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WHRHS Teachers Union Gives 'No Confidence' Vote to Superintendent

Cites call for holding classes this week after meeting with teachers association representatives.

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.

Heather Trumpore November 08, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Why 4 days when WHRHS only missed 3 days? Last year they added in 2 additional days by taking away February break days and then we never needed them.
John Patten (Editor) November 08, 2011 at 07:49 PM
You are correct; I have updated the article. Thank you.
april brinson-carrano November 09, 2011 at 09:48 AM
I have to agree with the Superintendent. Why is it necessary to close schools for 2 days during the school year for the convention? Why can't they have the convention during Summer months not to disrupt the the school year? Its apparent that the entitlement bell is still ringing. This is a subject that a number of parents would support if given the opportunity. The Superintendent is bringing up a subject that needs to be addressed in all districts-but has been swept under the rug for so many years. My hats off to her for trying to make a bad situation better and looking out for the students best interest-Its a shame- isn't that what this entire system is all about? The kids? The entitlement bell is still ringing it seems.
Bob November 10, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Sorry April... but you could not be more wrong. The days were scheduled way in advance. This is not just about the teachers... but also the parents and students. Many go out of town during this period... purchasing tickets and paying in advance for travel. Having the Superintendent decide at the last minute to make a change would cost people money OR undermine her goal. If enough students do not show up the days would not count. With the late announcement of this potential plan the chance they would have had enough attendance to qualify for counted days would be very small. This is in addition to the fact that she did not follow protocol when discussing contract related issues with the teachers representatives. You may not like what the rules are... but the are the rules until they are changed. And until they are changed the Superintendent needs to abide by them. This is not the first time this Superintendent has been called out for conduct that is not in keeping with the spirit of the interests of the students or the parents. Look at the parade of faculty that has been forced to resign because they did not support her personal goals over the education of or students. I, for one, applaud the faculty for bring to public light the important issue of leadership for our schools. The closer the citizens look... the less they will like what they see of the leadership of the current Superintendent.

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