REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of education will consider a statement supporting the performance of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Levy at its regular meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the library/media center at John Winthrop Middle School.
Levy, who assumed the district’s top job in June 2009 after two years as assistant superintendent, has been a focus of some controversy over the past six months following the abrupt departure in October of Eric Rice from the principal job at Valley Regional High School. Rice, a Chester resident who was hired for the principal job last summer, resigned amid reports he had been given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum from Levy in September, less than three weeks after the start of the current school year. Neither Levy or Rice has commented on the reasons for the departure.
The situation involving Rice sparked a suppot rally by some students and district residents that was followed by claims that school administrators had imposed a “gag order” that threatened students with discipline if they attempted to discuss or ask questions about the situation involving the principal. The school board in November retained Madison lawyer Stacey Lafferty to investigate the reports of a gag order.
Lafferty’s investigation that was completed in about a week concluded there was no evidence to support the claims that a gag order was issued or sanctioned by district Central Office sadministrators, and no evidence that “faculty or students’ First Amendment rights were suppressed or violated.” But the investigation report confirmed that one high school senior, a student of Laotian descent form Essex, had received a ten-day suspension for printing information about the Sept. 23 rally on a school computer, and distributing the printed material to other students at the school.
The suspension led the student’s parents and Essex resident Susan Magaziner to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Civil Rights requesting an investigation of alleged discrimination. Department officials confirmed in late January that an investigation of the complaint against Levy and other district officials, including acting high school Principal Kristina Martineau, would be conducted in the coming weeks.
The resolution on the board’s meeting agenda declares “the Region 4 Board of Education formally and publicly acknowledges the ongoing leadership and professionalism displayed by Superintendent Ruth Levy during the 2010-2011 academic year. Given the many challenges and distrations that have emerged during this school year, Dr. Levy has remained steadfast in her commitment to the education and well being of the students of Region 4.”
“Dr. Ruth Levy has proven herself to be a very strong administrator, educator, and leader and continues to work tirelessly to make Region 4 an even stronger district,” the statement concludes. The proposed statement of support followes a closed session evaluation of Levy’s performance that was conducted in recent weeks by the Region 4 board and the local school boards of the district towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex.