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Some Greenwich residents unhappy with choice of new superintendent

January 21, 2019

GREENWICH — After the Board of Education went outside the town to hire a new school leader, many residents expressed dismay that Greenwich native Ralph Mayo, the interim superintendent, did not get the job.

The school board announced Friday it had hired Toni Jones, the current superintendent of the Fairfield Public Schools, for the top job in Greenwich.

Some residents took to social media over the weekend to express their disappointment in the decision, their frustration with the board and their solidarity with Mayo, who will be helping Jones transition into her new role later this year.

Old Greenwich resident Suzanne Sullivan took to Nextdoor to express her dismay that the former principal of Eastern Middle School was not chosen.

“This was a rare opportunity that was squandered,” Sullivan said. “We feel strongly that with the revolving door of superintendents over the past 20 years, what we need right now is a dedicated leader who is passionate about our district and will stay. Ralph Mayo was the obvious choice.”

Sullivan exhorted people who felt the same way to email the board of education.

On Facebook, Lauren DeLuca called the appointment unbelievable.

“Why can’t they ever hire a qualified administrator who already works within the Greenwich Public Schools?” she asked.

Dominique Marder said she is disappointed and appalled at the board’s decision, and thanked board member Peter Sherr for “standing up for what is right.” Sherr was the only school board member to vote against hiring Jones.

“We have chosen yet another candidate outside our community and pushed aside a fantastic administrator and educator,” she wrote. “My only hope is we don’t lose a fabulous educator!”

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

Last June, the school board voted unanimously to appoint Mayo, who has been a student, teacher and administrator in the Greenwich schools, to be the interim superintendent. He replaced Jill Gildea, who announced her resignation in May to take a job in Utah, after serving less than a year as superintendent.

Lindy Urso connected the controversial appointment with the last-minute scheduling of the meeting to make the announcement.

“The board basically admitted that that were making a decision contrary to the wishes of we residents by announcing this decision at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend,” said Urso, who also wrote a letter to the editor supporting Mayo before the decision was made.

Stefanie Lacoff asked for more parent input on decisions for the school district, such as selecting a superintendent.

“Parents should be able to vote on issues that affect our kids rather than only seven people who constantly misrepresent us,” she wrote. “Give the people what they want!”

Jeffrey Medina shared his experiences as a student at Greenwich High School while Mayo worked there to demonstrate Mayo’s qualifications for the job.

Medina, who moved to Greenwich as a sophomore in high school, knew no one in town. It was his first public school experience, and he struggled with his newfound sense of freedom. He said that he became friends with the first kids who paid attention to him, but they were not good influences. He skipped classes and never worked.

“I could have been thrown out of school many, many times because I was mad and depressed,” Medina said. “Mr. Mayo gave me chance after chance and never gave up on me. He was the reason I graduated, and was able to go to college, graduated with a degree in finance and on Dean’s List.”

Medina said he turned his life around, became a successful person who contributed to his town, got a good job and started a family.

“None of that would have happened if it weren’t for Mr. Mayo and the countless chances he gave me,” he said. “Whenever I see him I remind him of the difference he made in my life. I will forever be grateful to him.”

Mayo, who previously served as Clark housemaster at Greenwich High, knows how to help kids help themselves and does not give up on them, Medina said.

“He sees the best in everyone despite what someone may have done,” he said. “There literally isn’t someone who could have done a better job than him. It’s disgraceful that his devotion, hard work, empathy, and knowledge of this town and its residents were passed in favor of someone else.”

The position of Greenwich schools superintendent has seen turnover a dozen times in the past two decades — including interim school chiefs who filled in for a year while the school board searched for a new “permanent” leader. Gildea had replaced Sal Corda, who served as the interim superintendent after William McKersie left to lead the Weston Public School District.

Jones has eight years of experience as a superintendent, two of which are in Fairfield.

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

jo.kroeker@hearstmediact.com

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