A pair of Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School administrators - including one facing a criminal charge - are on track to receive hundreds of thousands in salary money despite being placed on leave nearly 10 months ago as the result of a weapon investigation.
Assistant Principal Rolando Navarro, 43, was charged in August with bringing a handgun onto the Danielson school's campus - more than a year after officials said the incident occurred and months after state police were directed to re-open the investigation.
Navarro on Nov. 18 pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of possession of a weapon on school grounds, according to the Danielson Superior Court criminal clerk's office. Navarro remains free on a $1,000 bond and his case was continued until Jan. 6.
Navarro and school Principal Rafael Calixto were placed on administrative leave in February, weeks after the state Department of Children and Families, or DCF, and state police announced an investigation into a report of a gun at the school.
State police from the Central District Major Crime Squad interviewed a former student who said he was tasked on June 8, 2021 with performing a tire rotation on Navarro's personal vehicle inside the school's automotive shop, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Ellis Tech investigationEllis Tech grad who discovered gun at school said it was inside administrator's vehicle
The student - who confirmed the chain of events in a separate interview with The Bulletin - and his shop teacher said they found a gun box in the vehicle's rear tire well containing an unloaded semi-automatic pistol and magazine. Soon after the weapon was reported, Navarro retrieved the gun box and left, police said.
Navarro told police he wrapped the box in a seat cover and walked it outside to the vehicle of Assistant Principal Sarah Smith and placed the weapon in her trunk - without notifying her. At the end of the school day, Navarro retrieved the weapon box and left the school.
Navarro told police he knew bringing a weapon on school property was prohibited and had mistakenly left the gun in his vehicle. He said he provided Calixto later that evening with a detailed emailed account of the incident.
Ellis Tech'A culture of fear': Ellis Tech teachers speak out as CT investigates handgun incident
Navarro, a Hebron resident, told police the weapon, a registered .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol, and magazine were unloaded.
How much have Ellis Tech administrators Navarro and Calixto made while on paid leave?
Since placed on leave, both Navarro and Calixto have continued to collect their full contracted salaries, according to an email on Wednesday from Kerry Markey, director of communications for the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System, or CTECS.
Navarro earns $147,136.14 annually and Calixto is paid $164,844.20 each year.
Markey said paid administrative leave rules dictate Navarro and Calixto are not working in any capacity in the CTECS system and are relieved of "normal job responsibilities."
ST. James School'He'd be so happy.' Danielson Thanksgiving food giveaway lives on without beloved pastor
"The employee is asked to remain at home but continues to receive regular pay," Markey said. "The paid leave is stipulated by the contract."
She said the system's investigation into the matter is still active, but no information was provided on when it might conclude.
Calixto told police he was unaware Navarro placed the handgun in Smith's vehicle and he later forwarded Navarro's account of the incident to the CTECS central office human resource department.
Calixto said the school's administration conducted an internal investigation and Navarro was "disciplined." Navarro told police he received a two-day unpaid suspension beginning on Oct. 29, 2021.
Calixto said the parents of the student who found the gun were notified, but the incident was not reported to DCF or police. In explaining why no such notifications were made, Calixto said the student was 18 years old; no other student viewed the weapon's case; and that the situation was "contained and under control."
Armed guards in CTKillingly can start hiring armed school guards, but questions remain. Here's what we know.
"Additionally, in (Calixto's) opinion, there was no imminent threat, no students or staff were hurt in the incident and he didn't believe any potential crime had been committed," a warrant affidavit in the case states.
Why was the case reopened?
State police out of Troop D in Danielson - which handled the initial investigation - ended their investigation into the incident in March with a finding of "no criminal aspect." A new investigation was later ordered by the Windham County State's Attorney's Office which believed Navarro's actions were potentially criminal, the warrant states.
That second investigation resulted in Navarro's arrest.
Giving TuesdayGiving Tuesday is Nov. 29. Here are 10 nonprofits in your backyard.
DCF previously opened its own investigation in February which led to Navarro and Calixto being placed on paid administrative leave. A DCF spokesman in July said the agency's investigation concluded in March, but state confidentiality laws prevent the public disclosure of the outcome. The subjects of the investigation were provided written notification of the agency's conclusion.
Navarro told police he was "very surprised to learn that DCF and law enforcement re-opened the case in February."
"(He) believed the (initial state police) investigation exonerated him from any wrongdoing after the criminal case was closed," Navarro told police, according to the warrant.
John Penney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (860) 857-6965.
This article originally appeared on The Bulletin: H.H. Ellis Tech asst. principal enters not guilty plea in weapon case