GREENWICH – The findings of a town-sponsored investigation released on Tuesday found no evidence of “systematic discrimination” by Greenwich Public Schools as alleged in secretly taped comments by former Cos Cob School Assistant Principal Jeremy Boland.
After a video of Boland claiming to have discriminated against older workers, Catholics and conservatives was released in late August 2022, the Town of Greenwich hired Stan Twardy, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and the attorneys at Day Pitney LLP to investigate district hiring practices.
The 10-month $346,648 investigation included in-person interviews with 42 current and former Greenwich Public School employees, a review of district hiring records and a data analysis comparing the ages of applicants to hiring rates from 2017 until 2022.
Twardy and the Day Pitney attorneys concluded that there was no evidence of discrimination on the basis of age, religion or political affiliation within the school district.
Asked how investigators determined the scope of the investigation, First Selectman Fred Camillo said he was not sure given that he was purposefully not involved in the process.
“I made a conscious decision – once I ordered this and we picked Stan and his firm – not to get involved,” Camillo said on a Wednesday phone call. “I did not want to taint anything, and so I was not involved in the methodology.”
But Camillo backed the findings of the investigation and said he was relieved that the town can move forward knowing there is no systematic bias in district hiring practices.
“I stand by ordering the investigation because the residents of town deserve to know if this was a more pervasive practice,” he said.
Interviews with 42 district employees
The investigators identified former and current employees to interview by compiling job postings, application files and “recommendation to hire” forms from Frontline – Greenwich’s school administration software. They chose employees who had both served on interview committees for district job openings from 2017 to 2022, and met specific criteria outlined by investigators.
“We sought to interview an appropriate cross-section of employees in teacher and administrator roles, to identify and interview those employees most likely to have relevant information, to ensure that we spoke with more than one employee from each GPS school, and to elicit meaningful information from a variety of perspectives, without creating undue burden or wasting resources,” investigators explained in their findings.
The investigators said all of the interviewees had denied asking a candidate about their age, religion or political affiliation while serving on an interview committee. Many of the employees reported feeling “furious” or “sick to my stomach” when they heard Boland’s comments.
A 12-minute video of Boland’s comments, which was released by Project Veritas, a nonprofit run at the time by conservative political activist James O’Keefe, was an edited compilation of Boland bragging to an undercover investigator.
Boland bragged in the video that he would not hire Catholic or conservative candidates because “they’re brainwashed,” and said he did not interview candidates over the age of 30 because “the older you get, the more set in your ways, the more conservative you get.”
Some interviewees denied Boland’s claims outright and told investigators that one person could not act alone in the hiring process given that interview committees were typically made up of five to 12 employees.
“I don’t believe [what he said]; I don’t know anyone who does, and I wouldn’t work here if I did,” one employee told investigators.
“You’re never alone, never a committee of one, even if it’s an emergency, you at least have someone in the room with you,” another employee said.
But the findings of the investigation noted that two employees claimed that some members of interview committees have, in fact, made comments that seemingly favor young candidates.
“[D]uring a small number of interview processes with which those individuals were familiar, particular interviewers had made comments that could be construed to favor younger candidates over older candidates, for instance by commenting on whether a particular candidate was likely to have a relatively long or short tenure with GPS,” investigators wrote.
The report did not clarify whether Boland made similar comments, but said those who seemingly favored young candidates were told to refrain from making any discriminatory comments.
A data analysis
To determine whether available district hiring data suggested age discrimination, the investigators from Day Pitney retained data analysts from Charles River Associates.
The analysts pulled and reviewed the ages of 11,231 applicants from 2017 to 2022, and found no statistical evidence that the district favored candidates under 30.
Of the 11,231 applicants over the six-year period, about 39 percent were under the age of 30. Of the 732 employees the district hired in that time, about 37 percent were under the age of 30. Because the percentage of successful candidates under 30 years-old is similar to the percentage of young applicants, the investigators concluded that the hiring process was neutral.
“In sum, CRA’s analytical results were consistent with a hiring process that is neutral with respect to age,” they said.
But the investigators also noted that job application data can be altered or deleted, even after the position has been filled.
Investigators said they considered analyzing candidates’ religion and political affiliation as well, but decided against it given the cost and time required.
While the town and school district investigations have finished, Greenwich is still waiting on the results from investigations by Attorney General William Tong, the state Department of Education and the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said Tong’s investigation – which he announced soon after the video release – is still “active and ongoing.”
Greenwich Superintendent Toni Jones said in written statement that the district has fully cooperated with multiple investigations into district hiring practices. She thanked town investigations for working with the district.
“We have submitted thousands of documents and coordinated individual interviews as requested by the investigation with current and former employees,” Jones said. “We are grateful that the investigators worked with GPS staff on interview times which had minimal impact on educational disruption.”