With nearly 100 members of the high school's teachers association packing the Watchung Hills Regional library, WHREA President Sean DiGiovanna delivered a "no confidence" vote message to Superintendent Frances Stromsland from the association.
At the core of the vote were steps taken last week as school officials tried to reconfigure the school calendar to accomodate the three days missed because of the power outage following the Oct. 29 nor'easter.
Dr. DiGiovanna charged that Dr. Stromsland had asked school administrators to poll teachers on their plans for this week, when the school was scheduled to be closed for the annual teachers convention. He said she had already been told by the association representatives that the association did not feel it would be possible or appropriate to hold classes Thursday and Friday, and that circumventing the association was a violation of their contracts.
"The fact the superintendent again refused to acknowledge the elected representatives of the association speak for the membership—if you have any doubt, look out here," he said, sweeping his hand back to point at the crowd of teachers standing behind him. "As a result of that, in our general membership meeting we held earlier tonight, we unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the superintendent's leadership."
Dr. Stromsland was not available after the meeting for comment, but she had outlined the steps she had taken last week and the concerns the administration had in regards to the school closing.
The school will be forced to use three of its four scheduled snow days, despite efforts to secure a waiver from the state. Dr. Stromsland noted recent years have averaged four snow days between December and March.
In the event of too many additional additional school closures, she said students and teachers could begin 2012 with no time off between January and April.
"Right now, what seems to be an intellectual exercise on whether or not we may take days away, will become a reality very soon," she said. "Conceivably, if we experience similar weather patterns as we have in the recent past, or lose power or have any other significant emergency, students and you may not get a vacation or a break from school from January through April.
"I asked the association whether or not we could try to work something out, and perhaps consider doing two half-days (Nov. 10 and Nov. 11) and reclaim and sort of put those two days in the bank ... so that we would move into winter having three days available to us."
She said she asked the administrators and staff if "they planned on attending" the convention, adding, "Nothing definite, just if they planned on attending or not."
"Nothing was definite, nothing was ordered, nothing was proposed," Dr. Stromsland said.
"It's unfortunate that cooperation was not provided by the association through its president, and that staff was directed not to respond," she said.
Later in the meeting, the board did not vote on a change in the calendar (keeping school closed Thursday and Friday), instead requesting a meeting with superintendents from the school's sending districts to work out a coordinated calendar.
Speaking this morning, Dr. Stromsland downplayed the vote, noting that while "It's cetainly not something we would want to have happen," it won't affect her ability to administer the school.
"I've worked very closely with the union through some very difficult times," she said. "It's disappointing but I'm sure we'll get back on track. I'm sure we can continue to work together."
This article was edited to correct an error in the number of snow days in the schedule and the number of days used last week.