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BHS "Knife Incident" Teacher Fired

By Pam Johnson

Published November 29. 2012 1:06PM
BHS Milestone
Carolyn Lippolis in a staff photo from the 2009 BHS Yearbook, "Milestone."

With a vote on Tuesday night, the Board of Education voted unanimously to follow the recommendation of an arbitraion panel, in which two of three panelist recommended the district terminate teacher Carolyn Lippolis.

A Branford High School(BHS) teacher since 2001, Lippolis was terminated at the panel's recommendation based not on the single action of reportedly brandishing a knife in a classroom with students present, but as a result of a combination of factors, including "...a series of issues identifed by the school administration," BOE Chairperson Frank Carrano told The Sound.

The arbitration hearings took place over the course of several weeks, following state statute proceedure, said Carrano, noting Lippolis chose to have her case, and testimony from others, heard by imparitial panel.

"There were four very long sessions which took place (with) a lot of testimony, and the panel issued a report to the Board last week. In that report, the majority; two of the three members of the panel, recommended that the teacher be terminated not just based on one incident -- brandishing a knife -- but a series of issues that had been identified by the school admimistration regarding her performance. The combination of all those things -- not just the one incident led the panel to recommend termination," Carrano told The Sound.

Carrano further explained that, of the three arbitraion panelists, one represents the teacher, one represnts the district and the third is neutral;so the panelists recommendation can't be unanimous.

"The other arbitrators have to try to sway the neutral, to convince that person to go one way or another. So it could have gone the other way, (with the neutral abritrator) not convinced it was a matter so serious to support termination; but instead it went the other way. It was a very clear decision," said Carrano.

The panelist representing Lippolis, Martin Gould, did not support the termination decision and noted his concern about the veracity of the statements of the three students who notified BHS administration of Lippolis's action last year; and his concern that in doing so, the students had become key factors in bringing about her termination.

The Nov. 27 special meeting of the BOE to act on the panel's recommendation was a public meeting, attended by Lippolis, her family, her attorney Eugene Alexrod and a number of supporters, including past students of Lippolis, a BHS Social Studies teacher.

The vote was met with dissent from those there to support Lippolis.

On Nov. 28, Carrano told The Sound he was suprised by the public reaction at the meeting but said it likely came about because, "...I think people were mislead. The people who came last night... Mr. Alxelrod could have brought all those people to the hearing and had them testify on her behalf (about) what kind of teacher she is, (that) she is a wonderful friend...all of those things. He had the opportunity to bring them; and not bring them after the fact. And I think that's part of the reason they were so upset. I think they were mislead. Because the teacher asked for a public discussion and not an executive session did not mean it was a public meeting. The meeting is governed by the statutes. So the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the report of the arbitrators, and if we decided to take action one way or another; which happened," said Carrano.

The Sound contacted Attorney Alexrod's office today for comments; the call has not yet been returned.

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