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7 Principals Retiring

by Melissa Bailey | Jan 15, 2013 9:03 am

(24) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools

Melissa Bailey File Photo Three years after reluctantly taking the helm of the city’s largest high school, Principal Peggy Moore will be leaving Wilbur Cross at the end of the year and a stormy tenure.

Moore (pictured) is one of seven principals, plus three top administrators, who gave the school district early warning that they plan to retire on June 30.

The school board approved their retirements at its regular meeting Monday at 54 Meadow St.

The following principals announced their departure: Moore; Barbara Chock of Bishop Woods; Lucia Paolella of Nathan Hale; Carl Babb, who leads one of two buildings of the Engineering and Science University Magnet School; Bernadette Strode of Polly T. McCabe; Ramona Gatison of Lincoln/Bassett; and John Russell of Hyde School. Three top supervisors in the school district’s central office are also leaving: Karen deFur, supervisor of world languages; Loretta King, supervisor of special education, and R. Nilda Morales, art supervisor.

Among them, the departees have given “hundreds” of years of service to the New Haven public schools, calculated schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo. They’ve spent at least half of their lives with the district, he said. He thanked them for their work and acknowledged those who attended the meeting.

According to their contract, each will receive a $10,000 bonus for announcing their upcoming retirements before a Dec. 31 deadline. The bonuses aim to give the school district time to find replacements.

News of the upcoming exodus drew onlookers to the school board Monday, when the retirements were first made public through “blue sheets” with personnel information. The school district will now look for new leaders for at least 15 percent of its 45 schools, a significant number for a single year.

More retirements may follow in the next six months. The administrators just won’t get an early notice bonus.

Moore transferred to Wilbur Cross in the summer of 2010 from Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School, where she had served as principal for 12 years. The school district had spent eight months searching for a replacement for departing Cross Principal Rose Coggins, but had struck out on a national search. Mayo asked Moore to do the job; she reluctantly agreed to the challenge.

Her years at Wilbur Cross proved controversial. She drew public outcry for disbanding a student political action club after junior Isaiah Lee led a protest in favor of more textbooks and lower administrative salaries. She later nullified the results of a student government election when Lee won the presidency, prompting an outpouring of concern from parents and alumni. After Moore’s second year as principal, Cross experienced significant staff turnover: at least 10 of the 110 classroom teachers, including a third of the English department, left the school.

In a confrontation at a public meeting, she dismissed the criticism of her leadership as “gossip.” Superintendent Mayo stuck with Moore, defending her in an opinion piece published in the Independent. The school district touted dramatic gains on tests in her first year, then saw those gains disappear the subsequent year.

Moore, who has worked for the school district for over 30 years, is the president of the administrators union. She could not be reached for comment for this story.

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posted by: markcbm on January 15, 2013  10:54am

Thanks to the retiring principals for their years of service in the NHPS! 

...And fie on the NHI for profiling only one of those seven, narrowly focusing on her final two ‘controversial’ years in a school she reluctantly but loyally chose to lead. 

Moore has been an excellent educator for many more years than her final two, but somehow, in an article that would ostensibly discuss the arc of a retiree’s career, the piece accentuates only the negative.

She must have really offended NHI staff for you to continue to beat up on her as you have done.  Seems to lend credence to her version of events, and to her depiction of the folks who wrote about them.

posted by: HhE on January 15, 2013  11:41am

It is a fundamental truism in education, that is one waits long enough, a problem will go away.  With students in a class, that wait is never longer than 180 days.  This reality is the source of a number of systemic problems in our schools.

posted by: Solsbury on January 15, 2013  3:05pm

Once again, the East Rock crowd bias shows… Cross did better under this principal (and under Coggins) than it did with its previous one. Yet, because she refused to pander to the elite crowd, she gets called names by parents and teachers, and gets celebrated in the newspaper when she leaves. She is owed a great deal by the real students and parents in this district.

posted by: RichTherrn on January 15, 2013  3:37pm

Agree with the comments, all of the retirees deserve our thanks. I wish NHI had linked to all the positive stories and accomplishments for each school and subject, (including positives for Betsy Ross and Cross under Ms.Moore), and there were many!  It’s been a pleasure and honor to work with each one of them.
-Richrd Therrien
-NHPS Science supervisor
PS:  9% turnover is not unusual for any school or district, in my experience, and is probably on the low side!

posted by: Noteworthy on January 15, 2013  7:10pm

Ms. Moore may have been a good fit somewhere in the NHPS system, but it was not at Cross. I’ll not rehash it all here, but it is and was a mess. Those who opine differently likely are seeing it through beer goggles.

posted by: HhE on January 15, 2013  8:42pm

A 9% turnover rate may not be the crisis level of 20% or greater, but it equates to about 11 years employment for each teacher.  In the private sector, this is quite normal, but in education, it is a red flag. 

I know someone has a weak argument when they need an “!”.


I’m guessing East Rock Elite is code for parents with high expectations of their children and the schools they go to.

posted by: Brutus2011 on January 15, 2013  9:58pm

I just want to know how I can get a 140K/yr job for being a cheerleader for a failing organization?

And, get a 6 figure pension to boot.

Oh, I forgot.

The organization only fails our students and teachers.

The organization is very successful for its administrators and managers.

My bad.

posted by: streever on January 15, 2013  10:01pm

@Solsbury

Why is it an “East Rock” moment when people are upset that a principal:

- publically shamed and discouraged a young student with initiative who tried to organize around not having text books?

- subverted the student run elections and prevented students from voting for their student council president?

Sorry, but we don’t need people like this around children.

posted by: RCguy on January 15, 2013  10:19pm

posted by: streever on January 15, 2013 9:01pm
(Peggy Moore)
“- publically shamed and discouraged a young student with initiative who tried to organize around not having text books?

- subverted the student run elections and prevented students from voting for their student council president?

Sorry, but we don’t need people like this around children.”

Streever: Teacher Al Meadows is equally to blame with regards to those two issues.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/cross_student_council_disbanded/

posted by: HhE on January 15, 2013  11:07pm

RCguy, Mr. Meadows may have some measure of culpability, but Ms. Moore was the principal teacher, the head master, of Cross.  The buck stops with her, or at least it ought to.

posted by: jdossgollin on January 15, 2013  11:51pm

@everyone going after Ms Moore, I was one of the students involved in that incident (for example, running the student council elections that were nullified.) Yeah it was frustrating, but to be honest, bygones are bygones and I couldn’t care less. At the end of someone’s career they should get the respect they deserve. But I think the real issue to focus on is making sure that Cross—still the biggest school in the district—gets a principal who is committed to being around for a long time, who puts students before politics, who understands the challenges that students face, and who has the skills to manage the whole building.

posted by: Speakingfromexperience on January 16, 2013  7:55am

Those of you complaining about this story, applauding Moore’s career, calling involved parents “elite”, (which, by the way, is getting really old) clearly didn’t work for this principal. If you did, you’d know first hand how little she cared about and how little she was actually involved with EDUCATING children. If you’d worked for her you’d know about being bullied and blamed and belittled. But since you didn’t, you ignorantly praise her stellar career and attempt to defend her honor. It’s so insulting to those speaking from a little more experience.

posted by: markcbm on January 16, 2013  9:57am

@Speakingfromexperience:

You are wrong.  I did work under Mrs. Moore, so I too am speaking from experience.  We just have different perspectives. 

Just because there was a minor kerfuffle or two over student democracy doesn’t mean that Mrs. Moore should be repeatedly knocked down up to her retirement and that the good work she has done gets ignored.  Even the student involved in that flap who posted here agrees.

Yes, Mrs. Moore runs a tight ship (which I think is a good thing for a place like Cross, but never mind). Yet, I’ve also seen the positive impact she’s had on students, which is something that shouldn’t get ignored just because a person or group of folks has thin skin.

So, speakingfromexperience, I would chastise you for assuming something that turned out to be totally wrong - that no poster here saying positive things worked under Mrs. Moore - but it might hurt your feelings.

posted by: Speakingfromexperience on January 16, 2013  10:15am

@markcmb

Yes, we do have different perspectives. But, no, your opinion or poster or whatever you are yammering about will NOT hurt my feelings. I care about educating kids. Not the kerfuffles.

posted by: jdossgollin on January 16, 2013  10:56am

@Markcbm:

Just to clarify, I didn’t say anything about the quality of Ms Moore’s work. I’m sure that her time at Cross was not her whole career. My point was that bashing her for things that happened in the past don’t get Cross the principle it needs moving forward, especially given that she’s retiring.

posted by: ISR on January 16, 2013  11:37am

” But I think the real issue to focus on is making sure that Cross—still the biggest school in the district—gets a principal who is committed to being around for a long time, who puts students before politics, who understands the challenges that students face, and who has the skills to manage the whole building.”

Yes. Exactly.

With the appointment of Moore’s replacement, Cross will have had—by my count—six principals in less than ten years, when it should have had one principal for that span.

The merits of those six individuals aside, a committed, involved principal with more than a brief tenure is one of the best predictors of a school’s success. I wonder if one of the reasons the so-called national search failed might be because the district, i.e., Mayo, could not tolerate an independent vision. That may have also been why a respected educator already at Cross, who was favored by the teachers, was passed over and kicked upstairs to pushing papers on a desk at Meadow Street.

I, and my kids, are tired of Cross being a waiting room for retiring principals.

posted by: ilee304 on January 16, 2013  11:43am

We should all forgive….but not forget. Moore’s behavior is an example of administrative politics overshadowing the quality of education for students. The lack of funding for academic materials such as books and computers, and the hiring of new administrators with salaries ranging far past $80,000 during a fiscal crisis certainly does not exemplify a school district in progress . And when these concerns are voiced by student’s, they are faced with intimidation tactics enforced by mayor down to principal(Moore). New Haven residents must understand that there children are vulnerable to the agenda’s of the mayor, unions, and YALE. And I hope these past 3 years have been a wake up call. And we should not belittle Moore’s achievements, but thank her for her corruption. Because she has hopefully mobilized parents to take their children’s scholastic careers into their own hands, and drive NHPS to truly put “KIDS FIRST”.

Sincerely,
Isaiah Lee ;)

posted by: streever on January 16, 2013  11:57am

@Isaiah
You are an inspiration! You rock. Thank you for taking a stand and for preaching forgiveness without forgetfulness. You have a bright future ahead of you.

posted by: ilee304 on January 16, 2013  12:21pm

@streever: Thankyou very much, i appreciate your support and the support of all New Haven parents and students.

posted by: markcbm on January 16, 2013  12:49pm

Everyone is entitled to their perspectives.  I’m not saying they are baseless, just that only one side was presented in the article above. 

My point is simple: an article titled “7 Principals Retiring” that goes on to focus only on the final two years of one principal is lopsided and lazy (sorry NHI, I appreciate your work, I’m just saying).

My sub-points were:

1) @jdg#8 seemed to also think the article was lopsided (apologies if I misinterpreted your words)

2) it’s poor form to assume that I do not speak from experience or that my opinion is ill informed simply because you disagree with it.

Make no mistake, we’re all for the kids.  We may go about in different ways and differ in our opinions on how others go about helping kids, but the greater point is that anyone who dedicates their career to helping kids at the very least deserves recognition of any good work alongside any merited criticism.  And I should hope that even Mrs. Moore’s most ardent detractors would feel similarly, lest they too be judged.

posted by: Speakingfromexperience on January 16, 2013  1:19pm

” but the greater point is that anyone who dedicates their career to helping kids at the very least deserves recognition of any good work alongside any merited criticism.  And I should hope that even Mrs. Moore’s most ardent detractors would feel similarly, lest they too be judged.”

I agree. Perhaps there were years of good work in her career. I did not witness them, but they should be recognized alongside the bad. And I am sure we ARE all judged throughout our careers. No “lest we” about it. The fact remains, Cross is a dumping ground for admins on the way out. It is a special place and its students deserve a dynamic, visionary leader who LIKES kids and respects learning. Peggy Moore did not fit that description. I don’t care who worked where. Period.

posted by: markcbm on January 16, 2013  2:59pm

@speakingfromexperience

That’s fair! :)

posted by: Jacques Strap on January 17, 2013  12:15pm

Isaiah makes the best point here.

We should not get caught up in the careers these outgoing principals had.  We must focus on the very real problems Isaiah has highlighted both here and in past efforts.  Isaiah speaks the truth.

Nobody with any “juice” in New Haven, or the state for that matter, seems to question why New Haven needs so many administrators making incredulous money when so many of its schools are in dire need of personnel and supplies.

Looking at other cities and saying, “Well, New Haven is better off than others” is not good enough.  IF New Haven truly wants to put “Kids First” and be the best urban school district in the country, as Mayo and DeStefano claim, then they would do everything in their power to CUT THE FAT and put money where it really belongs ... into the schools.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on January 17, 2013  1:31pm

Isaiah,

I am proud that your last name is Lee.

Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee
Immanuel Baptist Church
New Haven

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