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Three Board of Education Members Meet with Duffy Parents

Seven current Duffy parents sat down with three members of the West Hartford Board of Education to discuss concerns about Principal Kathleen Tracy that were raised in the petition they presented last week.

On Tuesday night, an informal conversation took place between Board of Education Chair Bruce Putterman, Vice-Chair Elin Katz, Republican board member Ellen Brassil, and seven current parents to discuss issues that have been raised following a last week by a group of parents calling for a vote of “no confidence” in Principal Kathleen Tracy.

Several parents publicly of their experiences with Tracy, and Republican Board of Education members Brassil and Lib Spinella responded soon thereafter with a and that the board meet next week to discuss the matter. 

All who were in attendance Tuesday night stressed that this was not a formal meeting, merely a discussion meant to clarify misconceptions and diffuse the potentially partisan divide on the Board of Education. The Board of Education Members Facebook page made note of the upcoming meeting prior to its occurrence, and invited comments from the public. No comments have been made to date.

Shellie Giroux, who was one of the seven parents – two dads and five moms – in attendance, stressed that the specifics of the meeting could not be shared publicly at this point.

Board of Education Chair Putterman has stated publicly that this is a personnel issue, which needs to be addressed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen List who has been on vacation out of the country. Sources say that List is scheduled to return to her office on Friday. Putterman would not comment on Tuesday night’s discussion.

Following Tuesday’s meeting Giroux, a former Duffy PTO president who is now president of the Sedgwick PTO and PT Council, said that it is obvious that the Board of Education is concerned, and she is confident that this issue “will be resolved quickly, with the best interests and intentions by Dr. List when she returns.”

While all seven parents who spoke with Putterman, Katz, and Brassil on Tuesday had signed the petition, Giroux said, “We have no intention of dividing the community – that makes everyone a loser. All we want to do is give people a voice.”

“Those who have come forward in support of Kathleen are not in possession of the 40 plus anecdotes showing a consistent disturbing pattern of behavior toward children unacceptable in an elementary school principal,” said Giroux.

Giroux said that this is not intended to be political, but is all about the children. She pointed out an article in the July 25, 2012 issue of the West Hartford News where Tracy is quoted as saying, “Education should be about collaboration.” 

“We could not agree more,” Giroux said.

“However the pattern shown in the events brought to light by this effort shows not only a lack but an inhibition of collaboration. No one wanted this but parents were left with no alternative method of voicing their concern for the children,” said Giroux.

Brassil praised the honesty and compassion for children expressed by the parents she met with Tuesday night.  She said, “Last night the Board Chair, Vice Chair and I met with a group of dignified and respectful parents whose patience and concern for children is praiseworthy. My colleagues and I spoke with them as we look at the big picture and want to be responsive.”

She said she looks forward to everyone having the opportunity to express their views to the superintendent upon her return from vacation.

Current Parent July 26, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Giroux said, “We have no intention of dividing the community – that makes everyone a loser. All we want to do is give people a voice.” Sadly, I think it's already too late. Based on what is going on in my neighborhood it seems like you are either "for" or "against" Mrs. Tracy. Looking at the way people are skewering each other in the comments, I don't see how this isn't going to carry over into the school community. As commented on in another Patch article, I was so upset to see that a parent of an incoming kindergartener is now ultra sensitive to any perceived misconduct by Mrs. Tracy. What should be a joyful and exciting time for this family is now tainted by this circus surrounding the petition. I feel awful that this family wasn't allowed to form their own opinion about the principal and about the Duffy community. For the sake of the kids involved, I hope that we can find a peaceful resolution to the issue at Duffy.
Pam July 27, 2012 at 04:04 PM
While I agree that this is a sad turn of events, attempting to silence people who are trying to express valid concerns and want them investigated should not be silenced (which seems to be what too many KT supporters who post here would like). My neighbor across the street adores Ms. Tracy - thinks she is fantastic. Good for her! I don't dislike her or feel animosity toward her for that and, thankfully, she does not feel animosity toward me either although I disagree. We and our children had (are having) different experiences with Duffy and KT. Simple as that. How about we give this incoming family the benefit of the doubt to be able to form their own opinions? I am hopeful most adults can do that. Do you go to a movie that has been panned by the critics expecting it to be lousy or do you go in hope that there might be some good scenes or a decent plot? Are you permanently swayed by the first articles you read against a political candidate or do you wait to hear them in a debate or two before deciding and casting your vote? I hope and believe that most people are responsible enough to look at the facts through their own eyes.
Current Parent July 27, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Pam, no need to take time to rebut every comment I post. I'm very happy that you and your neighbor are still friends... good for you! I am commenting about what I see happening in my neighborhood.
A Connecticut Parent July 29, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I applaud and thank all of you who are having this conversation for others to see openly. Your community is not alone in what has been happening but they are writing the first draft of a current day "The Help" where issues are hidden and talked about only in private whether it be school or town or other sensitive topics. The people who have signed and spoken up have demonstrated moral strength and integrity in bringing a sensitive topic out in the open in a civil manner. People in many arenas need to find a way to have open disagreement and find a language that does not offend but encourages civil and respectful debate about issues that affect our children, our families and our communities. Thanks for the draft. I am hopeful that this may inspire other similar and overdue discussions in other Connecticut school districts. I believe in 2013-14, the State of Connecticut will be requiring school districts to conduct climate surveys which will include parent and other key constituent feedback. The CAS-CIAC and State Dept of Education both provide online resources to help develop and assess school climate: http://www.casciac.org/scripts/shownews.cgi?story=446 and http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2618&q=321794 Good luck to you all in finding the best resolution to this for your town's children and families.
Baxi July 30, 2012 at 02:54 AM
My last attempt at a comment was blocked, so let me try more subtle wording to make my point. I've had some challenges with Kathleen, but I have a hard time getting behind something that's being lead my three women who are widely known to have disruptive children. If this comment isn't permitted because it's directed at these three women, I'm not sure how so many anonymous anecdotes about Kathleen are being allowed.
concernedparent July 30, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Seriously, Baxi. "Widely known to have disruptive children?" Have you actually met any of these kids? They are definitely not. Also, it seems that the more appropriate way to handle this situation is to keep any "anecdotes" in front of the people who need to handle things, not in front of the press. I'm sorry to hear you've had some challenges with Kathleen as well. I hope you have found the courage within you to set an example for your children and speak up for them to the appropriate people as others have. That would be a much better example than undue criticism of other people's children.
Baxi July 31, 2012 at 06:08 AM
The petition was put in front of me several weeks ago, and while I've been frustrated with Kathleen at times over the years, none of my issues were worthy of calling for her job. So over the past several weeks I've talked to dozens of Duffy parents in an attempt to gain perspective. The overwhelming feedback I've received can be boiled down to two points. First, Kathleen has repeatedly protected a couple of slacking teachers and parents are frustrated. This I can support. 2) This effort is being lead by three women who are widely known to have disruptive children. In your response above, I think you're missing my point-- my criticism isn't aimed at the children- it's aimed at their parents. Their kids get in trouble, and so they have a problem with the administration. Shocker. These are the same parents who are have problems with coaches because their kids aren't getting enough playing time. You call them courageous, I call them overbearing. We need to teach our kids that they're going to have some difficult teachers, professors and bosses in life-- and they're going to have to learn to navigate through these circumstances.

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