A Chronicle of Recent Events at Nashoba

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Grace Fiori

"We chronicle the events detailed in these documents, not in an attempt to sensationalize or draw attention to, but to clarify information that has been released..."

Grace Fiori, Chief Editor

A criminal case prosecuting former Nashoba teacher Mrs. Dorothy Veracka, surrounding inappropriate communication between her and a former Nashoba student, has been reported by many local news organizations. Articles were first released after Mrs. Veracka’s arraignment, where she was formally charged with three felonies and pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

When local news reported that Principal DiDomenico may have been told that Mrs. Veracka communicated inappropriately with a student, months prior to the police investigation, there was widespread concern about the culture at the high school, and the role of school leaders in the events detailed in the criminal charges.

As we begin the complex process of moving forward as a school and a community, discover unsettling realities, and allow space for open dialogue, the exact details remain unknown. Because it is a case that involves the school, and a minor, and a very difficult subject, assumptions have been made, and some questions remain unable to be answered by administrators or others due to legal responsibilities. 

The Chieftain Press obtained public records currently available from the open case, to clearly outline the facts and findings that are public knowledge. We chronicle the events detailed in these documents, not in an attempt to sensationalize or draw attention to, but to clarify information that has been released, concerning what happened before and after Mrs. Veracka was placed on leave, following the criminal complaint filed against her by the Lancaster Police Department. 

Records filed at Clinton District Court contain the criminal complaint filed by the Lancaster Police Department, stating the charges and causes. As well as a statement of facts filed in support of an application for a criminal complaint, and multiple affidavits filed in support of search warrants were issued by the Lancaster Police Department. Affidavits are verified statements of facts, the written equivalent of swearing an oath to tell the truth. However, the information contained in the affidavit comes from the officer’s notes while interviewing individuals and may not necessarily be an exact account of what happened.

Lancaster police issued various search warrants during the investigation, including one for data held on Nashoba Regional High School servers, data owned by Snap. Inc., owner of Snapchat, the personal phone of Mrs. Veracka, and the laptop assigned to her as a teacher and owned by Nashoba Regional School District. 

As noted in the statement of facts filed during the Lancaster Police Department’s application for a criminal complaint, the 3 offenses charged against Mrs. Veracka took place between September 1, 2018 and March of 2019, while Mrs. Veracka was a teacher at Nashoba and the juvenile was a student at Nashoba. 

As stated in the Affidavit in Support of Application for Search Warrant written by Sergeant Patrick E. Mortimer, an individual had discovered in June 2019 that Mrs. Veracka was communicating inappropriately with a student at Nashoba. The person told police they had reported it to Principal DiDomenico in June, who told the individual that he would, as stated in the affidavit, “investigate the incident.” 

On September 20th, 2019 the police were first notified of inappropriate digital communication when the individual spoke with an officer at the Bolton Police Department. The individual reported that they had found out, from another person, about inappropriate photos sent from a teacher at Nashoba Regional High School to a juvenile. They went to the police after finding out that the teacher was still working at Nashoba Regional High School in September.

On Wednesday, September 25th, 2019 a 51A report was filed with the Department of Children and Families by Detective Jason Puri of the Bolton Police Department, as noted in Sgt. Mortimer’s affidavit. 51A reports are required to be filed with the Department of Children and Families when suspecting or hearing allegations of child abuse or neglect. Mandated reporters, like private or public school administrators and teachers, law enforcement officers, and social workers, are required to immediately orally report any alledges of abuse to DCF and then within 48 hours file a written report to DCF. 

That same day on September 25th, Sergeant Mortimer of the Lancaster Police Department received the 51A report, “alleging sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old male resident from Lancaster.” 

On Friday, September 27th, 2019 there was a forensic interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Worcester Country. The juvenile, their parents, forensic interviewer Gina Melendez and Sergeant Christine Duggan of the Lancaster Police Department were present. 

On September 29, 2019, NRSD’s Superintendent Clenchy announced in a message to the community that Mrs. Veracka had been placed on leave. 

During a special meeting of the NRSD School Committee on November 13, 2019, Chairwoman Kathy Codianne said that the School Committee was informed by the Superintendent, on September 29, 2019, that a high school teacher would be placed on administrative leave. Chairwoman Codianne elaborated that no further details were provided to the School Committee because they are not involved in personnel issues.

On September 30, 2019, Mrs. Veracka went to the Lancaster Police Department and spoke with two police officers during an audio and video recorded interview. 

On October 2nd, 2019 a search warrant was issued for data held on the computer server at Nashoba Regional High School, as well as Mrs. Veracka’s personal phone, and the laptop owned by Nashoba Regional School District and assigned to her. 

On October 3rd, 2019 at 10:00 am Sergeant Mortimer got a thumb drive with data from the NRHS Google Classroom vault server. Data was taken from the time period of September 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. The laptop and phone were obtained and, as of October 2019, were located in the Lancaster Police Department evidence room. 

On October 4th, 2019 Sergeant Mortimer filed a statement of facts in support of an application for a criminal complaint; the complaint was issued and attested that same day. 

On October 28th, 2019 the School Committee was informed by the superintendent that Mrs. Veracka would be in Clinton District Court the next day. The arraignment was held on October 29th, 2019 at Clinton District Court. 

On November 4th, in a message to the Nashoba community, Superintendent Clenchy announced that, “based on an investigation that we conducted…” Mrs. Veracka had been terminated from her position. 

A letter signed by members of the community, published in early November, requested an external investigation and for Principal DiDomenico and Superintendent Clenchy to be placed on administrative leave. On November 7th, Principal DiDomenico was placed on paid administrative leave, “to prevent distractions and ensure that faculty and students can focus…” as stated by Superintendent Clenchy in a letter to the community. 

During the special school committee meeting held on November 13th, a decision was made to move forward with conducting an external investigation using an outside law firm, as requested by members of the community. The school committee decided, during a meeting on November 20th, to not place Superintendent Clenchy on administrative leave.

On November 25, 2019, Mrs. Veracka appeared in Clinton District Court for a pre-trial conference. The Stow Independent reported that Assistant District Attorney, Paige Barton, requested a second pre-trial hearing for probable cause because of new evidence: a USB drive. On this basis, it was determined by Judge Dennis Sergeant that proceedings would continue until January 31, 2020. It is unclear at this time if the case will move to a grand jury in Worcester Superior Court. 

During a December 18th NRSD School Committee meeting, Chairwoman Codianne read an email sent by attorney Tim Norris, who is investigating administrator’s actions in response to the criminal charges against Mrs. Veracka. The Stow Independent reported that Mr. Norris relayed in his message that he has interviewed 10 individuals, ranging from staff members at the school to members from outside agencies, as well as reviewed a range of documents and other materials provided by school personnel. Mr. Norris is also asking community members with information related to the investigation to contact him, by phone or email which can be found at nmplabor.com. As reported by the Stow Independent, Mr. Norris asked that the school committee, “please pass along to the community [his] invitation, whether they are school staff, students, or parents, to contact [him] if they have information pertinent to this investigation.”