The appointment of a Middle Gate School teacher to the role of lead teacher at Head O' Meadow School has been greeted with criticism from some parents and officials, particularly because the decision was made well before several members of the Board of Education knew about it.
Board of Education Chairman Bill Hart and Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said the timing of the appointment was an oversight.
During the summer, Robinson decided to move Jen Myers, a third-grade teacher at Middle Gate School to the role of lead teacher at Head O'Meadow School, where Barbara Gasparine has been recently appointed principal.
Officials said that with several staff departures at the end of the year, there was enough wiggle room in the budget for staff salaries to make the appointment and still come in under the numbers. So Robinson went ahead and made the decision but omitted to bring the topic to the full education board for discussion.
"It was the start of the school year and so we had to move quickly," Robinson said.
The education board had put off its August meeting so she said the next chance she could bring it to the board was Sept. 7, and by then the lead teacher was already installed.
"It's not an issue of whether I have the right to do it, I have the right," Robinson said, adding that where she went wrong was not bringing it to the full board for discussion. "It was an oversight on my part. I don't have a problem with taking responsibility. But it's still my decision."
Education board chairman Bill Hart said he did discuss the possible appointment with Robinson and former board chairman Lillian Bittman but due to the timing of the meetings, his recent appointment to the leadership post and other matters, the full board did not formally discuss the topic prior to Myers' appointment.
"Janet should have talked about it a little more, but I believe it was within her authority," Hart said. "I have talked to her that she shouldn't be blindsiding us."
The appointment has perplexed some parents who said they did not understand why a lead teacher – someone they view as an administrator – was being added to the school.
"We've never had it, we don't need it," said Caren Wellman, a Head O' Meadow School parent who said she would rather have another classroom teacher or educational assistant in her child's class.
Robinson said the lead teacher would benefit all students because Myers will have more time to spend with teachers helping to improve instruction in all classes.
"The teachers need to have a lead teacher that they can talk to and get suggestions from – that's why they're important," Robinson said. "One EA in one classroom is going to affect one classroom. One lead teacher is going to impact all classrooms."
Robinson also said Gasparine requested the appointment of a lead teacher. The principal could not be reached for comment. In the past, Gasparine has said one of her goals is to provide teachers with more resources and opportunities for professional development as part of their day-to-day schedule.
Hart said despite the mistake, Robinson has excelled at making staffing decisions, such as her ability to hire a full-time Latin teacher and part-time instructor following the departure of Jennifer Huettner, a Latin teacher who resigned in order to take a position in Westport.
Hiring two instructors was possible because Huettner's seniority and other factors placed her high on the salary scale, and needed due to the burgeoning interest in Latin among students, Hart said.
"This is an executive doing the job," he said of Robinson. "They will make some mistakes and they will do some good things. Has she done everything right? No. But nobody does."