Shelton school board update of job description leads to debate

An attempt to update the job description for elementary school principal in Shelton led to a discussion about how much leadership experience should be necessary for an educator to be considered for the position.

BOE member James Orazietti pushed for altering the proposed new language so it would be more open to hiring longtime teachers, regardless of any leadership experience in the schools.

School Supt. Freeman Burr said the elementary school principal job description needed to be revised because it was outdated.

'This sends a message'

The proposed revision was to require a minimum three years of leadership (administrative) experience or minimum eight years of teaching experience, but Orazietti wanted to take out the reference to leadership experience.

“This sends a message to our employees that they would have to go somewhere else for advancement,” Orazietti said of the proposed language.

Some other BOE members disagreed, saying some kind of leadership experience — whether having a formal administrative position or heading a curriculum committee — was important.

Orazietti also thought the proposed wording undercut the role of the region’s teacher leadership academy, which is designed to help teachers from Shelton and elsewhere prepare to become administrators.

Orazietti’s position was backed by members John Francino-Quinn and Kathy Yolish.

“We have a lot of talent in our schools,” Yolish said. “I want everyone to feel they have a shot.”

Don’t lower standard

Member Arlene Liscinsky, who is BOE secretary, said eliminating any reference to leadership experience was “lowering the standard” and could lead to the city being flooded with résumés for elementary principal openings.

Liscinsky said the job of principal now “is so demanding” and involves a “tremendous amount of responsibility,” and having leadership experience indicates an applicant is “motivated.”

BOE member Win Oppel said changing the proposed wording as suggested by Orazietti could hold back a young teacher in the system who has shown good leadership abilities as an administrator but may not have taught for eight years.

After discussion, it was agreed to change the word “or” to “and/or” to make the requirement less restrictive, but to change the reference to “teaching experience” to “teaching and leadership experience” to highlight the importance of leadership.

The change passed unanimously, 7-0, with one member absent.