Tensions arise after criticism of Board of Ed.

Shortly after John Scalice was named the new principal of Booth Hill Elementary School and Ellen Tuckner was announced as Mohegan Elementary School’s new principal, concerns about  them being from out of town were brought forth in a letter to the editor.

Dr. Darlisa Ritter, a retired teacher with 40 years of experience in the Shelton school system, wrote a letter criticizing the appointment of the two elementary school Principals expressing her feelings of an “internal candidate” being better suited for the positions.

Other people in the community have shown a similar distaste for the new hires as well, saying that the Board’s selections are already “predetermined.”

“Wasn’t it policy of current education administration to promote from within? Didn’t they set up a leadership program six years ago to make this happen? The four internal candidates received state administrator certification and served their internship. What went wrong?,” Ritter asked  in her letter.

Superintendent’s role

Her letter also attacked the outgoing Superintendent Freeman Burr’s involvement in the selection process.

“If we are to get the best educational results year after year, we need board members who understand our educational system and are willing participants in the selection and managements process. They can’t be puppets of the Superintendent,” said Ritter.

Holden’s response

Mark Holden, the city’s Chairman on the Board of Education, answered Ritter’s rhetorical questions and criticism of the board with a letter of his own.

“I appoint two Board members for each round of the interview process. I’ve never asked anyone for permission – it’s just part of my job.,” said Holden in regards to Burr’s involvement. “Logically, because the Superintendent is accountable for district performance, he needs to have considerable say in the selection of school Principals.  It would be poor policy if leaders didn’t have a strong voice in selecting the members of the teams they lead.  This doesn’t mean the Board can’t or won’t reject the Superintendent’s choice if we feel a poor decision has been made.”

Some satisfied with selection process

Keith Hall, a representative from the committee who is partially responsible for the selection of the new hires, said he feels as though the selection process was very thorough and they made the best selections for the positions.

“The process began with Board of Ed. creating a questionnaire,” said Hall. “It was distributed to the parent and teacher community. It featured six questions and was designed to see which traits are most important to them in regards to the applicants who would fill the position. Burr then reviewed all of the responses and then 1 by 1 put together a spreadsheet that showed the priority ranking of a given trait. An example of one trait the parents and teachers looked for was ‘leadership qualities’.”

He later addressed Ritter’s passion for hiring more “internal candidates”.

“‘Do I care that the new principals were ‘external candidates? Absolutely not. I think it is irrelevant when your goal is to pick the best qualified person fit for the job. I was very impressed with the process and it has exceeded my prior expectations. When you limit the candidates down to only the ones who are from the city, you end up skipping over plenty of other people who are qualified and who may be more qualified. Someone internally has already been a part of the system, but someone from the outside offers a new perspective that could potentially help our already impressive school system to be even better. From what I saw the candidates that were selected by far exceeded the qualifications of all the internal candidates. It’s not even close. I thought they were under qualified.”

Ritter’s letter backfired

Hall went on to say Ritter is misinformed and “shot herself in the foot” with her letter.

“She clearly didn’t do her homework before releasing that statement,” said Hall. “If you’re running for Board of Ed and you don’t know where to access the proper information which is purposely made publicly available then I don’t think you would be a good fit. She is certainly someone I will not be voting for.”

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