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Riverhead school board approves resignation of Charles Regan

08/28/2019 8:26 AM |

The Riverhead school board approved the resignation of former high school principal Charles Regan.

Board president Gregory Meyer read a statement from the board Tuesday night regarding the decision to accept the resignation, which is effective Sept. 27. Mr. Regan has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a former high school student.

“Paramount to the board’s decision is the desire to have Mr. Regan removed from district payroll as soon as possible and have his employment status with the district end,” Mr. Meyer said. “Tonight, the board takes the most expeditious step available to permanently sever that relationship.”

The resignation will have no impact on the separate process being conducted in the state education department concerning Mr. Regan’s teaching and administrative certification, he said. The district could save an estimated $100,000 in salary costs by cutting Mr. Regan.

However, the vote was split: board members Laurie Downs, Therese Zuhoski and Brian Connelly voted to reject the resignation. Members Christopher Dorr, Matthew Wallace, Susan Koukounas and Mr. Meyer voted to accept it.

The resignation follows nearly four months of frustration among some community members regarding Mr. Regan’s reassignment to his residence, with pay, as of April 30.

Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said cutting ties with Mr. Regan will allow staff and students to “rebuild after meeting, teaching and learning under the very dark cloud of [his] actions.”

Dr. Henriquez commended the board and community for their collaboration. She said the experience will remain with district representatives for “the rest of our lives.”

“While we share your disdain for what occurred, we have endured a lot because of what Regan did,” she said. “While, yes, it is part of the job, I know that I speak for everyone when I say you never sign up for having an employee that acts in such a heinous way.”

In early June, the school board filed disciplinary charges against Mr. Regan in accordance with Section 3020a of state education law. The district also hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation of the allegations, which is ongoing. Mr. Meyer said Wednesday that as a result of Mr. Regan’s resignation, the hearing officer will withdraw the district’s disciplinary charges against the former administrator.

Riverhead school district attorney Christopher Venator of Ingerman Smith, LLP said Wednesday that the hearing officer has been notified of Mr. Regan’s resignation, which is being processed. He added that regardless of whether he resigned or was terminated, the process does not impact Mr. Regan’s pension. As a tenured employee, the attorney said, Mr. Regan is entitled to pay for unused vacation time, but not sick time.

Before the vote, some community members expressed frustration with the board’s decision. Former member Angela DeVito said the school board cannot predict how it will affect the lawsuit.

“It’s good to believe everything is going to go the way we’d like it to go — but I don’t think there’s a way to guarantee those outcomes,” she said.

Maryanne Wojcik addressed the school board Tuesday night. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

Last week, the attorney representing former high school student Anastasia Stapon, 19, filed a federal lawsuit against Riverhead Central School District officials and Mr. Regan following accusations of “sexual misconduct” that occurred on and off school grounds between January and April 2019.

One of Ms. Stapon’s parents, Maryanne Wojcik of Jamesport, asked the board not approve his resignation. She also asked about the results of the outside firm’s investigation.

“Maybe we should wait for the outcome of this investigation,” she said.

Mr. Venator said the outside firm has found “nothing that sheds any significant light” on the issues regarding Mr. Regan’s hiring or other students that were involved.

Dates for hearings on the disciplinary charges were scheduled for September and October and may extend into November, Mr. Meyer said. The board anticipated a decision would have been rendered by a hearing officer in January 2020.

At a May Board of Education meeting, Ms. Stapon’s attorney, John Ray of Miller Place, asked the district to immediately suspend Mr. Regan without pay, noting that the district is permitted to do so.

Resident Yolanda Thompson said she wished the board had not approved the resignation and had instead allowed the situation play out.

“By doing this I hear you sending out a very bad message,” Ms. Thompson said. “Some people have special privileges, and they can get away with things … and we’re supposed to tolerate it.”

In May, Ms. Stapon filed a notice of claim against the district, a precursor to a lawsuit. She discussed the allegations publicly alongside her attorney and her parents, Ms. Wojcik and Theresa Stapon.

The 40-page lawsuit against the district and Mr. Regan was filed in the Eastern District Court of New York earlier this month. It alleges sexual assault, battery, abuse and harassment; two civil rights violations; intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress; breach of fiduciary duties; counseling and psychological malfeasance; and two counts of fraud and negligent supervision, hiring and retention.

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