schools in May 2010, succeeding Donald P. Fiftal. Before that, he had been assistant superintendent for secondary school affairs since 2005.
Falcone and the school district have been criticized by parents of special education students for not following state and federal special education law. After an investigation, the state Department of Education agreed with a number of the complaints. The Board of Education has hired an ombudsman and other consultants to deal with individual complaints and district policies in order to comply with the law.
Falcone earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Amherst College, an M.A. in liberal studies from Wesleyan University, a C.A.S. in educational administration from Sacred Heart University, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Connecticut.
His first teaching position was at Canterbury School in New
Milford. He came to Darien High School in the 1990s, teaching
history and social studies. After serving as dean of students at
Middlebrook Middle School in Wilton from 1996 to 1998, he was named
assistant principal of Darien High in 1998.
In 2001 he left to begin a job as principal of Fox Lane High School in Bedford, NY. Falcone returned to Darien in 2005 when he was appointed assistant superintendent.