By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN – A roomful of upset and skeptical parents confronted Superintendent of Schools Nelson Ribon last night over recent Board of Education decision not renew the contract of a number of district teachers.
“I’m concerned about the whole school system,” Stacey Strandberg, who has four kids in public schools, told Ribon. Strandberg said she was concerned about the board’s actions and what she saw as a lack of transparency and the impact it would have on district teachers’ morale and the district’s ability to attract talented teachers.
“I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop,” Strandberg said, “and that’s what our teachers are worried about.
“What other teachers are you going to let go we like?” she challenged Ribon.
“It is an emotional issue,” Ribon said to 100 or more parents who came to Knollwood School, Hance Road, Monday evening for one of the superintendent’s coffee chats, intended to keep the community informed of district activities.
Ribon said district administrators have compiled a list of non-tenured teachers who will not have their contracts renewed for next school year. He declined to say how many teachers will not be returning because the school board has yet to formally make the final decision.He said he was legally constrained in what he could say publicly regarding personnel matters. But, Ribon noted, the district currently has 26 who are not tenured.
The board of education will meet during its regularly scheduled session at 7 p.m. Wednesday and may finalize its actions regarding the non-renewal of teachers’ contracts.
During the discussion, parents repeatedly said as many as 10 teachers would not be returning, including two who teach kindergarten and aere held in high regard by parents and students.
The board already has decided to not renew the contract of the Viola L. Sickles School principal Susan Alston, Ribon had said. The board is in the process of selecting a replacement. He hopes to have a new principal hired by the end of the school year.
Alston, who started with the district January 2013, will work until June 30, according to Ribon.
District administrators use state-approved evaluation standards and conduct a number of in-class evaluation sessions during the course of school year. Ribon reviews the evaluations with input from the board, he said.
“It is a collaborative process,” he stressed.
He said similar decisions are made every year in every district. This year it comes at a time when the district is negotiating with the teachers union which has been working without a contract for two years.
“Sometimes you have to make choices,” Board of Education member Claudia Brasch said. “But, rest assure we’re doing it for your children’s best interest.”
“I was a little upset when I got here,” parent Maria Sciarrino said following the discussion and Ribon and board members’ explanation of the process. “Now I’m just sad” because the district is losing what she said were highly regarded teachers.