Stonington — School board Chairman Farouk Rajab told board members Tuesday night that he has instructed the attorney conducting the investigation of how school officials handled the allegations against former high school teacher Timothy Chokas to file her report by Aug. 13.
Rajab also said he asked Christine Chinni to send the report to all board members at the same time. The report is then expected to be released to the public.
Meanwhile, State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said Wednesday she anticipates completing her review of whether school officials properly followed school system policies and procedures in regards to the Chokas matter by the end of August or early September. Eagan began her review last summer after The Day began publishing a series of stories about how Superintendent of Schools Van Riley and other school officials handled the allegations against Chokas. A review by The Day of the issue revealed school officials did not follow those policies.
Chinni’s report and Eagan’s review comes as the school board prepares to begin its annual review of Riley, at which time it typically decides whether to extend his contract for three years and give him a raise. Some school board members want to conduct that review in public and the board is negotiating with Riley about how to conduct his review.
Many former students have told The Day that Chokas repeatedly touched female students inappropriately and made inappropriate comments to them dating back to 2004. Many others have posted their complaints about Chokas and school officials on their Facebook and Instagram pages, the Stonington Community Forum Facebook page and in online comments on the numerous stories The Day has published about the controversy.
But Riley and Principal Mark Friese have testified under oath that the various reports lodged against Chokas by students, referred to in school documents and emails in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019, were not considered complaints but “reports” and “concerns.” This meant complaints were not placed in Chokas’ personnel file and he was never disciplined.
In January 2019, a female student complained to a staff member that Chokas was touching a female classmate and making inappropriate comments to her. For more than a year the school system fought The Day’s attempt to obtain an unredacted copy of memo describing that incident but on Wednesday the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission ordered the school system to provide The Day with the document.
The January 2019 incident led to Chokas being allowed to resign with his full salary of $81,396 and benefits through the end of the school year. The district also agreed not to fire him or disclose any information concerning his employment to anyone, except as required by law.