Wamogo principal hid an alleged past of misconduct
Disgraced Wamogo Regional High School Principal Jaime Rivera is shown at the school last September. BZ photo
The reason for the sudden resignation of Wamogo Regional High School Principal Jaime Rivera on April 7 became known on Friday when he was cited in an investigative report on sexual misconduct at Choate Rosemary Hall School in Wallingford, where he taught Spanish in 1998-99.
Choate Rosemary Hall authorized the investigation after a series in the Boston Globe last year on sexual assault and abuse against students by teachers in more than 110 private schools in New England between 1963 and 2010. Twelve Choate teachers, including Rivera, were identified as abusers in the 50-page investigative report.
According to the report, Rivera, a Spanish teacher, sexually assaulted a female Choate student in a swimming pool in Costa Rica during a study abroad program in 1999. Fueled by alcohol, he also groped another female student in the same pool during the program, according to the report.
After students reported the incidents, Rivera was fired for “just cause,” according to the report. Choate, however, failed to report the sexual allegations to law enforcement or the state Department of Children and Families.
Since the allegations were not reported and because Rivera didn’t list his Choate experience on his resume when he applied for the Wamogo job last summer, Region 6 officials had no knowledge of his past, Superintendent of Schools Edward Drapp and Board of Education Chairman Christopher Sanders of Goshen wrote in an email to Region 6 residents Friday.
The Choate report was released on Friday, one week after Region 6 announced that Rivera was placed on leave until the end of the school year and would resign on June 30.
According to the report, Rivera went by the name Rivera-Murillo while at Choate.
“Region 6 was unaware that Mr. Rivera had ever worked at Choate Rosemary Hall School since his employment at the school was neither included on his job application nor revealed through subsequent follow-up on his work history prior to him being hired,” Drapp and Sanders wrote.
After leaving Choate, Rivera taught in Harrison, N.Y., and in the state’s technical school system, and spent six years as assistant principal at Newtown High School. Rivera was not disciplined or asked to resign in any of his former jobs, according to Drapp and Sanders.
Drapp had a suspicion in January that something ominous about Rivera, who was making $156,000 this year as principal, could be on the horizon. It was then that DCF informed Drapp of Rivera’s alleged sexual misconduct while at Choate, according to Drapp and Sanders.
DCF never pursued a case against Rivera because the agency said the claims against him did not meet statutory requirements. Rivera denied the allegations in a meeting with Drapp and the Region 6 attorney, Christine Chinni, according to Drapp and Sanders, and denied the allegations in a subsequent meeting with his attorney and Chinni on March 29.
The second meeting with Chinni came after Choate on March 17 sent Drapp a letter informing him of the investigation into sexual misconduct by teachers, according to Drapp and Sanders. Rivera was made aware of the letter and was not seen at Wamogo again, according to Drapp and Sanders.
“The news about Mr. Rivera is very disturbing,” Drapp and Sanders wrote. “The fact that any school would not report alleged sexual abuse to the (state Department of Children and Families) and law enforcement is alarming. Inaction by others has put Wamogo and Region 6 in an untenable position, a situation that is unfair to our students, parents and community.”
Rivera handed in his resignation on April 6, a day after the Choate investigator notified Region 6 that Rivera’s alleged randy actions in the swimming pool in Costa Rica were verified by witnesses, according to Drapp and Sanders.
With Rivera gone, interim principal Pamela Lazaroski and assistant principal Charlie Rowland are running the show at Wamogo. Steps are being taken, Drapp and Sanders said, to make sure that students feel safe and supported.
"To reach this goal the district will have mental health and counseling staff available at Wamogo to speak with students beginning on Monday,” Drapp and Sanders wrote. “Parents should direct their children to report to the guidance office if they need to talk to someone. Resources will also be available on the district website to help parents have appropriate conversations with their children.
”The school and district administration will also be meeting with the middle and high school students to let the students know that they are loved and cared for and that as a school community we will get through this troubling news together.”
Choate ReportThe content of this report is sensitive, personal and graphic. It is not intended for children. Reader discretion is advised.