James Martin IIIMartin

Administration says he was not fired

UPDATED, March 14: Two Stratton School parents speaking at public participation asked the School Committee on Thursday, March 12, to look into the employment history of a former teacher accused of statutory rape. Meanwhile, on Saturday, March 14, a statement was issued saying Martin was not fired.

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Rob Chalmers and John Bromley addressed the committee, as 15 in the audience listened. Chalmers's remarks included an allegation that James Henry Martin III, 36, of Woburn, was fired from Stratton and then rehired at Ottoson. Bromley's comments were more conciliatory.

"As parents of two children in the Arlington school system, we find your last few emails quiet troubling," Chalmers said. "You failed to mention that James Martin was actually fired from Stratton elementary school" following a recommendation of then-Principal Sheri Donovan.

On March 11, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie declined to comment to YourArlington about whether these claims are true, saying these are personnel issues. On March 13, Bodie told WickedLocal that Martin was not fired. Chalmers has not responded to a request for comment about how he knows that his claims are factual.

Bromley asked that issues of transparency, dating from incident involving a parent and the current Stratton principal last June, be addressed "as a community." He said this is not a "one-person issue."

Seeks "paper-trail investigation"

In his lengthier statement -- which is published in full here -- Chalmers said, "We would like request a paper-trail investigation from Sheri Donovan and the matter at hand. There are too many links pointing back to you and the rehiring of Mr. Martin." He also offered other opinions about Martin's behavior and relatives who he said work for the Arlington public schools.

Martin was arraigned March 6, the day after his arrest, on charges of aggravated statutory rape and enticement of a child under 16 for sex.

After the arrest was reported, Bodie issued a statement saying that, as a teaching assistant/building substitute at Ottoson, Martin's assignment varied daily depending upon the needs of the building. If he was assigned to a specific class, it was for a short duration, she wrote.

She said Martin passed the same background check required of all town public-school employees before they are hired.

Second statement March 9

Then on Monday, March 9, Bodie issued a second statement that said Martin had also worked at Stratton as a teaching assistant from September 2011 to April 2012, "where he was assigned to one 4th Grade classroom under the supervision of the classroom teacher. His contact with students outside the classroom was limited to walking with groups of students to music, art, or physical education, or assisting in the supervision of outside recess.

"Further, he did not attend the Fifth Grade Science Camp, or any other overnight programs associated with the Stratton."

Her statement said Martin then worked at Ottoson as a teaching assistant/building substitute from April to June 2012 as well throughout the 2012-2013 school year.

"He subsequently voluntarily resigned in the summer of 2013 to take a position elsewhere," she wrote. "As a Teaching Assistant/Building Substitute at OMS, his assignment varied daily depending upon the needs of the building. If he was assigned to a specific class, it was for a short duration ...."

"With a police investigation underway, I cannot comment further at this time, except to say that the safety and welfare of our students is always our priority. If anyone has any information that could be helpful to the criminal investigation you are encouraged to contact the Arlington Police Department."

The statement make no mention of firing. YourArlington its first email from parents the day after the second statement.

Statement by Hayner

That last plea from Bodie mirrored one from School Committee Chair Bill Hayner, who read a statement before public participation March 12. He said:

"We have been informed that during the public-comment section of our meeting this evening, one or more individuals may be addressing information about James Martin, a former employee of the school district who was recently charged with criminal conduct. The safety of your children is one of the highest priorities of the Arlington School Committee and the entire Arlington School System.

"While we welcome public input at our meetings, I wanted to remind you that, as an employer, the Arlington School Committee cannot make public disclosures about confidential personnel matters including providing information about a former employee’s performance and disciplinary record.

"We can and have provided information that is public including Mr. Martin’s dates of employment with the Arlington Public Schools and the positions he held. Mr. Martin, like all employees in the Arlington Public Schools, passed a criminal background check prior to being employed."

The statement reiterates Martin's employment history here and adds: "... he has not been employed by the Arlington Public Schools in any capacity since the end of the 2012-2013 school year."

"Although the recent criminal charges against Mr. Martin are very serious, we have no information or allegations that this former employee engaged in any criminal conduct while he was employed by the Arlington Public Schools or with any Arlington Public School student.

"It is our sincerest hope that if anyone has further information they should contact the Arlington Police Department."

After public participation, as the committee turned to next year's budget, nearly everyone in the audience went into the hallway.

School attorney statement

The school attorney has approved the following statement for publication, released Saturday, March 14:

"Mr. Martin was employed by the Arlington Public Schools continuously from 2011 to 2013. He was not terminated at any time. He left voluntarily in 2013 to pursue other opportunities.
"At no time did the Arlington Public Schools have any reason to suspect that there was any risk of the type of alleged actions with which he has been charged. We are as shocked and upset as everyone else to learn of these allegations. We are cooperating fully with the Arlington Police Department’s investigation.

"Mr. Martin was hired as a Teacher’s Aide in 2011, going through the same hiring process and background check that all employees are subject to. We have re-examined our employment application process, which requires a full criminal background check, we and have found nothing which should be changed or added which would have disclosed a risk of the type of alleged conduct which has been charged.
"The Arlington Public Schools always has been, and remains, fully committed to the safety and welfare of our students as our highest priority."

Cambridge District Court Judge Roanne Sragow set bail for Martin at $250,000 with conditions to include that Martin stay away and have no contact with the victim or witnesses in this case, stay away and have no contact with children under the age of 16, have no employment or volunteer work with children under the age of 16, use no alcohol and no drugs and submit to random screens, stay away from Arlington and Woburn public school properties, wear a GPS bracelet and not possess a phone or other device capable of accessing the internet, applications, or social media.

The next scheduled court hearing for Martin is Monday, April 6.

March 5-12: Ex-teaching assistant arraigned in rape charge

This story was published Friday, March 13, 2015, and updated March 14, adding a school statement