Questions on Assistant Principal’s Resignation

A letter written by Paige Morehead, the Springs School’s speech therapist, asking the school board to reconsider the abrupt resignation of the school’s assistant principal, Christine Cleary, prompted an outcry Monday night at the school’s annual budget hearing.

The letter, read aloud by Cristen Keyes, a third-grade teacher at the school (Ms. Morehead was unable to attend the meeting), beseeched the board to retain Ms. Cleary, saying she played a vital role alongside the principal, Eric Casale, in helping to manage an already short-staffed, packed-to-the-gills school. The writer described the elimination of the position as “not thought through at all.”

Barbara Dayton, the board president, responded. “I think we need to clear something up. The board did not eliminate the assistant principal position,” she said.

Several staff and community members, appearing stunned, followed Ms. Keyes to the podium looking for answers, especially to determine who was responsible for Ms. Cleary’s departure.

“I can hear your frustration by the lack of answers,” said Ms. Dayton, “but we simply cannot discuss employment contracts and terms at this time.”

Brenda Crozier, a greeter for the school, rose to speak. “I sit in a position from where I can observe exactly how indispensable Christine Cleary is to the school,” she said. “She and Mr. Casale make a great team . . . the students feel valued knowing there is always someone there for them. Most staff are under the impression that the assistant principal position was cut because we now have a new superintendent to work with Mr. Casale, and Ms. Cleary is no longer needed.”

“The assistant principal position has not been removed from next year’s budget. That’s really all we can say,” replied Ms. Dayton.

A parent of two children at the school, Sema Mendelman, also voiced frustration. “Until we get some answers, the rumor mill will keep going,” said Ms. Mendelman. “We heard that she was given the option to either become a teacher or leave.”

School Superintendent John J. Finello, who is due to retire on June 30, responded. “We cannot control the misinformation that spreads, but the fact is, we cannot discuss personnel issues,” he said. “There are some things for which we cannot provide answers immediately.”

Ms. Cleary could not be reached for comment. Ms. Dayton wrote in an email to The Star, “As of this time the board of education has not acted upon Ms. Cleary’s resignation as assistant principal.”

Also at the meeting, Carl Fraser, the interim school business administrator, again presented the tax-compliant budget for 2017-2018, with a bottom line of $28.1 million. The numbers have more or less remained unchanged since February, and the full-capacity crowd had no comments to make.