CONCORD — Embattled Superintendent Terri Forsten apologized Thursday for downplaying media coverage of an ongoing teacher-student sexual assault case but gave no indication she would resign.
In a letter released Thursday afternoon, Forsten said the Concord School District has revised its policies and continues to review its practices in light of the April arrest of popular special education teacher Primo “Howie” Leung on sexual assault charges involving a student.
Since then, Concord High School principal Tom Sica has taken a voluntary leave, the district has paid $20,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a student who was suspended after raising concerns about Leung, the Concord school board has launched an independent investigation into Leung-related issues, and a citizen’s group has called for Forsten’s resignation.
In her letter Thursday, Forsten said she made a serious error in reacting to “unfairly labeled” media coverage of the Leung events. She said she did not mean to dismiss the students and their experiences.
“It was not my intent to discount the news or the community’s reaction to what has been reported,” she wrote. “My letter did not convey how seriously I take these events. I am deeply sorry that I chose my words so poorly.”
But a founder of the parent group CSD Advocates for Change said it was hoping for greater transparency and disclosure from the administration.
“There is no confidence in the current leadership, and I don’t think a letter of apology is going to change the current sentiment,” said Darlene Gildersleeve, a founding member of the group.
More than 2,100 signed on online petition calling for Forsten’s ouster by Thursday afternoon.
The petition expresses outrage at school officials’ alleged failure to immediately report to police allegations of sexual abuse and bullying, instead conducting internal investigations and then reporting the results of those to law enforcement.
On Aug. 22, Forsten complained about coverage of the Leung matter in a letter to school staff.
“The local newspaper and social media have offered a continual dribble of article and posts that have presented singular perspectives and have negatively impacted some of the community’s viewpoint of our schools and work,” she wrote.
Forsten said it would be a full-time job to reply to the coverage and that would only increase the number of negative responses.