2013 In Review: Special Education Controversy Tops Darien News

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Complaints filed against the Darien Public Schools' special education department and the resulting resignation of Superintendent Stephen Falcone was one of the biggest local stories of 2013. Photo Credit: File

DARIEN, Conn. – The past year saw controversy at the Board of Education, an easy re-election bid by the first selectman and much more in Darien. Here are some of the town’s top stories from 2013:

Parents of special education students filed formal complaints against Darien Public Schools, charging that the district followed incorrect procedures with its program. Both state and independent investigators found that Darien’s program did violate some state and federal laws. An independent investigator also found that this may have predated the 2012-13 school year.

The controversy led to the resignation of Superintendent Stephen Falcone in October. He was replaced by Lynne Pierson on an interim basis while the school board looks for a permanent replacement. 

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson took her second term in office without opposition on Election Day, but Darien still saw some competition on Nov. 6. Three retiring members made for a competitive race for the Board of Education, which saw the Republican ticket of Christa MacNamara and David Martens take the majority of the open seats. Kathy Larkins also held onto her post as tax collector in a contested race.

Taxes also played a big part in the town’s news in 2013. Darien’s homeowners saw a 4 percent rise in their property taxes this summer due to the latest town budget. The changes could be more dramatic next summer, when the recent revaluation’s new property values take effect for tax calculations.

Darien suffered a tragedy early in the year, when Kevin Murphy, 55, was killed by a train near the Noroton Heights station in March. The Metropolitan Transit Authority launched an investigation soon after but did not suspect foul play.

In October, Darien High football and lacrosse coach Christian Garnett was stopped by police officers in Norwalk when he was found driving on only three tires, police said. Garnett, 32, was Tasered after fighting with officers, police said, and arrested on charges of assault on a police officer, interfering with police, driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Darien resident Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, who worked as a vice president of product development at Tiffany & Co., will serve a year and a day in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $2.1 million in jewelry from the Manhattan company and selling it to another firm. 

What news stories stood out for you in Darien this past year? Let us know in the comments below.

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