Roughly one month after resigning amid state findings that Darien Schools broke state and federal special education laws, Steve Falcone has taken over as head of the human resources department for Stamford Public Schools.
“In the role as executive director human resources, Falcone will report directly to the superintendent and be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the district’s efforts to recruit and retain the most highly qualified employees for the Stamford Public Schools,” the district stated in a press release. “Falcone will serve as an advisor to the superintendent and her cabinet in all areas of employee relations, including contract negotiations. He will also oversee the new employee evaluations.”
This could come as a surprise to some Darien residents, who have said that many of Falcone’s recommended hires in Darien have been responsible for the issues that have affected more than 100 children with disabilities, according to an independent investigation by Chicago lawyer Sue Gamm.
Falcone resigned following a four-hour executive session discussing his performance. As part of his severance agreement, he will be paid $45,577 over the next few months, and could be paid an additional $36,462, if he has not taken any vacation time this year and had 15 days rollover from last year. The Darien Times has filed a request for Falcone’s Stamford salary and will report that information when it becomes available.
Falcone was employed within one month of resigning, which came when the Darien Board of Education discovered that Falcone had not told the board about a scathing letter from a former special education professional, highlighting a litany of problems that had led to several respected employees leaving the district.
Falcone also omitted key documents from Freedom of Information Act requests, and later apologized, claiming the omissions were an “oversight.” Those documents turned out to be key evidence against the district in both the state and independent investigations.
Over the summer, Falcone did not inform the Board of Ed that the state had also performed a desk audit, which found the district out of compliance with Title IX, bullying, and sexual harassment policies. Two board members disagreed over whether Falcone told them that the impetus for the desk audit was connected to the special education problems.
Stamford school officials praised Falcone’s “demonstrated leadership.”
“I know Dr. Falcone’s education, experience, and demonstrated leadership will prove to be an asset to our district leadership team.I look forward to working with him,” said Superintendent Winifred Hamilton in a press release.
School board President Geoff Alswanger agreed.
“Falcone’s experience as both an educator and building administrator will be invaluable as he leads our professional evaluation process,” Alswanger said in the release.
Further complicating matters, the Town of Darien has set aside $30,000 for a forensic audit into the school district’s reimbursement applications. Investigator Gamm found evidence that the district could have applied for state and federal money as reimbursements for services the district did not provide. If these allegations are substantiated, they would have occurred under Falcone’s leadership.
Former Finance Director Dick Huot retired earlier this year. Huot was responsible for overseeing excess cost submissions to the state.
Falcone is one of several high-ranking school employees who have left Darien to take employment elsewhere. Two weeks before investigator Gamm was about to complete her probe, Literacy Coordinator Antoinette Fornshell took a higher-paying job with Greenwich Public Schools. Fornshell was highly involved in the scientific research-based interventions, or SRBI, a program within which Gamm found evidence showing that the district might have used SRBI to delay providing services to children with disabilities.
Special ed Director Deirdre Osypuk remains on paid leave. She got a 1.7% raise two weeks after taking leave, which came amid allegations that she led a district-wide campaign to restrict, reduce and deny services to children with disabilities.
Many residents have become increasingly concerned after two investigations found evidence of widespread illegal activity, and yet not a single person has been held accountable. Much has been said that the stronghold of the teachers’ and administrators’ unions has been responsible for both the district’s and the state’s inability to engage in any meaningful enforcement.