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Wilton-Lyndeborough parents sign petition to support principal after hearing rumors he was being let go

  • Brianne Levallee of Lyndeborough reads a petition, signed by 275 people, in support of Tim O’Connell during the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board meeting Tuesday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dozens of community members turned out Tuesday in support of elementary principal Tim O’Connell, center, after rumors he may not be renewed after this year. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Lynne Crouse of Lyndeborough, left, got emotional as she spoke about her support of Tim O’Connell. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • JoAnn Dufour, guidance counselor at Florence Rideout Elementary School, read a statement in support of O’Connell, while members of the audience stood to show their solidarity during the school board meeting Tuesday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, January 09, 2019 4:11PM

Nearly 80 members of the community crowded into the library at the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board meeting Tuesday, ready to speak in defense of elementary school principal Tim O’Connell after hearing rumors he may not be renewed after the current school year.

O’Connell is the principal of both Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton, which has the district’s first through fifth grade classes, and Lyndeborough Central School, which houses the kindergarten and pre-school programs.

School Board Chairman Harry Dailey began the meeting by informing the crowd the board would not be speaking on any personnel member, but could say the board had not discussed any contracts yet this year.

Dailey said typically, the district reviews a slate of contract renewals in early April. By law, any professionally certified staff with a contract must be notified in writing prior to April 15 if their contract is not being renewed.

Dailey would not comment on any specific personnel, but when pressed by an audience member if there was anything unusual this year, or if the board was considering any contracts currently, he said no.

The public comment section of the meeting, a portion which usually only takes a few minutes, went on for nearly 45 due to parents speaking positively about  O’Connell and urging the board to continue his contract  next year.

Brianne Levallee of Lyndeborough submitted a petition of 275 signatures, some with comments, collected over the past five days in support of O’Connell to the board. She outlined several metrics of school improvement under O’Connell’s leadership, as well as giving her own endorsement of him and the impact he’d had on her children.

Several parents praised O’Connell’s involvement with the children and his willingness to connect with and motivate the students academically from dressing up as a superhero or as Santa Claus, to being taped to a wall or by catching and kissing a frog.

“Most of us are here for Mr. O,” said John Clark of Lyndeborough. “We request you keep him here in our district.”

JoAnn Dufour, the guidance counselor for Florence Rideout, said she was speaking on behalf of multiple people in the crowd. 

“Mr. O’Connell is a man of good character,” she said, beginning a prepared statement as more than a dozen people stood up to show they supported her sentiments.

Some parents called Florence Rideout Elementary School the district’s “gem” and said it was the reason they had moved to or stayed in town.

“If he leaves, I don’t know if we’re staying, and that’s the bottom line,” Lynn Crouse of Lyndeborough said.

Kim Sheridan, the nurse for the elementary school, said she had multiple offers when she took the job in the Wilton-Lyndeborough district earlier this year, and she chose the district because of her impression of O’Connell. 

“As I drove away [the day of my interview] I saw him playing kickball with the kids, and I knew I was in the right place,” she said.

The reorganization of the middle school

During its Tuesday meeting, the School Board considered two models for re-organizing the middle school schedule to allow eighth-graders to take more high school extra-curricular credits.

The purpose, explained Superintendent Bryan Lane, is to give those eighth graders more flexibility later in their high school careers.

The board considered two options for the re-organization, one which kept the same number of teachers, and one which cut two positions.

If the district cut the teachers, class sizes would increase from 13-16 students to 21-22 in the sixth and seventh grades. 

The board’s strategic planning committee recommended the board adopt the version which cut staff. However, the board as a whole wasn’t convinced that would be the best move.

Board member Miriam Lemire moved to move forward with the re-organization, without cutting staff, and allowed for further review of the schedule to be discussed among the superintendent and staff. The motion passed.

Dailey reminded the board and the audience the district’s budget was decided by the Budget Committee, a separate elected board, and if the budget committee did not put forth a budget with those two positions funded, the School Board may have to propose an amendment on the floor at district meeting. 

Sixth grade remains without permanent math teacher

Several parents in the audience also expressed concern their sixth-grade children were falling behind in math instruction.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board received the resignation of Audree Withee, the math teacher for the sixth grade, effective Dec. 14, though Withee had not been in the classroom for a month before her resignation.

School Board member Alex Loverme said he was speaking as a parent when he shared his concerns with the board over the length of time the students had been without a regular teacher.

“They’re missing sixth grade math,” he said. 

Dailey said the board recognized those concerns and was working “minute-to-minute” to get a permanent resolution.

Lane said one interview has been lined up to fill the position for the remainder of the year. It has been difficult getting an applicant in the middle of the school year, Lane said, but the district has been reaching out to previous teachers who are now retired and other options to try to generate applicants.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.