As passing motorists waved, cheered, blasted “Beat It,” and honked their support, 200 teachers gathered outside a special meeting of the Norwich Board of Education to call for an end to the superintendent and assistant superintendent’s reign of fear and intimidation. Educators were joined by parents’ advocates, school staff, state and municipal elected officials, and community members, all carrying signs that read, “Stop the abuse,” “Support our students and teachers,” and “Norwich deserves better.”
“If 96% of your teachers feel like they can’t speak up, then you have a climate problem,” said CEA President Kate Dias, referring to a 2023 school climate survey in which Norwich teachers detailed the abusive and retaliatory practices of the district’s top administrators. “If 96% of your students refused to speak, what would your evaluation look like?”
“These concerns are real,” Norwich Teachers League President William Priest told reporters. “Look at the number of people here. The powerful turnout shows how important this is.”
Addressing educators, Dias emphasized, “You deserve to be supported. You show up and take care of your students. You have done what is right, and it’s time that this district does right by you.”
Rallying outside the middle school where the board met, teachers and community supporters filed into the building chanting “Enough is enough” and waited for hours outside while the nine-member board met in executive session. They held signs up in the windows, and many, for the first time, spoke to reporters.
Breaking her silence, 20-year veteran educator Denielle Beaudet-Sandoval said, “I don’t know if I’ll have a job after coming forward today, but this is too important not to speak up. I have to advocate for our students. I’m also very proud of the many parents and families who have stepped up to advocate for their children.”
Senator Cathy Osten, who joined with town council members to support educators, pointed out, “The most important people are here—students.”
Indeed, dozens of parents and students stood side by side with teachers in a show of solidarity, demanding action and change.
In a deeply disappointing move, however, the board of education failed to place the superintendent and assistant superintendent on administrative leave, opting instead to expand the ongoing investigation and leave the administrators in place pending the investigation’s outcome.
Susan Johnston, hired in 2021 as a social emotional learning coach and promoted to assistant principal before resigning in 2023, said, “The teachers’ union did their survey, and that should have been enough. And it’s not the only evidence that shows the improper management of this district. People are going to continue to be afraid to speak up while these two are in the schools.”
CEA and NTL, however, pledged to continue their push for change.
“This is far from over,” said Dias. “We are invigorated by the show of solidarity last night and the courage and enthusiasm of our members.”
“The Norwich Teachers League has demonstrated incredible strength in numbers, and there’s a groundswell of community support behind us,” said Priest. “We feel empowered, and we’re committed to making our school environment one where everyone can thrive.”