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Superintendent: Duffy Principal to Remain in Place Through June 2013

A group of parents who expressed a vote of "no confidence" in Kathleen Tracy's leadership say they feel vindicated by the decision, and others say it was a fair resolution.

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen List issued a letter to the families of Duffy Elementary School students on Tuesday evening saying that Principal Kathleen Tracy will remain in that position until June 30, 2013.

List was on vacation out of the country when a . List returned to her office on Friday, and said that since then she has been engaged in discussions with leaders of the petition as well as those in support of Tracy.

"What I tried to do is find a workable solution so that we could move forward," List said on Tuesday evening.

That solution includes maintaining Tracy's position as Duffy principal for the upcoming academic year, while at the same time adding veteran administrator Chuck Landroche, a former Conard principal who is now assistant director of Human Resources, in a part-time leadership role at Duffy.

Landroche will be available to any parents who feel that Tracy is not addressing their concerns. He will meet with Duffy parents on the first day of school, Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the 9 a.m. coffee hosted by the PTO in the cafeteria.

In her letter to the families, List cited Tracy's record of success in leading Duffy. "Kathleen Tracy has led Duffy to excellent growth on CMT scores with overall scores up almost 20 points since 2006. Each year CMT scores were higher than the previous year and 2012 scores are the highest they have ever been. The school has received recognition as a National School of Character as a consequence of the initiatives she has pursued at Duffy."

List also stated that past surveys of that the district has conducted within the Duffy community have indicated "strong, but not universal support" of Tracy.

In the letter, List referred to those who officially expressed "no confidence" in Tracy as "a significant minority of Duffy parents," and said she "considered all perspectives very seriously" as she crafted this compromise.

Six Duffy parents met with List and Rick Ledwith, Executive Director of Employee Services for the Town of West Hartford earlier on Tuesday, and issued the following statement Tuesday night regarding the adminstration's decision: 

"Those of us who came forward to advocate for our children and the children of others at Duffy School feel vindicated by the school administration's decision to commence the search for a new principal. Over 100 families have come forward during the last couple of months, and half have given specific written accounts of how they felt their children were bullied or otherwise subjected to inappropriate conduct by Ms. Tracy. Many more families have expressed anonymous support of the Petition that finally brought the situation at Duffy School to light. We are cautiously optimistic that the interim solution of installing Mr. Landroche to oversee Ms. Tracy will refocus the Duffy community on the appropriate education of our children. Although the superintendent's statement lacks any specific discussion of how Mr. Landroche will perform his responsibilities, we look forward to working closely with the administration, Mr. Landroche, and Ms. Tracy as Duffy School transitions its leadership. As always, we expect our town administration to be responsive to the needs of the community.  We believe that we have made progress in this regard."

At least one parent who has supported Tracy also backed the decision.

"I think it seems well-reasoned and fair. I'm hoping it helps the next school year go smoothly," said Cynthia Jaworski, a parent whose daughter will be a 5th grader at Duffy this fall, when asked for her reaction to List's decision. Jaworski is also the parent of an 8th grader who attended Duffy for several years.

Board of Education Chair Bruce Putterman said that the board's perspective was communicated to List following her return from vacation, and that they have been in constant contact. The decision, however, was generated by the superintendent and her team, he said.

"I support the superintendent's decision and we look forward to focusing on what's best for the children in the upcoming school year," Putterman said. "Her solution gives everybody something but doesn't give anybody everything, which is the hallmark of an excellent compromise."

Board of Education member Ellen Brassil, who along with fellow Republican Lib Spinella had responded to the petition with a , said that it was right for the administration to respond to an untenable and long-standing situation.

"While I had preferred that [Tracy] be reassigned to central office, time will tell if this is the best resolution," Brassil said. She commended those in the Duffy parent community who created the petition for their "patience, civility, and courage, and for keeping the focus on the children."

Brassil said that Landroche has a proven capacity to move a school forward. "He will help with the healing," she said.

List has indicated that the search for Tracy's replacement will begin in late fall. "A leadership profile will be created with input from parents, teachers and support staff to guide in the selection process. In addition, parents and teachers will be included in the interview process," List wrote in her letter to Duffy families. She hopes to announce the new principal early in the spring of 2013.

List said that those with continued concerns should call or email her. She said she looks forward to starting "the new school year as we always do — with joy, optimism, and enthusiasm."

JES August 01, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Headline should read: "Mrs. Tracy, VINDICATED!"
Papa Bear August 02, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Holy binders on! How many principals do you know who have a full-time babysitter assigned to keep them in line? So much for "leaving on my own terms." The administration had no choice when confronted with the facts, of which you are blissfully unaware.
concernedparent August 02, 2012 at 02:32 AM
How is being asked to leave considered "vindication"?
Baxi August 02, 2012 at 04:36 AM
This is clearly a compromise, as Kathleen had been suggested on several occassions that this might be her final year. I'm not sure how either side could feel vindicated-- feels like an election when both sides claim they won. I've heard stories of parents attacking other parents in defense of Kathleen, and stories about parents feeling pressured and alienated for choosing not to sign the petition. In the end, this did very little other than to divide the duffy community.
JES August 02, 2012 at 12:27 PM
1) Chuck is coming to Duffy on a part-time basis to deal with some parents. 2) Mrs. Tracey had long planned on retiring after one year. Also, to say i am blissfully unaware is far from accurate and a bit unkind. My children have spent many years at Duffy. I'm not looking to perpetuate animosity among fellow duffy parents with these comments...just want to keep it real.
West Hartford Resident August 02, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Hold on. Dr. List indicated that a "significant minority" had difficulty with Miss Tracy. It would appear that the pat-time assignment of Mr. Landroche is a kindly effort on the part of the administration to satisfy that minority and find a babysitter for them. Miss Tracy has said for some time that she would most likely retire at the end of 2013, so I don't see where the petitioners have done anything but pit neighbor against neighbor and create a lot of upset. What principal has a 100% approval rating anyway? Next time, let's start a witch hunt against a principal who hasn't created an award-winning school with rising test scores.
JES August 02, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Baxi. I've appreciated your comments to the various articles. It's true i was being a bit tongue-in-check with my original post. I agree, in the end this did very little other than to divide the duffy community.
Optimistic August 02, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I guess it is all "how" you look at it. I look at Landroche's position to be a support person for parents AND kathleen and to provide a 2nd opinion as needed for issues. I am optimistic that Landroche with his administrative skills and objectivity will provide good insight on kathleens techniques, as well as the parents with varied parenting styles. I think the resolution is fair for all people involved (the community, Duffy children and Kathleen). It is a "true compromise". Thank you to karen list for "hearing" all perspectives, being responsive and providing the support needed. We now will have the time needed to also find a new and highly qualified principal. It is okay to have differences and if people are mature about this situation, then a difference of opinion should not divide a community or friendships. I respect everyone supporting or not supporting Kathleen and Duffy School as a whole. It is brave, courageous and respectable of everyone who voiced an opinion not just the petition creaters and signers. We All want the best for our children emotionally and educationally. I feel optimistic!
Optimistic August 02, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Excellent point west Hartford resident!
Baxi August 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I want tio wish Chuck the best of luck. He's going to be in a difficult situation. I guarantee he's already heard from one of the three women who led this thing that they're not satisfied with the teacher assignments that were just released. I hope he holds his ground.

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