Letter: Safety of our children is of utmost concern

To the Editors:

I have been asked by concerned citizens to defend or explain statements that were made in court filings on behalf of the Town of Wilton in the case of Girl Doe v. Town of Wilton. I cannot do this. I have not had any involvement in this case, officially or unofficially, and it is not my place to do so. However, as a concerned citizen myself (and not as a member of the Board of Selectmen), I can and must defend the town officials who have been unfairly maligned in commentary because of things the attorneys have said in these court filings. First and foremost, Dr. Kevin Smith, our superintendent of schools, was not even employed by the Town of Wilton at the time of the events alleged in these court papers. Unfortunately, he inherited this terrible situation on virtually his first day of work in Wilton in July 2014. However, because of who he is as a person, he has never sought to avoid responsibility for providing a safe environment for our children or to shift the blame for what is alleged to have occurred in the past. Instead, he has worked proactively to make sure that the kind of things that are alleged in the court papers do not happen in the Wilton Public Schools while he is in a position to prevent it.

Everyone in Wilton should be assured that the safety of our children is our highest priority in the Town of Wilton. On Friday, I had the privilege of reading to a kindergarten class at the Miller-Driscoll School as one of many town officials participating in Read Aloud Day at Miller-Driscoll. Other town officials reading to the children included the Fire Chief, the Director of Parks and Recreation, and at least four Wilton police officers. When I asked one of the police officers in full uniform when we were finished whether she was going back to work, she informed me it was her day off and she was going home. When I asked her why she came in to Wilton on her day off to read to elementary school students for half an hour or so, she informed me that she believed it was important for the students to get to know her as a person. We all should get to know the people who work for us in the Town of Wilton as people before we make judgments about them.  

In my 20-plus years in Wilton, I have gotten to know many town employees personally, and I can tell you without equivocation there are no better people to entrust the safety of our children. I know nothing is more important than the safety of our children to the administrators, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and just about everyone else who works for the town that I have gotten to know. Each of my four children attended the Wilton Public Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and I had the good fortune of getting to know virtually all of my children’s teachers. With few exceptions, all of my children’s teachers were truly outstanding educators and human beings, and the few that were not outstanding did not last very long in Wilton.

I also know our children’s safety is first and foremost in their minds all of the time. I witnessed this myself the day before school started this year when I stopped by Miller-Driscoll unannounced to satisfy myself that the building was ready for the students. I rang the doorbell because the building was locked tight, and was greeted by the new principal because she was the only staff member left in the office. When I introduced myself and told her I just wanted to look around to make sure everything was ready for the students, she stopped what she was doing and offered to take me on a tour. About midway through the tour, she admitted to me that the reason she stopped what she was doing to give me a tour was because I was not allowed to walk through the building unescorted even though I was a town official. I was reminded of this again on Friday when all of us participating in Read Aloud Day at Miller-Driscoll, including the police officers, had to ring the bell and sign in before we were escorted to our classrooms to read to the children.  

What is alleged in the court papers filed in the lawsuit against the Town of Wilton is atrocious, and it is now up to the court system to adjudicate responsibility for what it determines occurred in the past. What we are responsible for as a town going forward is to provide the safest possible environment for our children. Please be assured that we have the best possible people working for us to make sure this happens.

Michael Kaelin

36 Saddle Ridge Road, April 24