Valley Regional High School

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Valley Regional High School
256 Kelsey Hill Road

United States
TypePublic High School
School districtRegional School District #4
PrincipalMichael Barile[1]
Faculty100 - 110
Enrollment606 (2016-17)[2]
Color(s)Red and Black
NewspaperVoices of Valley
Valley Regional High School, Main Entrance

Valley Regional High School (VRHS) is located in Deep River, Connecticut, United States. It serves the three towns of Regional School District #4 - Essex, Chester, and Deep River.

In its 2011 edition, Newsweek magazine named Valley Regional as one of "America's Best High Schools," ranking 334th out of 500 nationally.[3]


After Principal Alan Frishman and his Associate Principal vacated their posts at the close of the 2005–2006 academic year – following a major school renovation and a pending NEASC accreditation – Valley Regional High School has had a relatively high turnover in these two key administrative positions.

Following successful careers at Portland High School in Portland, Connecticut, Donald Gates and Michael Sidoti agreed to come out of retirement during the summer of 2006 to serve as interim Principal and Associate Principal, respectively, for the upcoming academic year.[4] These two men oversaw the reaccreditation of the high school by NEASC and generally, were quite popular among faculty, staff, and students. By June 2007, then-Superintendent of Schools Kim Caron asked Gates and Sidoti to remain for a second interim year through 2007-08, citing the need for stability of leadership at the high school.[4] Gates and Sidoti accepted, however only Gates remained by the end of that academic year, after Sidoti resigned due to illness. Subsequently, the high school was led by Principal Ian Neviaser, a former social studies teacher and Assistant Principal at Guilford High School, and Kristina Martineau, selected as his Associate Principal.[5] After one year on the job, Neviaser was the recipient of the Connecticut Association of School's "Outstanding First Year Principal" Award.[6]

At the regional level, in spring 2009, the superintendent of schools, Kim Caron, resigned. By July of that year, the then-assistant superintendent, Ruth Levy, was selected by the Region 4 Board of Education to succeed Caron as superintendent.[7] At the time, Levy stated she was firmly committed to maintaining continuity in a regional school district that had seen many abrupt administrative and budgetary changes over the last three years.[7]

Shortly after Levy's selection as superintendent, Neviaser was chosen as the next assistant superintendent during summer 2010, after serving just two years as principal of the high school. Neviaser replaced Diane Dugas, who resigned in May after about nine months on the job.[5] A search for Nevaiser's replacement was undertaken immediately.

The current principal and vice principal of VRHS are Mr. Barile and Dr. Gbunble. Dr. Gbunblee (pronounced Bunlee) started at Valley in fall of 2016.

Eric Rice Controversy[edit]

In July 2010, the Region 4 Board of Education announced its selection of Eric Rice, a local Chester resident and principal for the University High School of Science and Engineering, a magnet school in Hartford, to succeed Ian Nevaiser at the high school.[8] Superintendent Levy was a vocal advocate for Rice's selection, stating he has "an outstanding background in science, mathematics, and technology,” and a strong “commitment to our school community."[8]

However, after less than three weeks on the job, reports surfaced of his possible dismissal with unconfirmed accounts that Superintendent Levy had given an ultimatum that Rice resign or face possible dismissal.[9] Approximately two weeks later, the Region 4 Board of Education accepted the resignation of Eric Rice, making him the shortest serving principal in school history.[10] Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall declined to comment on whether Rice's resignation was voluntary or whether there would be any legal action against the school district.[10] The Board of Education did release details of Rice's severance, with Levy adding that it represented less that one-half of one percent of the current education budget.[11] At a special meeting of the Board of Education, where over 100 residents turned out to challenge the Board's handling of Rice's dismissal, Levy stated, "We have a great district. Do we have things to learn, always, there are issues but that does not mean things are terrible.”[11][12] The Board quickly appointed Kristina Martineau, Associate Principal at the high school, as the interim principal for the remainder of the 2010–2011 academic year.[11]

Adding insult to injury, an Essex resident filed a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Education against the Superintendent, alleging an "abuse of power" by Levy, resulting in the resignation of Eric Rice.[13] The filed complaint also stated that the civil rights of the high school students had been violated due to a supposed "gag order" that "prevented students from discussing the circumstances of Rice’s departure."[13] The Connecticut Department of Education responded in a letter dated November 8, 2010 dismissing the complaint due to a lack of accompanying evidence to support the allegations.[13] Superintendent Levy vehemently denied any "gag order" had been placed upon the students at the high school; the Board of Education subsequently hired an independent party (later determined to be Madison lawyer Stacey Lafferty) to investigate reports of a gag order.[14] In December 2010, the Board of Education accepted a four-page report written by Lafferty that found "no evidence or support for the claim that a gag order was issued or sanctioned by Central [Superintendent's] Office,” or that the civil rights of students were violated.[15] The exact reason(s) for the abrupt departure of Eric Rice have remained confidential and were not revealed to residents of Region 4.

In February 2011 the Board announced that a facilitator from Project Learn, a regional education consortium, will assist with the search for a new principal, although a search committee has not yet been formed.[16] On March 21, 2011, Superintendent Levy announced the process by which the new Valley Regional principal would be hired, stressing that the search would have a "different structure" than previous hiring efforts.[17] The most significant change to the hiring process is an extensive interview phase, during which the top two candidates will be presented to the district via a public question-and-answer session on April 5, followed by candidate interviews with the Region 4 Board of Education on April 12.[17] According to Levy, over a dozen applications were received by the district and each applicant would be subject to an initial phone screen by a group composed of herself, the Project Learn facilitator, Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall, and Assistant Superintendent Neviaser. In April, the Region 4 Board of Education announced that current interim principal, Kristina Martineau, would be the next principal at the high school.

FOI Request[edit]

Newly released emails obtained by the Hartford Courant, through a June 2011 Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request, show "administrators rapidly and hopelessly losing faith in the leader they had hired and praised just weeks earlier."[18] The emails go on to describe how the Superintendent and other regional school district administrators started to keep a typed record of complaints about Rice's performance days after his arrival.[18] Criticisms ranged from poor performance during a school speech, which contained "an inordinate amount of um's" to deeming Rice's written abilities and knowledge of common educational terms as poor[18]

Other email messages reveal a "tired and frazzled" Superintendent Levy during the separation agreement negotiations in October.[18] Likely a requirement of the agreement, Levy subsequently moved forward with the drafting of a letter of recommendation for Rice, calling him a "caring educator" and someone who "quickly established positive relationships with teachers, students, and parents." [18] According to the Hartford Courant, such language "was unquestionably at odds with Levy's true feelings."[18]

In response to the newspaper's investigation, letters to the editor were critical of the Courant's front-page coverage, regional school district administrators, and the handling of the situation, with several commenting the story was either not newsworthy or that Rice was treated unfairly and not given enough time to demonstrate his abilities at the school.[19][20][21]

Federal investigation[edit]

As of March 2011, a separate, but related investigation began at the high school by the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which "opened an investigation of a discrimination complaint involving disciplinary actions taken against an Asian American student at Valley Regional High School last fall."[22]

The father of an American born Laotian student is questioning his son's ten-day suspension in September 2010 after he downloaded a flyer on a school computer concerning a rally in support of former principal Eric Rice.[22] The federal complaint alleges that other students received much milder punishment for similarly distributing rally information.[22] Named in the complaint are Superintendent Ruth Levy, Assistant Superintendent Ian Nevaiser, interim principal Kristina Martineau, and Stacey Lafferty, the Madison lawyer hired in November to investigate the possible gag order.[22]

In the midst of this investigation, the Region 4 Board of Education voted on March 5, 2011 to approve a statement supporting Superintendent Ruth Levy.[23]

The approved resolution stated: "The Region 4 Board of Education formally and publicly acknowledges the ongoing leadership and professionalism displayed by Superintendent Ruth Levy during the 2010-2011 academic year. Given the many challenges and distractions that have emerged during this school year, Dr. Levy has remained steadfast in her commitment to the education and well being of the students of Region 4.”[24]

In late June 2011, the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights announced that it would drop the investigation due to the father's withdrawal of the complaint against school administrators.[25]


Valley Regional offers students a variety of classes spanning numerous subjects, including Art, Business, Mathematics, Music, English, World Languages, Science, and Technology Education.[26] The school functions according to the block schedule, with each student enrolling in four courses per semester or a combination of full semester classes and quarter classes (which must add up to four full credits).

In order to graduate, students must earn 28.5 credits - a mixture of required as well as elective coursework.[26]

Valley Regional offers Advanced Placement courses in Biology, U.S. History, Mathematics, English Language and Composition, English Literature, Chemistry, and French.[26]

The school also maintains a relationship with the state's flagship collegiate institution, The University of Connecticut. The UConn Early College Experience program is "designed to allow high school students an opportunity to pursue college-level courses for which they will receive full college credit at UConn."[26] Students must earn a grade of "C" or better if they wish to use the college credit at UConn or other universities that accept UConn credit.

In the fall of 2017, the school will implement a new schedule, requiring less credits, but more classes. The schedule has brought much criticism from both the staff and students.

Newsweek Ranking[edit]

In its 2011 edition ranking "America's Best High Schools," Newsweek magazine named the Valley Regional 334th out of 500 nationally.[3] The high school is just one of 12 from Connecticut to appear on the list, and the only one from Middlesex County.[3] According to Newsweek, the public schools were judged according to 6 criteria: Graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), AP tests taken per graduate (25%) average AP/IB/AICE scores (10%), and AP courses offered (5%).[3]


Valley Regional is a part of the Shoreline Conference of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), with the exception of football, which is a member of the Pequot League, Sassacus division. The school's varsity sports consist of soccer, cross country, American football, volleyball, field hockey, indoor track, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, track, lacrosse, baseball, softball, golf, tennis, and high school quiz bowl.[27] The high school shares an athletic relationship with students from Lyme-Old Lyme High School for the football team.

The Fall 2010 athletic season saw particular success for the boys' soccer, football, and girls' cross-country teams. The soccer team, under the guidance of Class S Coach of the Year, Mick Fearon, achieved a 16-4-1 record and advanced to its first state final championship match since 2000.[28] The football team had first undefeated record (10-0) ever, won the Pequot conference title, and advanced to the state final championship match, eventually losing to St. Joseph.[29] The girls' cross-country team ended the season undefeated, with a record of 19-0, won the Shoreline Conference title, and placed third in the state overall.[29]

On March 18, 2011, the boys' basketball team won the Class S State Championship, defeating Classical Magnet School 70-46 in front of over 3,700 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, capping an impressive 25-2 season.[30] The win brought the high school its very first state basketball title.[31]

At the close of the 2010–2011 academic year, the CIAC awarded the high school 1st place in the Michael's Cup Award for Sportsmanship.[32]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ Region 4 School Board Names Micheal Barile as Valley Regional High School Principal |
  2. ^ "Valley Regional High School". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Valley Regional High School ranked one of the best high schools in nation by Newsweek - The Middletown Press : Serving Middletown, CT
  4. ^ a b `Interim' Gets Longer For School Leaders – Hartford Courant
  5. ^ a b Valley Regional Principal Ian Nevaiser Selected As Assistant Superintendent For Region 4 |
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Dr. Ruth Levy Named Superintendent for Region 4 Schools - YouTube
  8. ^ a b Region 4 Hires New Principal, Two Other Positions |
  9. ^ Valley Regional High School Principal Remains on Job as School Board Awaits Next Step |
  10. ^ a b Region 4 School Board Accepts Resignation of High School Principal Eric Rice |
  11. ^ a b c Region 4 School Board releases details of administrator severance |
  12. ^ Crowd Challenges Region 4 Board on Handling of Personnel Matters |
  13. ^ a b c State Department of Education Dismisses Region 4 Complaint |
  14. ^ Region 4 School Board Hires Madison Lawyer for High School Investigation |
  15. ^ Region 4 School Board Accepts Report Denying High School Gag Order |
  16. ^ Region 4 Using Facilitator in Search Process for New Principal at Valley Regional High School, Community Forum is Tuesday |
  17. ^ a b Region 4 to Hire New Valley Regional High School Principal by Mid-April |
  18. ^ a b c d e f E-Mails Detail Valley Regional High School Principal's Rapid Fall -
  19. ^ Letters To The Editor -
  20. ^ Letters To The Editor -
  21. ^ Letters To The Editor -
  22. ^ a b c d U.S. Department of Education opens civil rights investigation of complaint involving Valley Regional High School student |
  23. ^ Region 4 Board Approves Statement Supporting Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy |
  24. ^ Region 4 School Board to Consider Statement Supporting Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy |
  25. ^ Parent Withdraws Federal Civil Rights Complaint Against Region 4 and Valley Regional High School Administrators |
  26. ^ a b c d
  27. ^ Archived June 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ - Valley Boys’ Soccer Coach Mick Fearon Named Coach of the Year | Southeastern Connecticut News, Sports, Weather and Video | The Day newspaper
  29. ^ a b - Valley Sees Numerous Highlights in Fall of 2010 | Southeastern Connecticut News, Sports, Weather and Video | The Day newspaper
  30. ^ Class S Boys' Championship: Valley Regional Shuts Down Classical - Hartford Courant
  31. ^ Boys' Basketball: New London Tops In State; Valley Regional In Area In Final Poll - iTeams | High School Sports blog
  32. ^ Newsweek Names Valley Regional High School as one of America’s Best High Schools | Archived March 30, 2014, at the Wayback Machine

Coordinates: 41°22′17″N 72°26′47″W / 41.3714°N 72.4464°W / 41.3714; -72.4464