The two Republican members of the West Hartford Board of Education have addressed a letter to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen List and Board Chairman Bruce Putterman, requesting that Principal Kathleen Tracy be immediately placed on paid administrative leave.
Ellen Burchill Brassil and Lib Brassil Spinella, who co-signed the letter dated July 19, have also requested that the Board of Education hold a special meeting so that testimony from Tracy and the superintendent can be publicly heard.
The full text of the letter has been printed below.
The request by the two board members comes in response to a which was delivered to administrators and board members on Monday. It contained the signatures of 90 people, as well as 39 comments regarding Tracy's leadership of Duffy.
Most of the comments were made anonymously. However, some parents agreed to share their stories publicly in a .
Board Chairman Bruce Putterman, who has previously said that this is a personnel decision which is the responibility of the superintendent, said that he is disappointed that this matter has turned political.
"We are not going to conduct personnel reviews in the press or in public. In fact, this Board of Education is not going to engage in personnel issues at all. That is the superintendent’s job," Putterman said.
"Last Friday, the superintendent told all board members, including the Republicans, what Mrs. Tracy had proposed to Dr. List about her future. They each agreed to reflect on that proposal while the superintendent was away on vacation. The Republicans did not object at the time. It’s unfortunate they waited until the superintendent went on a well-deserved vacation with her daughter to object," said Putterman.
In response to the question of whether concerns about Tracy's performance have been raised during the principal's annual reviews, Putterman said he could not comment.
"My understanding of CT General Statute 10-151c is that personnel records can’t be disclosed without the permission of the person whose records would be disclosed. Records of 'personal misconduct' are public records and don’t require permission to be disclosed, but in this case, the complaints about Mrs. Tracy are not about personal misconduct, they are about how she does her job," he said.
"When the dust settles, there will be a post-mortem on every aspect of the process that led to this situation, with the aim of improving the process for responding to parent input," said Putterman.
Brassil said that this issue has been "festering for a long time," and that it is time for the Board of Education to address it. She said the parents she has spoken with, who were willing to speak out, are to be commended.
"This has been a long-standing issue. The board has a responsibility to provide a culture of responsiveness; clearly we have some work to do," Brassil said. "We serve the citizens of this town," she said.
Rick Ledwith, Executive Director of Employee Services for the Town of West Hartford, said that neither he, nor Assistant Superintendent for Administration Tom Moore, nor Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum Eileen Howley could comment on the letter at this time.
List is currently on vacation out of the country with her daughter, and will return late next week.
The following is the text of the letter which was sent to Dr. List and Board of Education members. According to Putterman and Ledwith, it was received on Friday, July 20.
July 19, 2012
Dear Dr. List, Chmn. Putterman, and Board of Education Colleagues:
As you are aware, in recent days, substantial public attention has been paid to the grievances of many parents of children in the Louise Duffy Elementary School district in regard to the actions, decisions, and relations of Duffy School Principal Kathleen Tracy. We write to you today to impress upon both Dr. List, Superintendent of Schools and our colleagues on the West Hartford Board of Education, the importance of our immediate action to address the concerns of our town’s parents, the petitioning request by parents for Principal Tracy’s resignation, and the policies and mechanisms of the board and administration that govern the Town’s response to these events in the past, present, and future.
To that end, we request that Principal Tracy be immediately placed on paid, administrative leave from her duties as Principal of Duffy School or be given a temporary, alternative assignment of responsibilities. We ask that a plan for Duffy School’s administration during her absence be developed and provided to the Board of Education and to the parents of children who attend or will be attending Duffy School without delay. We believe that the vote of no confidence provided in the petition by parents, and the accompanying allegations and diverse opinion of events and that of Ms. Tracy, warrant her removal pending the Town’s judgment of a permanent resolution and satisfaction that appropriate policy and systems are in place for handling situations such as this. Ms. Tracy’s leave of absence will help to alleviate the sense of uncertainty and apprehension our parents and children might feel if they return to school in little more than a month to find Ms. Tracy at the helm with no clear solution to their concerns.
In addition, we are asking that a special meeting of the West Hartford Board of Education be called so that our board as well as the public can receive testimony from Dr. List and Principal Tracy regarding how existing policy affected the decisions and courses of action by the board, administration, faculty, and parents in addressing these problems. We must take this opportunity to assess how we got to where we are today, what measures were taken over the years to remedy the concerns of parents in this matter, and how we can improve upon existing policy to ensure as best we can that something like this does not happen in the future. Most importantly, a special meeting will provide transparency to those we serve and work for-parents and the general public, and will facilitate their best recommendations as to how we can improve upon policy set forth by our board.
We await the timely response from Chairman Putterman and Superintendant List regarding our request for Ms. Tracy’s leave of absence or reassignment and for a special meeting by the Board of Education. Given that the next regular meeting of the Board of Education is not until September, 2012, we ask that
this special meeting occur by August 3, 2012 to allow for as much time as possible for us to address these problems before the start of the upcoming school year. We urge all of our colleagues to join us in this request so that we may be unified in our goal of implementing the very best policy as a board as well as bringing swift resolution to this issue. The integrity of Duffy Elementary School and that of our school district as a whole depends on our ability to ensure we are putting into practice the best policies not only to avoid situations like this, but to provide the assurance to parents that ample resources are available to them for addressing their grievances and opinions without fear of consequence to their children in our school systems.
Thank you for your prompt consideration.
Lib Brassil Spinella
Member, West Hartford Board of Education
Ellen Burchill Brassil
Member, West Hartford Board of Education
<<Sent Via Email and Postal Mail>>
Cc: Mr. Thomas Moore Assistant Superintendent for Administration