An Essex High School music teacher, who abruptly resigned in the fall, has surrendered his teaching license following allegations he “engaged in inappropriate conduct with a student,” discipline records from the Vermont Agency of Education show.
The teaching license for Nick Stokes, who worked in Essex for two years, was not due to expire until June 2022. Records show Stokes also gave up his second education license to serve as a school principal, due to expire on June 30. Both licenses covered grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
The Essex Westford School District, which employed Stokes, never announced his departure from the school or the disciplinary action taken by the Vt. AOE, which did the independent investigation into his conduct.
Superintendent Beth Cobb said she believed she was unable to say anything because her office was working with the AOE and it involved personnel.
Cobb did say public records show the school district placed Stokes on paid administrative leave on Sept. 20, 2017 where he remained until he resigned effective Oct. 11, 2017.
The Vt. Agency of Education says the initial complaint against Stokes is not considered public information, according to spokesperson Haley Jones.
The agency did provide a one-page agreement signed by former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and Stokes, but it never says why the state sought to have him surrender his two education licenses.
The agreement says Stokes “does not admit to the allegation … but accepts the terms of this agreement in order to avoid
litigation.” The signed stipulation said it would be subject to public disclosure, but the education agency agreed never to reveal details of the charge to taxpayers.
The agency also never issued any public notice except eventually posting it on its website. Stokes waived his right to a hearing, according to the signed agreement. Multiple efforts to reach Stokes for comment were unsuccessful.
Stokes was represented by the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association. Attempts to reach executive director Jeff Fannon in Montpelier were unsuccessful.
Vermont’s AOE has a wide range of options for discipline, but in recent years has tried to avoid conducting public hearings on misconduct charges. The last AOE discipline hearing was March 13, 2015 for a Milton Elementary School teacher.
The agency website shows most Vermont cases are resolved by privately reprimanding the teachers, who remain anonymous. Other times, a teacher surrenders a license with no specifics provided to parents of students or other members of the public.
Out of 26 cases since 2015 that were still displayed on the state website as of Monday, voluntary surrenders happened 12 times, and private reprimands occurred in 10 cases. The website notes out of the remaining four cases, three were public reprimands and one was a retroactive suspension.
The only teacher disciplined since Stokes received a private reprimand April 20 was for the same general allegation of inappropriate conduct. The April 20 case involving the unnamed teacher in an unnamed school and district only shows the incident was “with students,” but the AOE doesn’t say how many.
Stokes was a music teacher and department chair for the Baltimore County Public Schools from August 2009 to June 2015, when he moved to Vermont. Public records show Stokes was hired at Essex High on Aug. 20, 2015 and was scheduled to be paid $67,185 for the current academic year.