ROCKPORT — Rockport Middle School will have a guidance counselor when school starts in the fall, the town’s new school superintendent confirmed Thursday.
If current counselor Howard J. Kasper is still on leave at that time, the school will hire a temporary counselor to fill the spot, Superintendent Robert Liebow said, addressing parents’ concerns over the last week that the middle-schoolers would be without professional guidance come school.
“If the leave continues beyond the beginning of the school year, we will have somebody in place to cover those duties,” Liebow said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We’re not worried about opening the doors (on) Day One.”
The sole guidance counselor’s post in the middle school is in question pending an investigation of Kasper’s alleged fondling of two male students when Kasper worked at the Landmark School for learning disabled children in Beverly from 1977 until he left the school for Rockport in 2000.
One accuser, David Breed, alleges that Kasper fondled him in 1979, and another, Brant Davis, has accused Kasper of fondling him in 1984. Breed said he had reported the alleged incident to Landmark School in 1992, then in 2004; he said that Landmark failed to investigate or take any other action either time.
The Rockport schools have been investigating Kasper since the Landmark School first notified Rockport administrators on July 24 of the allegations, according to Liebow. The school placed Kasper on indefinite administrative leave with pay Tuesday, after Kasper met with his lawyer, middle/high school principal Philip Conrad, the schools’ attorney and Liebow.
Liebow said that, if an interim guidance counselor is necessary, the counselor would not be on a long-term contract, and would be paid full compensation, but likely without benefits.
“It would be a temporary bridge hire,” Liebow explained.
Still, Liebow said, an interim guidance counselor may not be needed, contingent on the investigation, which is further pressed for time by the looming start date of Rockport schools on Aug. 28, a full week before the other Cape Ann public schools welcome back their students.
The administration has interviewed alleged victims David Breed and Brant Davis, as well as having interviewed Kasper, Liebow confirmed Thursday.
Now, as parents anxiously await investigation results, Liebow said, the school must wait for more information to arise.
“At this moment we’re waiting for further developments,” Liebow said. “At some point that’s going to change. Right now, we’re not there.”
Kasper’s attorney, Roslindale-based Thomas Guiney, told the Times Thursday afternoon he and his client have no comment.
Rockport parents, grandparents and residents at an independent parent meeting Wednesday night expressed concerns about a potential lack of professional guidance for children, no matter what the outcome of the investigation. Many parents said they felt unsure of how to best discuss the investigation and the changes with their children.
School administration members, however, were not in attendance at the grass-roots, parent-organized meeting.
The schools’ attorney, Naomi R. Stonberg, said Thursday it would have been unwise for school administration members to attend Wednesday’s meeting, given the pending investigation. But, she said, the school will work in time to help parents discuss the situation — no matter the outcome of the investigation — with their children.
“That’s an important issue and it will be addressed,” Stonberg said.
A parent of two elementary school children, Adriana Tulian, helped organized Wednesday’s meeting at the police station. Tulian, at the meeting, said she would encourage the school to take steps to hire outside counselors for students troubled by the current events.
Though the school has not yet hired outside counselors, Tulian was one of many parents glad to hear Thursday that, one way or another, a counselor will at least be available to students come the first day of school.
“I think that’s good news,” Tulian said. “Hopefully they’ll find somebody that’s not controversial.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.