Teacher Changes Bring Large Turnout to Woodbridge Board of Education Meeting

The reassignment of a second grade teacher to be a reading specialist and the hiring of a new teacher to fill her place brought out one of the largest crowds to attend a Woodbridge Board of Education meeting in recent years.

Over the summer Language Arts Specialist Diane Krivda accepted an assistant principal position at the Bethany Community School. Ms. Krivda was a valued member of the Beecher Road community and it was with mixed feelings that her resignation was accepted. There was sadness that a great educator was moving on mixed with joy about the continued success of her career.

As the Woodbridge School District sought a replacement, second grade Teresa Nakouzi stepped forward and sought the position. Ms. Nakouzi has worked hard at Beecher Road and has many admirers. She has continued her education to focus on being a reading specialist and this seemed like a great opportunity to continue her career path while remaining in the Beecher Road community.

A new second grade teacher was found. Michelle Shepherd, who was well regarded as a Second Grade teacher at Beecher Road School in the past was interested in returning. The administration decided that the best course of action was to have the Ms. Shepherd begin during the school year so that Ms. Nakouzi could take up her responsibilities as a reading specialist as soon as possible.

Parents of some of Ms. Nakouzi’s students expressed concern about the reassignment at a special Board of Education meeting which took place on October 4th. Board Chair Sheila McCreven informed the parents that since this was a Special Meeting of the board, changes to the agenda were not allowed and that it would be best for the parents to attend the Regular October Meeting where the issue could properly be discussed.

During the initial Public Comment part of the meeting Woodbridge Education Association Board member Sandra Simowitz rose to speak in support of the teachers and the administration’s decision to handle the teacher reassignment the way they did. She suggested that some of the parents crossed the line from advocacy on behalf of their children to actions bordering onto abuse.

One of the parents spoke up to ask how the process could have been handled differently. Would it make sense to establish a human resources committee? Could the information have been disseminated in a more effective manner?

Regular attendees of Board of Education and Parent Teacher Organization meetings noted that issues of board structure and school communications have been worked on by both bodies recently and several expressed hope that the parents would become more active in the PTO and regular attendees of Board of Educations meetings.

Despite the large crowd and the public comments, the October Board of Education meeting was fairly short. Dr. Stella gave his report talking about how the school band performed at the opening Sound Tigers game. It was noted that the district has been chosen to host a Winter Guard Tournament which will take place in January. It is a honor for an elementary school to be so chosen.

Dr. Len Tomasello who has started as Interim Intermediate School Principal shared some of his initial experiences of the school. He spoke about spending time meeting with the students and how impressed he was with the social maturity of the children. He also had words of praise for the teachers, noting that this is his seventh position as an Interim Principal and he was especially impressed with the strength of the reading and writing programs at Beecher Road School.

Woodbridge Selectwoman Sandy Stein spoke about the progress of the building committee. At a previous Board of Education meeting, the building committee had presented three different schemes for renovating Beecher Road School. The building committee was now recommending that the Board of Education pursue scheme B, which is projected to bring many improvements especially in providing more efficient heating and cooling as well as bringing the school up to code in many areas. The cost of the project is currently projected to be $17 million and will be further discussed by the Boards of Education, Finance and Selectmen. This topic was returned to as the board approved the schedule for the capital budget requests.

The board meeting ended with a second opportunity for public comment and parents who did not prevail in preventing the reassignment of Ms. Nakouzi expressed their frustrations. They said that because they did not get their way, their words must have fallen on deaf ears and the board must simply be acting as a rubber stamp. Various members of the board disputed this interpretation of the events noting their empathy for the parents, similar struggles they had been through to get the school do take actions they had wanted. This had led to their decisions to become more involved with the process by becoming Board of Education members.

Hopefully the next Board of Education meeting will be as well attended even if it is not as contentious.

(Originally published at the Woodbridge Citizen)