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."