Oxbow Candidate Plans Visit; Controversy Follows Potential Principal
Bradford, Vt. — A public forum tonight will give community members a chance to talk to an Oxbow High School principal candidate who was accused last year of failing to report an allegation of child abuse at a school in the Northeast Kingdom.
Noah Noyes, principal for grades 7-12 at Danville School in Danville, Vt., was charged criminally, along with the superintendent of his school district, by the Vermont State Police last summer after a student at the school claimed in spring 2013 that a teacher grabbed her buttocks and brushed up against her breast.
“For me, obviously picking a principal is a really important thing for a school and community, and with regard to the situation here (in Danville) … there was a lot of misinformation or inaccurate information that was reported in the media,” Noyes said.
“I think the goal for (Wednesday) is for an opportunity ... for me to provide some factual information about the circumstances” and to hear from community members, he said.
School Board Chairwoman Kathleen Damon said the board decided to host the forum after hearing from community members who raised concerns related to the news stories. The forum is an opportunity for the board to show it’s done due diligence in investigating the incident and for Noyes to address the issues directly, Damon said.
In an interview Tuesday, Noyes defended his decision not to report the incident to the Department for Children and Families, saying that an investigation and a “substantial amount of evidence” found the student’s allegation to be without merit.
He also said officials from the Department for Children and Families advised him the incident did not rise to the level of necessitating a report. The incident was later reported separately by the student’s family, prompting the charges.
The Caledonian Record and Associated Press reported that Noyes settled the charges by accepting a referral to the court’s diversion program, which Noyes said he could not confirm.
Martha Tucker, who was Caledonia Central Supervisory Union superintendent at the time of the allegation, also resigned.
The Caledonian Record reported last month that she was asking the court to dismiss the remaining charges against her.
Last month, Noyes announced his resignation from Danville School, effective at the end of the school year.
Tonight’s forum comes days after former Oxbow High School sports coach and physical education teacher Brian Musty pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a student he coached while she was living at his home in the late 1990s. When he was first charged in November 2012, investigators alleged that the incidents occurred both at Musty’s home and inside the high school.
Musty remains free on conditions pending his sentencing, which is yet to be scheduled.
In 2009, Bradford Elementary School teacher Richard Foster was convicted of producing child pornography involving two sixth-grade boys.
Foster died in prison while serving a 25-year sentence.
The board narrowed down a list of several candidates to Noyes, 30, now the lone and preferred candidate, Damon said. When asked if the board was confident that Noyes was the right person for the job, given the accusations against him last year and the Oxbow community’s heightened awareness of sex assault, Damon said he was.
“Based on what he’s told us about how the situation unfolded and what we’ve heard through different reference checks, yes,” she said. “If there was any doubt in our mind about (hiring Noyes), then we wouldn’t be moving forward with it.”
Without commenting on those cases specifically, Noyes said student safety is his highest priority, and he finds it important for all members of a school community to be “extremely vigilant” about student safety.
“Child safety needs to be our number one priority at all times, and that’s something that I take extremely seriously,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of having relevant policies and procedures in place and ensuring that community members are well-trained to recognize child abuse.
The announcement from the school board said the forum will be moderated “to keep us on task in an orderly way.” It is scheduled for 6:30-7:30 p.m. tonight at the Oxbow High School Auditorium.
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3220.