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Big Changes At Stamford Schools As Students Head Back For New Year

School starts Monday and Stamford High School will have new leadership after a sex scandal rocked the school and the district.
School starts Monday and Stamford High School will have new leadership after a sex scandal rocked the school and the district. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

STAMFORD, Conn. -- After a scandal-plagued year that saw huge changes in Stamford Public Schools and at Stamford High School, a new year opens with new leadership at the high school.

School opens Monday for Stamford students. At Stamford High, Raymond Manka will be the new principal.

Superintendent Winifred Hamilton and the Stamford Public Schools kicked off the school year last week for teachers with a first-of-its-kind virtual convocation. Each school hosted its own building-based session during which they shared a video message from the mayor and district leaders, as well as held state and federal mandatory training sessions.

“We chose to hold convocation at each school building in an effort to showcase our technology, increase staff participation, and provide mandated training in a time- and cost-efficient manner,” said Hamilton. “Board members and Central Office staff visited each school during the sessions, and I’m pleased to report initial feedback has been positive.”

At Stamford High, Manka tops the leadership changes. He had been an assistant principal at Norwalk High School and took over from Interim Principal Tony Pavia, who had been serving in that capacity since late February.

Stamford High School was rocked by a sex scandal involving former English teacher Danielle Watkins, who had sex with one of her students and provided marijuana to him and another student. She is currently on prison after a guilty plea in connection with those charges.

Former Stamford High principal Donna Valentine and assistant principal Roth Nordin were arrested in October on charges of failing to report the sexual relationship between the teacher and student. 

The principals were granted Accelerated Rehabilitation program, which will dismiss all charges made against them if successfully complete one year of probation.

Hamilton, who will be retire on Dec. 31, pulled the two principals from the school and dismissed them. 

Also, Rafael Escobar and Matthew Laskowski were named as new assistant principals at Stamford High School.

“I am very pleased that we have completed the team at Stamford High School, especially with candidates who have direct links to Stamford,” said Hamilton. “I am confident that we have the right team in place for the coming year, who will continue to build on the strong sense of community and pride that is the legacy of Stamford High.”

Escobar was promoted from his post as dean of students at Stamford High. 

Laskowski, a Stamford resident, moved from the Danbury Public Schools. He had been dean of student support at Danbury High School since 2012 and had served as director of Danbury Early College Opportunity  since January. 

For more information on the Stamford Public Schools, visit the district's website.

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