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Norwich Free Academy board to meet Monday, possibly vote on personnel matter

January 12, 2019

Norwich — The Norwich Free Academy board of trustees will hold another closed-door session Monday likely involving the board’s ongoing internal investigation into the school administration’s response and quick dismissal of allegations, which surfaced in April 2017, of an assistant coach having sexual relations with a student.

The coach, Anthony Facchini, 25, of Norwich was charged 17 months later by Norwich police on Sept. 12, 2018, with two counts of second-degree sexual assault in connection with allegations he had had sexual relations with two NFA students in 2017 and 2018. Facchini’s next court date is set for Feb. 7 in New London Superior Court.

Following Facchini’s arrest and the release of several police warrants detailing their investigation, the board of trustees hired attorney Matthew Curtin of Murtha Cullina to assist with the internal investigation into the academy’s response to the allegations.

The board of trustees will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday in executive session for “Discussion Regarding Attorney-Client Privileged Communications and a Personnel Matter Concerning an Administrative Staff Member.” Following the closed-door session, the agenda lists: “Potential Action Regarding Executive Session Discussion.”

According to the police arrest warrant and search warrants obtained by Norwich police for NFA computers, emails and investigation documents, top NFA officials learned of the first allegations in April 2017, when Curriculum Director Denise Grant called Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino after she learned of the allegation.

Rodino’s initial investigation report obtained by police stated that Rodino met with Head of School David Klein, Director of Student Affairs John Iovino and then-Athletic Director Eric Swallow regarding the allegation. The report said the administrators asked Swallow to interview Facchini and Director of Guidance Jessica St. George to talk to the alleged student victim.

School officials quickly closed the investigation after both Facchini and the student denied they were in a sexual relationship. In the arrest warrant affidavit, Facchini told police on the eve of his meeting with Swallow, he asked the student victim to delete all communications between the two in her cellphone and to deny the relationship if questioned.

Although Rodino’s initial report stated the information was from an anonymous caller, Curriculum Director Grant told police she never intended to be anonymous and that Rodino was aware she was the one who called, and he called her back on her NFA desk phone.

According to police, Rodino’s initial report also did not indicate school officials intended to report the allegations to police or to the state Department of Children and Families — as required by state law for all school personnel — even if Facchini had acknowledged the relationship.

“Rodino states in the initial report that it was decided, after advising Iovino, Klein and Athletic Director Eric Swallow, that Swallow would meet with Facchini regarding this matter to gain additional information,” police wrote in the search warrant affidavit. “Rodino also noted that if the allegations were found to be true, Facchini would be advised the social interaction should stop immediately.”

Swallow resigned on Sept. 10, two days before police arrested Facchini on Sept. 12. Also on Sept. 12., Norwich police, members of the FBI Computer Analysis Response Team and the state police Crimes Unit combed the NFA campus and seized computers and electronic equipment.

Weeks later, police obtained warrants for emails associated with six top NFA officials — Klein, Iovino, Rodino, Swallow, St. George and Shattuck House Principal Kristin Peckrul — in the investigation. Police also wrote in warrants that NFA failed to provide all requested documents, including 80 pages missing from Rodino’s hard-back notebook he used for the internal investigation, and that NFA redacted names of students.

c.bessette@theday.com

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