Greenwich 'leaks' finalist ID for Staples principal job
Updated 2:19 pm, Wednesday, May 20, 2015
The latest candidate to be the next principal of Staples High School -- described by Westport school officials as an "extraordinary finalist" -- is Shelley Somers, the principal of Central Middle School in Greenwich.
Somers' identity as the sole candidate in round two of the search to fill the Staples principal's post was revealed Tuesday not by Westport school officials -- who apparently planned to keep her identity secret until a public forum next week -- but by Greenwich school officials, who prematurely issued a statement written as though Somers had already been hired.
The job cannot be filled without approval by the Board of Education, and a vote on Somers' hiring has not even been scheduled.
The Greenwich press release touched off an angry volley Wednesday from Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon, who issued a statement saying: "Shelley Somers HAS NOT been appointed as the principal of Staples High School at this time. The press release was issued in error and Greenwich has apologized to me and the Westport community for its error."
The revelation, however, forced Westport school officials to confirm that Somers is the sole candidate for the job, and that she will be the finalist facing the public at a community meeting set for next Tuesday, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Staples cafeteria. Written feedback will be solicited at the meeting, officials said in an email to parents, and provided to the Board of Education before a final decision is made on hiring the new principal.
The school board is scheduled to interview Somers on Tuesday night.
If ultimately appointed by the school board, Somers would succeed John Dodig, who is retiring at the end of this academic year.
Landon did say that Somers was the unanimous choice for the job by a search committee made up of teachers, parents, administrators and students. He added that he and Somers "are excited about the possibility that she may join our staff. She is an accomplished leader in Greenwich who enjoys the respect and appreciation of teachers, students, parents and her administrative colleagues.
"Most recently she was named Connecticut PTA Middle School Principal of the Year," he added. She has worked in the Greenwich school district since 2009.
In the statement that Landon said was issued "in error" by Greenwich school officials, William S. McKersie, the superintendent of that town's schools, wrote as though Somers' appointment already had been approved: "We applaud Shelley Somers' appointment as principal of Staples High School. Ms. Somers is a prime example of the expert educators that we have in our district -- she has always focused first and foremost on the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of her students. We will miss her greatly as a professional colleague and wish her all the best in her new role."
In the Greenwich statement, Somers herself said: "Although I am sad to leave, I feel confident that Central will continue to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students. I have enjoyed working with and will miss the Central Middle School community, especially the students, as well as my colleagues across the district. I am looking forward to returning to high school, and I am excited about becoming part of the Staples community."
This week's misstep between administrators in the two affluent school districts was the latest bump in the road for the process of selecting a new Staples principal.
In March, the search had to be re-launched when neither of two finalists introduced at public meetings -- like the one Somers will face Tuesday -- was hired. Shortly after those sessions, Landon abruptly told the Board of Education that, "Neither would be moved forward."
The candidates for the job at the time were Lou Moore, principal at Ramapo High School in the affluent community of Franklin Lakes, N.J., and Frank Costanzo, principal of the Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School in New Haven.
If Somers is hired by the school board, she would take over from Dodig, who announced last December that he planned to leave the post after 11 years this spring.