Baldwin placed on administrative leave
Superintendent Karen Baldwin was placed on administrative leave with pay Friday night, following accusations that she copied from documents written by superintendents from other districts, as well as other organizations, in her official correspondence to the district.
The Board also voted to allow board member Jonathan Steckler to retain a lawyer to investigate the allegations against Baldwin, which were first made public by Ridgefield High Senior Paul Kim.
“The Board of Education places the Superintendent on administrative leave, with pay, during the pendency of the independent counsel’s investigation. Such administrative leave shall be without prejudice to the Superintendent’s rights with respect to the investigation,” said Chairwoman Fran Walton, reading the board’s motion.
The board reached its decision after two hours of deliberation in a closed-door executive session in the town annex Friday night.
Eight members of the board voted in favor of conducting the investigation, with Steckler abstaining from casting a vote, as the board charged him with hiring a lawyer to investigate the alleged copying.
Board members Tracey O’Connor and James Keidel both voted against putting Baldwin on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.
Walton said the board has yet to decide on an interim Superintendent while the investigation takes place. Baldwin will remain the Superintendent, but will not be allowed in the building while she is on administrative leave.
“The Board of Education authorizes Jonathan Steckler, a board member, to retain independent counsel to investigate the recent allegations pertaining to the Superintendent’s use of source documents,” Walton said, reading the board’s motion.
Despite being held in a private session, the meeting drew about 20 members of the community, who waited outside the door for the board to make a decision on Baldwin’s performance.
Accusations that Baldwin copied substantial portions of a letter written by West Hartford Superintendent Tom Moore came to light at the board’s Feb. 26 public hearing for the 2018-19 proposed school budget.
Baldwin’s letter had been sent to parents and staff on Feb. 22, eight days after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Kim told the board on Feb. 26 that he had “grave concerns” about Baldwin’s “professionalism and integrity.”
Walton ruled Kim out of order before he was able to talk about the similarities between the two letters.
The Feb. 22 letter wasn’t the first time Baldwin borrowed from another source without attribution.
One sentence in a Thanksgiving email from Baldwin to her colleagues in 2016 appeared to have been lifted from a Thanksgiving address made by President Barack Obama the previous year.