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SHS Principal Named Interim Supt; Search Suspended Until March

The search for a permanent superintendent has been put on hold.

The Stratford Board of Education voted Thursday night to temporarily suspend its search for a superintendent to fill the role soon to be vacated at year's end by departing Supt. Irene Cornish.

Time right now needs to be spent reviewing the district's emergency plans and procedures in the wake of the Newtown elementary school shooting, says BOE Chairman Gavin Forrester.

"Combine that with the fact that currently every district in our state is actively involved in their budget process and it became clear to the board that our best course of action would be to suspend our search and name an acting superintendent for the balance of this school year and to resume our deliberations in late March and early April," Forrester said in a release (scroll down).

Stratford High School Principal Margaret Lasek will serve as interim superintendent upon the formal retirement of Cornish on Jan. 1, and will remain in that role until a permanent replacement is named prior to July 1, 2013, he said.

--

By Gavin Forrester

Let me take a brief moment and outline the history and process by which we have arrived at our decision today.

Upon the notification of the retirement of our current Superintendent, Dr. Irene Cornish, the Board requested proposals from search consultants and agreed in the early summer to contract with the representatives of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE).

A search committee was appointed and the summer was spent developing a district profile for potential candidates, conducting focus groups and surveys to solicit input from the public on those qualities the community was looking for in our next district leader, and culminated with our posting for the position in late summer.

The Board received nearly 20 applicants from not only here in Connecticut but also New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. After reviewing the applicants we then conducted several interviews with potential candidates and reduced the number to a final group of three individuals in early December.

As fate would have it the unimaginable tragedy then occurred in Newtown before we could name our new Superintendent and it became clear that everyone involved in the education community needed to focus solely upon reviewing our emergency plans and procedures, not only here in Stratford which we are actively doing with the assistance of the Mayor and his staff, but in every district in Connecticut as well.

Combine that with the fact that currently every district in our State is actively involved in their budget process and it became clear to the Board that our best course of action would be to suspend our search and name an acting Superintendent for the balance of this school year and to resume our deliberations in late March and early April when districts will have had more time to reflect upon the events of the past few weeks and much of their budget work will be behind them.

To that end we immediately began discussions on who we felt would be the most experienced person within our district to direct us for the balance of the school year without causing a major shift of personnel and resources throughout the district.

It came to mind that we have such a person within our mists and in fact Dr. Cornish’s eluted to her during her remarks at the ceremony to honor her upon her retirement when she mentioned how this person was so valuable to her during her early years as Superintendent here in Stratford.

With that being said the Stratford Board of Education voted this evening to appoint Stratford High School Principal Margaret Lasek as interim superintendent upon the formal retirement of Dr. Irene Cornish on Jan 1., 2013.

Mrs. Lasek has served the district for 41-plus years, and has been a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels here in Stratford. The board's decision is based on her extensive knowledge of the district, her experience in assisting with the operation of the district under Superintendent Cornish prior to the establishment of the assistant superintendent position, and the desire to minimize the disruption to the districts leadership.

Until a permanent replacement can be named for Mrs. Lasek as principal at Stratford High School the building will be lead by Mr. Joseph Corso, one of the current Assistant Principals at Stratford High School.

Mrs. Lasek will continue as the interim superintendent until a permanent superintendent is named prior to July 1, 2013, after which, she will be assigned to assist the new Superintendent acclimate to our district.

The Assistant Supt. Elaine Watson will continue in that role to ensure the district’s progress and development in the areas of preparation for new State of Connecticut Department of Education standards to include Common Core, Teacher/Administrator Evaluations, Curriculum review and development as well as her many other areas of expertise all of which will allow the district’s programs to move forward in an uninterrupted manner.

Assistant Supt. Watson has displayed outstanding achievement in the past in these vital areas and we look forward to her continued work to improve our district going forward.

Lastly the Board and District will also have the opportunity to work on a consulting basis with Dr. Jackie Jacoby who has been instrumental with our search for a new Superintendent. Dr. Jacoby began her career in education as a classroom teacher and quickly moved to a variety of both line and staff positions in public and private education.

She completed her doctorate at Boston College and served as both an energetic and creative suburban superintendent in Glastonbury, CT for a period of 11 years. This was followed serving as the interim urban Superintendent of Hartford CT, along the way she served as Chair/Professor of Education at a private university in Connecticut and taught leadership courses at the University of Connecticut.

Jacoby is a champion of selecting talent and has promoted a program of recruitment and retention in the districts where she has been an educational leader. Evidence of success is the team of administrators selected by the board of education in a suburban community, all of whom were hired and coached by Dr. Jacoby. She has continued in this effort by mentoring for over five years with Connecticut superintendents new to their positions.

The Board feels confident that we have a solid leadership team that will lead us through these difficult challenges and provide a solid bridge between the leadership of Dr. Cornish until a new permanent Superintendent is appointed in 2013.

Matt December 29, 2012 at 12:52 AM
How sad and pathetic that the board had a full year to do this and has failed. In her letter announcing her "retirement" in Dec. instead of last June Mrs. Cornish stated that she would be able to complete the budget planning for the year...now Mr Forrester you are saying this is one of the major reasons for not hiring a permanent superintendent at this time. As a BOE you should have thanked Mrs Cornish for her service and asked her to leave back in June and we could have had qualified person in place, as anyone knows you have a better pool of candidates for a July start than a January start. Now we will have another interim (as Mrs. Cornish has been for the past several years as she has double dipped, collecting her state retirement, a salary from Stratford and an annuity from Stratford. For an award winning board this is poor decision making and planning. Unless of course this was the plan all along which wouldn't necessarily be a surprise either. While I have no problem with Mrs. Lasek, the public's involvement has been minimal in this process and I am sure it will continue that way.
Chris Stevens December 29, 2012 at 03:34 PM
The new superintendent has been found, due to the tradegedy in Newtown she won't be introduced until everything quiets down........just my opinion
Tricia December 30, 2012 at 01:03 AM
No better choice than Margaret Lasek!!
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 30, 2012 at 02:41 AM
No better choice than Lasek? Teachers as SHS feel differently!!!
Beetle Bailey December 30, 2012 at 02:25 PM
How much money and time was wasted on another ridiculous "Nationwide Search" when I'm sure there were several qualified people within the system already? Maybe they didn't have enough "political connections" to get the job. Just saying.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I'll put my money on Matt's comment above, that another interim superintendent was the plan all along. As many Stratford residents know, Cornish has controlled the BOE to no lesser degree than a puppeteer manipulates a puppet. Cornish and Lasek may as well be joined at the hip. Since Cornish's arrival, both of them have worked secretly to keep various embarrassing incidents occurring at SHS from the BOE and the media. Cornish encouraged and covered for Lasek as she systematically demoralized SHS teachers and staff, which included blatant harassment and allegations of incompetence against veteran teachers for the sole purpose of securing their resignations under extreme duress and the implied threat of causing irreparable damage to their professional and personal reputations. Why would they do such reprehensible things to teachers and administrators who were/are clearly not incompetent? The answer is simple. Get rid of one veteran teacher at or near the top of the salary scale, and you have enough money to hire three new teachers just out of college, or, hire one new teacher, save the town $60,000 +/- and be viewed as budgetary geniuses by the BOE. Lasek has done this repeatedly at SHS and Cornish gets kudos from the BOE for the savings.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 30, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I'll put my money on Matt's comment above, that another interim superintendent was the plan all along. As many Stratford residents know, Cornish has controlled the BOE to no lesser degree than a puppeteer manipulates a puppet. Cornish and Lasek may as well be joined at the hip. Since Cornish's arrival, both of them have worked secretly to keep various embarrassing incidents occurring at SHS from the BOE and the media. Cornish encouraged and covered for Lasek as she systematically demoralized SHS teachers and staff, which included blatant harassment and allegations of incompetence against veteran teachers for the sole purpose of securing their resignations under extreme duress and the implied threat of causing irreparable damage to their professional and personal reputations. Why would they do such reprehensible things to teachers and administrators who were/are clearly not incompetent? The answer is simple. Get rid of one veteran teacher at or near the top of the salary scale, and you have enough money to hire three new teachers just out of college, or, hire one new teacher, save the town $60,000 +/- and be viewed as budgetary geniuses by the BOE. Lasek has done this repeatedly at SHS and Cornish received kudos from the BOE for the savings.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 30, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I'll put my money on Matt's comment above, that another interim superintendent was the plan all along. As many Stratford residents know, Cornish has controlled the BOE to no lesser degree than a puppeteer manipulates a puppet. Cornish and Lasek may as well be joined at the hip. Since Cornish's arrival, both of them have worked secretly to keep various embarrassing incidents occurring at SHS from the BOE and the media. Cornish encouraged and covered for Lasek as she systematically demoralized SHS teachers and staff, which included blatant harassment and allegations of incompetence against veteran teachers for the sole purpose of securing their resignations under extreme duress and the implied threat of causing irreparable damage to their professional and personal reputations. Why would they do such reprehensible things to teachers and administrators who were/are clearly not incompetent? The answer is simple. Get rid of one veteran teacher at or near the top of the salary scale, and you have enough money to hire three new teachers just out of college, or, hire one new teacher, save the town $60,000 +/- and be viewed as budgetary geniuses by the BOE. Lasek has done this repeatedly at SHS and Cornish received kudos from the BOE for the savings.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 30, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Lasek has done much dirty work for Cornish and is now receiving payback via the interim superintendent appointment. Dr. Orr, Principal of Bunnell is eminently more qualified for the interim superintendent position than Lasek, but Dr. Orr's moral and ethical compass would not permit him to participate in Cornish's covert and nefarious agendas. Hence, Lasek's past appointment as lead principal and consequently Dr. Orr's relegation to second- class status. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 30, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Please don’t shoot the messenger, but Mrs. Cornish has bamboozled Stratford taxpayers and the BOE for too long. A clear and current example is Mr. Gavin Forrester’s statement that Mrs. Lasek will continue as the interim superintendent until a permanent superintendent is named prior to July 1, 2013, after which, she will be assigned to assist the new Superintendent acclimate to our district. First, if the BOE is capable and successful in identifying and hiring an experienced high caliber educator to replace Mrs. Cornish, this individual will not need Mrs. Lasek’s assistance to acclimate to the Stratford School District. Furthermore, the assistant superintendent is not so over worked as to be unavailable to advise a new superintendent if necessary. Finally, and most importantly, the last thing Stratford parents, students, and teachers need is the risk of Margaret Lasek advising a new superintendent that their success in Stratford requires that they adopt the Cornish Era management style of threat and intimidation. Stratford’s next superintendent must be fully confident that their success is not dependent upon perpetuating the hostility, disillusionment, and reprehensible disregard for professional standards and ethics that characterized Mrs. Cornish’s tenure as superintendent.
Tricia December 30, 2012 at 11:53 PM
"teachers at SHS feel differently!!!" Im sure you do!
Walt December 31, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I think it should be "midsts" and "alluded" Gavin.
Matt December 31, 2012 at 05:59 PM
After reading Mr. Forrester's release again, I have more questions and sadly suspicions. So are we now conducting two searches? One for a permanent super and one for a permanent replacement for Mrs. Lasek??? Does this mean Mrs. Lasek will have a permanent position at central office once the elusive permanent super is found? If so what will be her title and where is the funding coming from? Or are we just waiting for Mrs. Lasek to finish some course work to get her 093 certification so she can become an official superintendent? If that is the case why are we still spending consulting money on Mrs. Jacoby. BIggest question of all, where is all the cash we are spending on these political shenanigans coming from? I can just see it now...come June, the love fest with Cornish will continue when CHairman Forrester names her Superintendent Emiterus from her condo in Mexico. Stratford politics at its best...sad but par for the course.
Chris Stevens December 31, 2012 at 10:51 PM
The replacement has been found, due to the untimely events of the Newtown tradgedy she will not be named now.......
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES January 01, 2013 at 08:07 AM
HAS ANYONE NOTICED THAT ALMOST EVERY MONTH THE BOE AGENDA CONTAINS MULTIPLE PROFESSIONAL STAFF RESIGNATIONS, THE MAJORITY OF WHICH ARE FROM THE MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLS. MONTH AFTER MONTH, THE BOE PERSONNEL COMMITTEE SEES NUMEROUS RESIGNATIONS AND NEVER QUESTIONS WHY SO MANY DEDICATED AND CAPABLE PROFESSIONALS ARE LEAVING AT SUCH ODD TIMES OF THE SCHOOL YEAR(S). ONE WOULD THINK THAT MEMBERS OF THE PERSONNEL COMMITTEE WOULD HAVE ENOUGH SENSE TO ESTABLISH A PRE-RESIGNATION AND/OR EXIT INTERVIEW PROCESS. MR. CARBONE WOULD CERTAINLY OPPOSE SUCH A PROCESS BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE ADMINISTRATIVE DIRTY LAUNDRY ASSOCIATED WITH ALL BUT A FEW. CURIOUSLY, THE TEACHERS UNION LEADERSHIP REMAINS SILENT AS SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS OF RESIGNATIONS OCCUR EACH YEAR. AGAIN, THESE ARE RESIGNATIONS, NOT NORMAL RETIREMENT SEPARATIONS. SINCE MRS. LANCE BECAME PRESIDENT OF THE TEACHERS UNION, SHE AND THE OTHER OFFICERS HAVE BECOME NOTHING MORE THAN ENFORCERS FOR MRS. CORNISH AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS. TEACHERS PAY UNION DUES FOR THE RIGHT AND EXPECTATION OF AGGRESSIVE SUPPORT SHOULD A SITUATION ARISE THAT MIGHT THREATEN THEIR POSITION. SADLY, STRATFORD TEACHERS RARELY RECEIVE ANY EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY FROM THEIR UNION OFFICERS. THE POINT HERE IS THAT THE BOE AND SUPERINTENDENT ARE NOT GENUINELY COMMITTED TO PROGRESSIVELY HIGHER STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT WHEN THEY PLACE NO PRIORITY AND MAKE NO SUBSTANTIVE EFFORT TO RECRUIT AND RETAIN EXCEPTIONAL TEACHERS.
Matt January 01, 2013 at 03:58 PM
So if I am reading Chris Stevens's comment correctly, our next superintendent is someone who didn't have her contract renewed in her current district and left the district she was in previously in a complete shambles.
Baffled Resident January 01, 2013 at 11:53 PM
http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Newtown-superintendent-s-contract-won-t-be-3682625.php
Jon Doe January 02, 2013 at 08:25 AM
I agree, Dr. Orr is an exceptional leader who in my experience is 100% above board, highly ethical, and a tremendously effective and creative problem solver. He is a gifted diplomat who looks for a win win solution when possible. He would be a wonderful addition to the downtown office.
Chris Stevens January 03, 2013 at 12:25 AM
She's coming from another town, just poor timing due to unfortunate circumstances......
Patricia Clark Sperling January 04, 2013 at 02:21 PM
I have actually heard some very complimentary things about Mrs. Lasek in just the few days she has been at the BOE, and her approach has been that of respect. What I was told made me think of her as a breath of fresh air and I'm hopeful that that will be the case for the remainder of the school year. One of my hopes for whomever is ultimately seated as Superintendent is that some of the “old school” ways of past Superintendent Ray O’Connell come back in to play. Unfortunately, Irene Cornish was not a “people person” and did not treat all employees with respect and that has trickled down the chain at East Broadway. As around and you’ll get a sense that it’s more of a dictatorship than a team environment. A couple others should be putting in their resignation papers there as well. As for Gavin Forrester’s statement – typical political mumbo jumbo. Gavin drinks the kool-aid. Never thought that would happen, and I’m sad that it has, but I guess when you’re in Town politics as long as he has been it doesn’t matter if you’re on the Town side or BOE side – the kool-aid is all the same.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES January 05, 2013 at 09:12 PM
The entire BOE drinks the Kool Aid, the perfect euphemism for accepting without question and approving whatever the superintendent's office submits to the members prior to each monthly board meeting. Our elected BOE members do not have the time, formal education or experience in public education essential to evaluate the decisions and performance of a superintendent and subordinate administrators. Any BOE lacking the specialized knowledge required to fairly asses the performance and suitability for retention of a superintendent is likely to make costly and harmful decisions, as demonstrated by the retention of Mrs. Cornish for ten years. Leadership skills and style, exceptional interpersonal skills, and key elements of character (Respect, Honesty, Caring, and Fairness) define the effective public school superintendent. The BOE knows this and therefore should have terminated Mrs. Cornish years ago.

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