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Greenwich schools name new superintendent amid historic dissension

January 18, 2019

GREENWICH — Greenwich Public Schools announced the appointment Friday of Toni Jones of Fairfield to be the next superintendent of Greenwich schools, effective July 1.

But for the first time, the vote of the Board of Education on a new school leader was not unanimous. The outcome was 7-1, with board member Peter Sherr dissenting.

Jones is currently the superintendent of the Fairfield Public Schools and will be the 14th superintendent to lead Greenwich in the last 20 years. She has eight years of experience as a superintendent, two of which she spent in Fairfield.

“She has successfully initiated personalized, digital and virtual learning strategies in the districts she has led,” Greenwich school board Chair Peter Bernstein said. “She is well acclimated to Connecticut, and understands the value of open dialogue and involvement with and from the community.”

Her starting salary will be $236,640 a year, plus benefits, as part of a three-year contract.

Interim Superintendent Ralph Mayo will continue in his role for the rest of the school year.

“The Board of Education would like to thank Interim Superintendent of Schools Ralph Mayo for his unyielding commitment to the Greenwich Public Schools and his steady leadership this year,” Bernstein said. “We look forward to him continuing as a senior leader in the school system thereafter.”

Mayo, a Greenwich native who had been the principal at Eastern Middle School, took over the post last summer after the unexpected resignation of Jill Gildea after less than a year on the job.

The board is making a mistake in not appointing Mayo, Sherr said.

“We have a great superintendent who is making tremendous progress, but my colleagues have decided to hit the reset button yet again,” he said. “Meanwhile, we are telling every principal and administrator who aspires to be superintendent or cabinet that you have no future here in Greenwich.”

Sherr pledged to support Jones, but he said the decision begs the question whether the school board has learned anything from the last five times a superintendent was hired.

“We obviously have different visions of the future of GPS and while we value the stability that Ralph has brought to the district in this year of transition, we continue to look to the future,” Bernstein said. “Mr Mayo woill still be a part of our leadership and will still share his calmness and knowledge while we bring in Jones to drive forward student growth, achievement and personal-interpersonal skills.”

The national average retention rate for superintendents is three years, with urban districts holding superintendents for an average of two years, according to Superintendent Search Committee Chair Kathleen Stowe.

The search for a new superintendent was essentially free, with the board covering minimal costs, Director of Communications for Public Schools Kim Eves said. The committee footed the search bill because Gildea stayed for less than a year, she said.

Ray and Associates — the company that the district has previously used to conduct searches — pooled together candidates from across the country, including many in Connecticut.

“The quantity and quality of the candidates demonstrated the strong brand of the Greenwich Public Schools and, ultimately, made for a very difficult decision,” Stowe said. “Dr. Jones stood out for her positive attitude, forward thinking approach, proven success in comparable districts, and the value she places on community involvement.”

Jones had leadership experience in Australia, Oklahoma and northern Virginia, in both private and public schools, before settling in Connecticut.

In Falls Church, Va., she pushed the focus to personalized learning for more than five years, and instituted “hybrid learning” which allowed for 24/7 access to curriculum and courses 365 days a year.

In Fairfield, she led advancements in technology and implemented programming focused on social and emotional support for all students.

Jones has managed many construction projects, both planned and unanticipated.

Philip Dwyer, a Fairfield Board of Education member, said he will miss Jones, but wishes her well.

“She achieved the board goals set for her, managed the district well and was especially good at communicating with parents and the school staff,” Dwyer said. “Fairfield has an excellent school system. However, Dr. Jones challenged us to constantly find new ways to improve our programs.”

Jones is married with two adult children. Her husband, John Jones, is a science teacher at Greenwich High School.

Jones is excited to have her family work and live in the same corner of Connecticut, “in such a beautiful and vibrant place.”

Jones signed a three-year agreement through June 30, 2022. Her starting salary is $236,640 for 2019-20, up for negotiation after that. She will receive $30,600 a year in annuities.

She will also receive a retention bonus of $50,000 should she still be employed and in good standing in July 2024. That is a first in Greenwich education, but is common in the corporate world, Stowe said.

She will also receive a $3,000 a month housing allowance, provided she lives in Greenwich.

Gildea left to take the superintendent job in Park City, Utah, after her family relocated there. Her annual salary in Greenwich was $250,000, along with a $15,000 annuity and a $3,500-per-month housing allowance.

jo.kroeker@hearstmediact.com

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