SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The teachers of South Kingstown believe the district is in danger of falling backwards, becoming less high performing and losing its respect in the state. They expressed that fear seven weeks ago on Aug. 30 with a vote of no confidence against the leadership of their boss, blaming the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kristen Stringfellow for their worries.
NEASK President Christine Heid and her leadership team, including NEASK Vice President John Madison and the new NEARI Uni serve, Jay Walsh met with Stringfellow and her administrative team, Director of Business Administration John Ritchotte and Assistant Superintendent Mary Kelley Tuesday afternoon during the weekly district meeting to finally discuss what has gotten teachers so upset. The meeting was originally planned for last Tuesday, Oct. 4, but due to time constraints, it was postponed.
After hearing the teachers out, Stringfellow hopes to develop a better working relationship with her faculty. Stringfellow suggested a weekly Tuesday meeting going forward between the two leadership teams to discuss district concerns.
“We discussed ideas to move forward and to prioritize our focus on teaching and learning. I view these conversations as an opportunity to get a better understanding of what led to the vote and to map out a plan to support our teachers,” Stringfellow said.
In a letter to the superintendent, teachers highlighted several educational concerns. A major grinding point is the teacher’s view of Stringfellow’s communication skills, an issue that has embroiled the two sides since they met at the bargaining table months ago to mead out the 2011 to 2014 collective bargaining agreement, which includes a salary freeze, a graduated health insurance contribution up to 20 percent and $755,000 in economic concessions from the teachers. The contract concluded months of contentious negotiations that led to both the school committee and union to file court actions that have since been withdrawn.
“You have created an atmosphere of mistrust and misinformation that hinders the growth of teachers and our students,” NEASK members stated in a letter to the superintendent. “It has become increasingly clear over the past two years that the line of communication between you, the school committee and the teaching staff, was limited, at best. You have provided erroneous information and withheld information from us.”
“We certainly don’t have a good working relationship,” Heid said. “She’s allowed herself to be drawn in other directions. She came on board during a time when unusual expectations were coming down from the state including Race to the Top and RIDE initiatives. I think her complete support for those programs have put her at odds with her faculty.”
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