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January 5, 2013

School leaders kept in dark about investigation of Brooks headmaster

NORTH ANDOVER — In at least two incidents involving the former headmaster of Brooks School, the presidents of the Board of Trustees at those times decided not to inform the full board or other school leadership of serious accusations or the results of interviews related to those incidents, according to a school spokesperson.

By contrast, the school’s current Board of Trustees, along with the current Head of School, sent a letter on Thursday to alumni disclosing three incidents of inappropriate conduct involving former headmaster Lawrence W. Becker and asking for information on his past behavior and relationships.

“It was the way these situations were handled in the past, but it would not be the way it would be handled today,” said Karen Schwartzman, a public relations consultant with Polaris Public Relations who represents independent schools, said yesterday. “This culture does not exist today at the school. There is no question that there is a close collaborative relationship between the head of school and the Board of Trustees, and of the degree of involvement of the Board of Trustees in this matter.”

Schwartzman said the action of Head of School John R. Packard and Board of Trustees President William N. Booth in disclosing alleged illicit relationships to alumni was not a change in policy, but rather the product of the outlook of Packard and Booth as school leaders.

“John Packard is a person who feels responsible to the Board of Trustees and benefits from their involvement in matters sensitive and otherwise,” she said. “It would be and it always has been his practice to engage them.”

Becker’s attorney, Joseph B. Green of Kotin, Crabtree & Strong in Boston, released a brief written statement from Becker yesterday in which he did not specifically deny any of the allegations made in the school’s letter.

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