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March 15, 2013

Police, DA probe in final stages

On the same day a new West Parish after-school program took hold, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said the multi-agency investigation into the incident that sparked the previous program’s shutdown is nearing completion.

“We still have a couple of interviews (to carry out),” Campanello said Thursday morning, “then it’s a matter of getting together with the other agencies” and determining how to proceed, if at all.

City and school officials abruptly shut down the school-run West Parish program March 1, and just as abruptly pulled together a meeting with after-school program parents that night that included Campanello, Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier and Mayor Carolyn Kirk. The shutdown and meeting came after the schools launched a probe that has included the state’s Department of Children and Families and the office of Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, in addition to Gloucester police.

Neither school nor law enforcement officials have talked about specifics of the investigation or what the reported incident involved, though families who have spoken to the Times have indicated that it involved a pupil or pupils “acting inappropriately.”

Safier and Campanello have said their initial focus had been on the level of supervision for the program. And last week, Safier confirmed the schools had chosen to bring in the Cape Ann YMCA and YMCA staffers to run the program, though the superintendent has declined to say whether the previous program supervisors, who were school employees but not teachers, have been ousted or simply transferred to other positions and/or duties.

Campanello, who has noted previously that the investigation and the incident or incidents — which reportedly involved children interacting with other children, not with adults — were confined to the after-school program, which served 82 students from 60 families in West Parish’s K-5 grades, and did not involve any other aspects of the school.

He also confirmed Thursday that the incident was not in any way connected to drugs of any other substance issues, and emphasized that the investigation continues to be procedural, not criminal — though that has not been ruled out.

“Right now,” he said, “we don’t have any charges pending against anybody.”

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