October 1, 2020

Region 4 School Board Sets Oct. 21 Meeting on High School Principal Issue

REGION 4— Acting in response to a petition signed by more than 150 residents, the Region 4 Board of Education has scheduled an Oct. 21 special meeting on district personnel policies amid continued speculation about the possible dismissal of newly hired Valley Regional High School Principal Eric Rice.

The petition that was circulated in Chester, Deep River, and Essex asks the school board to hold a public meeting to clarify district personnel policy, particularly the process used in hiring or firing certified staff, such as a principal. State statutes governing regional school districts allow residents to petition for a district meeting, and require the school board to hold the meeting if a petition is signed by at least 50 registered voters from each town. The petitions submitted on Oct. 1 to Deep River Town Clerk Amy Winchell were signed by about 185 voters, including 57 from Deep River, 52 from Chester, and 76 from Essex.

Circulators of the petition are residents concerned about the possible dismissal of Eric Rice, a Chester resident who was hired over the summer as principal at the high school. Reports that Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy had told Rice to resign or face dismissal surfaced around Sept. 23, but Rice has remained on the job in succeeding days with no move by the superintendent for his removal.

The school district issued an “official statement” on Sept. 24, declaring that school officials and board members could not comment on the situation because the nine-member elected board would be required to serve as an impartial panel if Rice seeks a full public hearing on any possible dismissal.

The Oct. 21 meeting, set for 7 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River, was announced Thursday as about 30 residents hoping to comment on the principal situation turned out for a  scheduled meeting of the Supervision District Board of Education.

Christine Daniels, chairwoman of the supervision district board that includes members of the Region 4 school board and the three local elementary school boards, told the group the meeting agenda was focused on a study of full day kindergarten. But Linda Hall, chairwoman of the Region 4 board, confirmed the Oct. 21 special meeting would be held in response to the petition.

Hall could not be reached Friday for further comment on how the Oct. 21 meeting would be conducted if board members are not allowed to discuss the high school principal matter.