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October 8, 2012

Editorial: Counselor's deal leaves unanswered Rockport questions:

The agreement reached between Rockport school officials and the middle school guidance counselor who was suspended with pay when accusations surfaced of his alleged sexual misconduct with young boys during a prior teaching job at Beverly’s Landmark School may mark the last word on what Rockport Superintendent Robert Liebow concedes has been a “sensitive matter.”

But the deal that essentially keeps Howard Kasper on the schools’ payroll as a part-timer on continuous leave through Jan. 31, 2015, raises some new questions of its own.

For one, school parents, students and teachers all deserve assurances that any money paid Kasper over the next 27 months — that’s right, 27 months, and into the 2016 fiscal year — will not hijack any of the money that should be going directly to a successor who should be hired to provide full-time services to students. And town taxpayers deserve answers as to what, if anything, the schools’ “investigation” found regarding the allegations leveled against Kasper by two former Landmark students — and whether deal puts the town liability risk in the future, given that Kasper remains a Rockport employee.

David Curley, who returned from retirement to fill the guidance counselor role at the middle school at the beginning of the school year, continues in that post on a temporary basis. And Liebow said the district will begin advertising immediately for a middle school guidance counselor who will serve as a permanent replacement, and the schools hope to have that person on board by early November. But that suggests the town will be paying both Kasper and his successor for more than two years.

Many of the clouds hovering over this case stem from Landmark’s seemingly poor response to these allegations, then and now. And it’s important to note that not a single Rockport parent, student or former student has come forward with any similar concerns or charges during or after Kasper’s 12 years of work here.

But Rockport’s deal with Kasper still raises more questions than answers — answers that the community deserves to hear.

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