Palmer out as superintendent, Buono named acting schools chief

April 9, 2019

WESTPORT — Superintendent Colleen Palmer will not return to Westport Public Schools, Board of Education Chair Mark Mathias said at Monday’s education board meeting.

“Transitions are inevitable,” Mathias said, announcing Palmer will be out on medical leave until the start of her retirement from Westport schools on August 1.

In Palmer’s place, the BOE appointed Anthony Buono, currently Assistant Superintendent, to the position of Acting Superintendent of Schools while the BOE conducts a search for an interim superintendent to lead the district.

In the month since Palmer announced her resignation information came out about the alleged turmoil in the district over which Palmer presided. A survey released a few days before Palmer announced her resignation shows widespread discontent, distrust and concern among Westport school administrators.

The night before the announcement, the Westport Parent Teacher Association sent a letter to the education board calling for a “third-party independent investigation” into the workplace culture of town schools.

Palmer did not return to the district after she told administrators she would be away due to a “family emergency” on March 22, at which time Buono took charge, although his title as Acting Superintendent was not solidified until Monday’s meeting.

In leaving Westport, Palmer concludes a 35-year career in the education sector in Connecticut, which included time as principal of Simsbury High School, Hamden High School and Nonnewaug High School.

Palmer was named Superintendent of the Year by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents in 2016, but has had a difficult tenure in Westport.

For the past two years, Palmer sparred with town’s Board of Finance over the education budget, and this year faced significant criticism from parents who said Palmer poorly handled the closing of Coleytown Middle School due to issues with mold.

Acting Superintendent Buono came to Westport last July to serve as the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, and before that worked as the associate superintendent for Branford Public Schools.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1