After a debacle with vaccine distribution in Region 14, 97 percent of school staff voted in favor of a show of no confidence in Superintendent Joseph Olzacki and COVID Coordinator Mark Hartunian yesterday.
The Nonnewaug Teachers Association and other district unions felt the vote was necessary after a vaccine clinic prioritized Board of Education members, Central Office employees, and spouses who don’t work in the district ahead of teachers with underlying health conditions who are working in-person with students every day. Only a handful of teachers received the vaccine at the clinic before the supply ran out.
Although Connecticut teachers are not yet eligible for vaccination in Connecticut, the clinic involving Region 14 was scheduled before the state prioritized residents 75 and above in Group 1B and, due to logistical challenges, was allowed to proceed by the State Department of Public Health.
In the days after the clinic Nonnewaug Teachers Association President Chris York said residents, teachers and staff members contacted him asking, “How could this happen? How could people who don’t spend their day with kids receive their vaccine before staff members that spend time with kids every day?”
Yesterday’s vote came after a week of job actions by the school staff. District staff wore buttons last week and yesterday held a walk-in as a show of solidarity and protest. At the elementary school parents decorated cars and honked their horns in support of teachers. Middle school families showed support by ringing cowbells.
School staff found the job actions to be a unifying experience.
“I’m super proud of our members,” said York. “Lots of people pitched in to make the vote and the events of the past week a success. The more people who get involved, the stronger the union.”
CEA President Jeff Leake told Region 14 teachers that CEA stands with them and applauded them for sticking together and advocating for one another.
The State Department of Public Health has launched an investigation into the situation. DPH spokeswoman Maura Fitzgerald has stated, “School board members and their spouses are not included in the education and child care worker category.”
At the teachers union’s urging, the Board of Education has now also launched an investigation into the superintendent’s actions.
Region 14 Board of Education Chair George Bauer called the school staff vote significant.
“We will consider that and the results of the COVID-19 vaccination investigation as we continuously monitor and evaluate the performance of the superintendent,” he told the Hartford Courant.