Published May 15. 2012 6:00AM Updated May 16. 2012 10:56AM
Groton — A former school district employee said she foresaw the day when what she described as Superintendent Paul Kadri's intimidating manner, especially toward women, would come under fire and into the light.
Last week, the Board of Education unanimously voted to place Kadri on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into his interactions with, and treatment of, district employees.
Kadri in the meantime is not allowed to have contact with any district employee or members of the school board.
"In order to preserve the integrity of the process that the board has laid out, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at his time," he said when reached by phone.
Mary Ann Butler, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, was named acting superintendent.
"Please be assured that the Board of Education, the Central Office Cabinet and the district administrators have complete faith in Mrs. Butler and the overall operation of the Groton Public Schools," school board chairman Kirsten Hoyt stated in a letter to parents, sent out last Friday.
A town official who has dealt extensively with Kadri and school staff, including those at the central office, said the current investigation came about after Kadri berated a central office employee.
"He's basically a bully," the official said. "He yelled and screamed at a secretary. The board told him last year in his evaluation that he needed to improve the way he talked to people. I guess he didn't learn. Several women have left the district because of him."
The official, who is not authorized to discuss the case and therefore asked not to be named, said the school district's attorney was made aware of Kadri's alleged behavior and alerted the school board, which took abrupt action last week to maintain "a safe work environment" and avoid further encounters.
The former school district employee, who asked not to be named, said she started out on good terms with Kadri.
"He liked me at first," she said. "But he had a difficult personality. I found it a little uncomfortable. I didn't feel as though I could trust him. I was never sure of his motives, if he was doing what he thought was the best thing for the kids in the district or for himself."
This is not the first time Kadri's professional interaction has come into question.
"His aggressive behavior has already cost the town money with Dottie Hoyt," the town official said. "I guess it's shame on us now."
Dottie Hoyt, the previous assistant superintendent of schools, who is not related to the school board chairman, filed a discrimination complaint against the Board of Education, alleging that her treatment under Kadri during the 2010-11 school year caused an anxiety disorder.
"Mr. Kadri's abusive treatment toward me and other older women who have worked in the Central Office constitutes gender and age discrimination," the then-59-year-old Hoyt wrote in a complaint filed with the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in September 2010.
In one meeting, Hoyt said, Kadri "pounded his fists on the table and began to aggressively rise from his chair, leaning over the table" toward her.
She said she also was retaliated against when a principal's job for which she was being considered was "taken off the table" the same day the district learned that she was filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against the board and Kadri.
The lawsuit was settled in March for $197,000, with no findings of wrongdoing, liability or violation of any law, regulation or agreement.
The former school employee said she was not surprised to hear about the Hoyt settlement or the current investigation.
"I witnessed that he didn't treat people, particularly women, that well," she said. "He's a great speaker and has a great way with words, but he could also use that ability to cut people down. I witnessed that. It was very uncomfortable to watch. He could be very belligerent. I saw people shrink from his intimidation.
"For the sake of the school district, I'm glad it's come to this. When I saw that he had been suspended, I thought, 'Finally, the truth will come out.'"