August 14, 2022

Valley Regional High School Principal Remains on Job as School Board Awaits Next Step

REGION 4— Eric Rice remained on the job as principal at Valley Regional High School Friday as members of the Region 4 Board of Education await the next step in the event he is dismissed from the position by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy.

Unconfirmed accounts through the week had indicated Rice, a Chester resident who was hired over the summer, had been given an ultimatum by Levy to resign by Friday or face dismissal.  Levy, Region 4 superintendent since June 2009, had refused any comment on the situation Thursday.

But Eileen Steinfeldt, a friend of Rice’s family who organized a support rally outside the district’s administrative offices Thursday, said she had been told that Rice went to work Friday, a scheduled professional development day with students not scheduled to attend classes.

Steinfeldt added that she has been told that Rice has retained an attorney who has been in contact with attorneys for the school district. She did not know the name of the lawyer.

Rice, who left a job as principal of a Hartford magnet school to take the position at Valley Regional High School, had been on the job working with students and teachers for about three weeks when reports surfaced of his possible dismissal. Rice is the son-in-law of Region 4 board member Richard Strauss of Chester.

Strauss said late Thursday he could not comment on the situation, and was not sure if Rice had retained a lawyer. Strauss had recused himself from votes on Rice’s hiring in July, and would not participate in any possible future proceedings involving Rice.

Region 4 board Chairwoman Linda Hall of Deep River said Friday the possibility that Rice could seek a formal public hearing on any move by Levy for his dismissal would prevent her and other board members from obtaining detailed information on any possible reasons for a dismissal action.

Hall said if Levy acts to dismiss Rice “the board must be prepared to act as an impartial jury” for any possible dismissal hearing. “I have to make sure the board is not tainted and can provide fairness and due process for all parties concerned,” she said.

Hall said around mid-day Friday she has no immediate plans to call a special board meeting on the principal controversy. “As of right now no action has been taken,” she said. The Region 4 board’s next regular meeting is on Oct. 7.

Hall added that if or when the superintendent moves to dismiss Rice, the district would issue a news release announcing appointment of an interim principal for the high school. 

Rice is the third principal for the high school since September 2006, succeeding Ian Nevaiser, an Essex resident who held the job for two years before he was named as the district’s assistant superintendent in June. Donald Gates, the retired long-time principal at Portland High School, had served as interim principal at VRHS for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years.

Related Stories:

Parents and Students Protest Move to Dismiss Valley Regional High School Principal

Protest Planned Against VRHS Principal’s Dismissal

Region 4 Hires New Principal, Two Other Positions