In another step in a positive direction for Norwich teachers, Assistant Superintendent Tamara Gloster was placed on leave Monday, and last night the Board of Education named retired special education director Jaime Bender as the acting assistant superintendent effective today. Last week Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow was placed on leave and Susan Lessard was named acting superintendent after more than 200 teachers and supporters rallied outside a Board of Education meeting.
Both actions come in the wake of a myriad of complaints from teachers, school staff, and parents about bullying, intimidation, and disregard for students’ educational needs from district leaders. In a survey of Norwich Teachers League members, 96% reported fearing retaliation by the superintendent if they spoke up concerning workplace issues.
Teachers’ concerns have finally been heard, and an investigation they long called for has been launched into the allegations against the superintendent and assistant superintendent. Teachers had expressed that they did not feel comfortable participating in an investigation while the superintendent and assistant superintendent remained on the job. In addition to placing both district leaders on leave, the Board of Education has hired Zingari & Cohn Law Firm of Hartford to conduct the independent investigation, which is expected to conclude by early November.
“We are grateful to the Board of Education for continuing to take actions that will improve the climate in Norwich’s education community,” said Norwich Teachers League President Bill Priest. “By taking steps to address the need for change in the superintendent’s office, the Board of Education has restored trust and confidence, and educators feel empowered to speak openly so that the investigation can continue unfettered.”
He added that the union looks forward to working with the interim leaders and ensuring Norwich educators are supported and respected.
“Naming a new acting assistant superintendent to work cohesively with Acting Superintendent Susan Lessard is an important step to move us forward,” Priest said.