Monday, May 16, 2022

Superintendent Responds - Conner: I Am Unequivocally and Completely Innocent of the Alleged Allegations

  An Open Letter from Dr. Michael T. Conner, Ed.D.

Today, May 16, the summary report from the seven-month investigation into the anonymous allegations against me were released.

Let me be clear I am unequivocally and completely innocent of the alleged accusations.

Evidence was shared with investigators and the BOE that these false allegations were intentionally fabricated as part of a plan to remove me from the Office of the Superintendent. This evidence was ignored.

Of the most serious allegation, the summary report uses the term “more likely than not.” This is not a definitive charge, but another character-damaging insinuation based on a one-sided, anonymous, and I repeat, false accusation.

As stated in the report I declined to be interviewed. My decision not to testify to investigators was based on information, communicated to me by my attorney, after conversations with the BOE attorney, that I would not be given the chance to address specific allegations or provide witnesses to support my claim that I was innocent of these charges . How could I defend myself without the testimony of collaborative witnesses and evidence, especially exculpatory information?

Most of the remaining charges against me were dismissed by the investigators outright.

Add to that the insulting accusations that my use of “big words” was deemed unprofessional. Any Black man will tell you that this is inherently racist. The “accusation” of “being articulate” is clearly one of many microaggressions Black people endure daily. As this report makes clear, anonymous accusers claimed to use my intelligence as intimidation. This speaks to the absurdity of the claims and the troubling, targeted motivation of the accusers.

The Middletown Board of Education has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on a law firm that took over five months to produce a baseless report while distracting the BOE and school staff from the task of handling students and schools in the critical post-pandemic period.

Additionally, in November 2021, we were told that the investigation would last 30 to 45 days. Instead, the Board of Education allowed an out-of-state law firm to open the investigation to further grievances (now, as it appears, mostly baseless) that were beyond the original scope of the false and anonymous allegations.

My family, the taxpayers, and the students in Middletown deserved better.

On March 3, 2022, I resigned as the Superintendent of Middletown Public Schools. In my resignation letter, I stated that my resignation was predicated not on the spurious allegations against me, or the unfocused investigation conducted by the Board of Education, but on my need to reevaluate my family’s priorities in the face of threats to our safety - threats that were a direct result of the baseless allegations. My goal was to move on from my time as the Superintendent in Middletown, hopefully leaving the students and staff of Middletown Public Schools better off than when I came and focusing on healing with my family as I move on in my career.

During the course of my four years as superintendent, the school system made significant quantitative and programmatic educational and equity progress. I am proud of the collaborative work we achieved on behalf of families and students of Middletown.

Our adoption of two strategic operating plans (Middletown 2021 and Middletown 2024) supported innovative initiatives to prepare students for a competitive global economy.

 - Our strategic endeavors led to the expansion of PreK classrooms
including full-day options for families, the Bridge to Brilliance Initiative that provided every three/four-year old in Middletown a digital solution to close the preparation gap entering Middletown Public Schools.

 - Increased standardized and accountability scores, improved graduation rates to 97%, closing of the secondary achievement gap at the middle school level.

 - Developing the first STEM/Choice School at Macdonough.

 - And soon be launching the 13th International Baccalaureate Program in Connecticut at Lawrence School.
Moreover, we successfully opened Beman Middle School with the
Innovation Lab so students can experience project-based learning activities focused on the areas of aerospace, manufacturing, robotics, drone development, engineering, and computer science. Our collaborative work creating the nationally recognized Aerospace/Manufacturing Program 
expanded opportunities and access with technical skill development in critical areas of economic demand.

- For the first time ever, Middletown High School was recognized as a top high school in the 
country by the US News and Report.

- At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, we successfully transitioned our education system
to ensure ALL students were not compromised of their basic democratic right access to aquality education.

- During the height of the pandemic,
ALL students were provided technology devices, 
hotspots for internet connectivity, and over 153,000 meals from March 2020 through June 2020 were distributed for ALL members of the Middletown community.

- Our schools were safe during the ambiguous time of COVID
mitigation strategies that 
included desk shields for ALL students, thermoscans at all schools, COVID tracker for community transparency, and the first district in the state of Connecticut to pilot rapid testing for ALL staff and students.

All of our state and national accomplishments as well as other milestones could not have happened without the work of teachers, administrators, parents, and students with collaboration, ideas, and love for Middletown’s schools. I hope Middletown can continue to improve the educational environment and foundation we set and continue to provide a first-class education to ALL students. It is time to get the focus in the Middletown Public Schools back on education.

I’ll end with a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The time is right to do what is right.” Middletown students will always be close to my heart. Let’s do right by them.

I wish you all continued success.

Michael T. Conner, Ed.D.  

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