School admins survey reveals widespread discontent in district
WESTPORT — A survey released just days before the announcement of Superintendent Colleen Palmer’s resignation shows widespread discontent, distrust and concern among Westport school administrators.
The Westport Intermediate Administrators Association union sent the survey to its members, which include about 40 Westport principals, assistant principals, department heads and senior administrators from across the town’s eight schools.
About 30 administrators responded to each of the survey’s 11 questions, and on March 8 the WIAA sent the survey results to the Board of Education, BOE Chairman Mark Mathias said. About a week later, on March 14, Palmer announced her resignation.
Although the education board has not made the survey results public, the Westport News acquired the results from multiple sources familiar with Westport school operations.
In response to the statement, “I have concerns about the ethics and integrity of our current Central Office leadership,” 90 percent of respondents said they agree, while only 10 percent said they disagree.
Ninety percent of respondents also disagreed with the statement, “I work in an environment that builds trust through clear communication and expectations,” as well as two other statements that said “there is a commonly owned plan for success” and “central office leadership focuses on team over self.”
Westport Intermediate Administrators Association union results:
I have concerns about the ethics and integrity of our current Central Office leadership. (30 responses)
If I had an opportunity to accept an administrative position elsewhere, I would. (30 responses)
I feel supported by our Central Office leadership. (31 responses)
I work in an environment that builds trust through clear communication and expectations. (30 responses)
-10% agree or neutral
There is a commonly owned plan for success, and I know what it is. (33 responses)
-9.1% agree or neutral
Central Office leadership focuses on team over self. (30 responses)
-10% agree or neutral
Central Office leadership has a high sense of urgency for change that will lead to sustainable results in improving student achievement. (29 responses)
Central Office leadership is committed to continuous improvement for both individuals and the organization. (30 responses)
I feel included in appropriate meetings and communications. (32 responses)
I feel my voice is being heard. (31 responses)
I play an important role in the decision-making process (33 responses)
Eighty percent of administrators who responded said their voice is not being heard, and 70 percent they would accept an administrative position elsewhere if an opportunity arose.
On March 8, the same day the BOE received the survey, Staples High School Principal James D’Amico did just that and announced he will be leaving Westport at the end of the year to become principal at New Fairfield High School.
“During the regular monthly meetings between our administrators’ union and district leadership and in the countless meetings that our Central Office team has had with administrators throughout the district this past year, any issue brought forward was taken seriously and addressed,” Palmer said in an email Wednesday.
“With this survey, the entire Central Office team is committed to fully understand specific concerns and to work for a productive resolution,” she added. “Preparation to retire occurs well in advance, and after 35 years of CT service, it was the right time to make a decision for my family.”
“We’re starting a conversation to find out what it means as we do with all of our unions and employees. When they express concerns to us, we follow up with them,” Mathias said of the survey results, noting the BOE established an ad hoc committee “to look into workplace conditions.”
The committee, not yet named, includes six of the BOE’s seven members, with only Vik Muktavaram opting not to join the group, Mathias said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the BOE established a search committee for the next superintendent, which Mathias said will be similar to the national search completed three years ago when then-Superintendent Elliott Landon left after a 17-year tenure and was replaced with Palmer.
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