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Vote of No Confidence in Superintendent Howard Thiery

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We, the undersigned ask our BOE representing the families and community members in Haddam, Higganum, and Killingworth, to support a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Thiery for the following reasons:

  • Superintendent Theiry has failed meet the expectation on the Connecticut Common Core of Leading (CCL) Performance Indicator 4.1 by failing to use professional influence to promote the growth of all students by actively engaging and collaborating with families,community partners and other stakeholders to support the vision, mission and goals of the school and district, in particular as related to the restructuring of RSD 17, including closing a school and shifting a new grade (Grade 4).
    • Lack of a formal transition plan to impacted parents as of March 1st. Parents and students have not been provided with any meetings, details, or activities to help ease the transition. Other local districts who are restructuring have had their plans in place since the fall and have engaged students and parents in multiple ways to ease the transition for ALL involved.
    • At HKMS, there are issues in putting another grade into a physical space and bell schedule designed for 4 grades.
    • At HKMS, there are not enough rooms for intervention or special education with restructuring.
    • Lack of a plan for impacted teachers. Madison, which is also restructuring, informed all teachers in January about how the restructuring impacts them and their teaching assignments.
    • Teachers in the district have been advised to not speak about any concerns regarding the restructuring, transition plans, or space related to moving a fifth grade into a school designed to hold four grades. 
  • Providing limited and ineffective communication about vision, mission, and goals for the restructuring to families, community
    partners and other stakeholders, as part of CCL Performance Indicator 4.1.
    • This includes the BOE's self-admitted acknowledgment of insufficient time for public input, education, and comment regarding restructuring plan. This is a clear failure to engage "school and community stakeholders in planning and decision making including those with competing or conflicting educational perspectives".
  • Taking few opportunities to build relationships with families, community partners and other stakeholders regarding educational issues.
    • Instead, state troopers are present at all BOE meetings and even meetings that parents have had with Ms. Hayward.
    • Mr. Thiery and numerous members of the BOE have likened the concerned parents to "an angry mob".
    • State Rep Christine Palm has also asked for a 1-year pause especially in response to the current regionalization bills.
    • Haddam's Board of Selectmen and Planning and Zoning have both submitted letters asking BOE for 1-year pause.
    • BOE’s failure to listen to a noted local demographer who stated that the restructuring and closure is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
  • Minimal attempts to involve families or members of the community in decision-making about improving student-specific learning in clear failure to meet the expectations for CCL Performance Indicator 4.1.
    • Please see previous points.
  • Failing to meet the standard for CCL Performance Indicator 4.3 by not maintaining a focus on ethical decisions, cultural competencies, social justice and inclusive practice for all members of the school or district community.
    • Demonstrating a pattern of poor judgment in exhibiting professional responsibility and ethical practices in accordance with the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators (CCPRSA), in particular as the CCPRSA relates to responsibility to the community.
    • State Rep. Christine Palm has also asked for a 1 year pause especially in response to the current regionalization bills as well as more transparency of the board.
  • Failing to develop and/or monitor a budget that aligns to the school and district improvement plans or district, state and federal regulations and allocating resources in ways that do not promote educational equity for diverse student, family and staff needs, as required by CCL Performance Indicator 3.2.
    • The 2019-2020 school budget has an increase of 1.6%, more than last year and with a school closing. The closing of HES and the moving of Grade 4 to HKMS was supposed to result in a 3% savings.
    • Members of the community are being told that it will take 3% more to stop the restructuring but the community is not realizing the 3% that will be saved through the restructuring. If we are saving 3%, then where is the 3% going if not back to the taxpayers and why are we paying an additional 1.6% if the restructuring is to save us 3%?
  • There is little or no evidence that decisions about the establishment and implementation of the restructuring plan supports the vision,
    mission and goals or orderly operation of the school or district, as required by CCL Performance indicator 3.1.
    • BOE’s enrollment projections are already inaccurate with 1920 projected this year and 2036 students actually enrolled. Even if we control for outplaced students, transition students, and speech only students, we are at 2,006 enrolled students-still a difference of 86 students from the allegedly accurate projections being used to make this decision.
    • Numerous studies (Pew, Schott, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving) state that there is a profound negative impact involved with school closures, both social and economic.
    • BOE's rejection to acknowledge the town’s first right of refusal, a restriction placed on the property by the BOE in 1972 and found by an FOI request.
    • Lessening academic performance, the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that the performance of students in schools slated for closing actually fell after the announcement and remained low until the end of the year.
  • Failing to have positive or trusting relationships with staff and having relationships which have an adverse effect on staff retention, which does not meet the expectation for CCL Performance indicator 2.1.
    • Please see data from the HKMS teacher surveys that are administered every year. 
    • In addition, data shared with the BOE on 12/4 provides qualitative data from teachers who left the district. The comments include statements regarding
      • Concerns about the district leadership
      • Superintendent Thiery making teachers feel "intimidated, less than, and extremely uncomfortable"
      • Superintendent Thiery lacking "any concern towards his educators"
      • Not wanting an exit interview because "quite frankly what good is an exit interview if it is with the very same person who bullied you"

We ask our community members and our Board of Education to think deeply about the decisions being made, particularly with the new regionalization bills being discussed in the Education Committee at the state level. Mr. Thiery has essentially alienated our teachers, many of whom reside in our district, from the other members of the community by having the teachers remain silent about the restructuring with parents and with the community. This divide and conquer tactic only serves to further alienate educators from the community and sends the message that the staff members, faculty, and administrators of RSD 17 see themselves as being superior to the parents, children, and community members whom they serve. Teachers now fear a backlash and fear losing their jobs if they share their concerns.

Mr. Thiery works for our community and for our BOE, not the other way around. Our teachers and administrators work for our BOE and are expected by Connecticut Standards for both Administrators and Teachers to be collaborative members who work with parents and community members to create a positive climate to support learning. Every single thing about this plan demonstrates a clear lack of respect for the parents, students, and community members who employ them.

We cannot allow Superintendent Thiery to be the architect of major educational overhaul to simply suit his agenda, which includes closing a school and restructuring RSD 17, when the facts on which these decisions are made are not from reliable studies or reliable sources that are qualified to undertake such studies and draw such conclusions. The confusion, pain, and uncertainty that our top educator is causing cannot be given back to our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers. We cannot allow a person who has control over our children’s education and who makes these poorly thought-out actions to stay in control any longer. We need a change and a fresh outlook for our children and for our community. That change begins with a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Thiery.


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