SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ South Kingstown Superintendent Linda Savastano is apologizing after she said she realized she was the one who provided students’ addresses used for a highly controversial political mailer earlier this year.
The mailers, which were funded by the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, supported an $85 million school infrastructure bond and were addressed to South Kingstown students, nearly all of whom were under 18 years old.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected the referendum in last month’s election.
In a statement posted to the school department’s Facebook page, Savastano said she received a request from Stacey Bodziony, a board member for the Friends of South Kingstown schools for student directory information.
“The request was not different in kind from requests I had received previously for directory information,” Savastano wrote.
She claims that “ended her involvement” with the disclosure of students’ information.
Friends of South Kingstown Schools’ Board of Directors released a statement soon after, stating that they unanimously voted Friday to remove Bodziony from her position.
The board said they “had no knowledge whatsoever” that Bodziony had requested that information from Savastano.
“We learned of the release of student directory information at the same time as the community,” they wrote, adding that Bodziony had several chances to tell them the truth surrounding the release of information and didn’t.
The directory of student information was provided to Checkmate Consulting, a political advertising firm run by Brad Dufault.
12 News reached out to Bodziony regarding the mailer. In a statement, she claimed Dufault requested she obtain the information for the campaign.
“As part of the campaign to pass the recent school bond, our campaign consultant said that having the public directory list would be valuable and can be requested,” she wrote, adding that she was the only board member who knew of this request. “There was never any intent to mail to students from Friends of South Kingstown Schools.”
Savastano, in her statement, apologized to parents for her involvement with the release of students’ information, writing she “had not connected the dots from the request to mailers that were sent to the community, but in retrospect, I should have made those connections.”
“This was a mistake,” Savastano wrote. “I do wish that I had informed the [South Kingstown] School Committee sooner about providing the directory information to the Friends of South Kingstown Schools, and for that, I apologize.”
But the Friends of South Kingstown board criticized Savastano writing they were saddened by her “lack of accountability and responsibility.”
As a result of the incident, Savastano said the school committee is revising its policies surrounding the disclosure of directory information, which is something she agrees needs to be done.
Tim White contributed to this report.