Tuesday, May 26, 2015
By James Lomuscio
UPDATE As Marjorie Almansi rushed toward the front door of Westport’s Staples High School today and the cafeteria where principal candidate Shelly Somers was about to be vetted by parents, she questioned the entire review process.
“This is harsh,” she said. “I think it’s an impossible venue for any candidate to be interviewed by the public for a job when she’s not running for public office.”
Finalist Somers, principal of Greenwich’s Central Middle School, came prepared, explaining her past and bearing her soul for the penultimate judgment before the school board meets in executive session tonight to discuss her candidacy with a vote to come at a public meeting on Monday, June 1.
And she began by explaining what happened in March 1996 when she owned and operated Cornflakes Daycare Center in Granby. A child was left sleeping on the bus, while children attended a performance at the University of Hartford.
“Twenty years ago I made a mistake,” she told the more than 100 parents assembled. “I didn’t do a second head count.
“It’s still very difficult to talk about this,” Somers added, noting that no harm came to the child.
Some Staples parents had learned about the incident via Google, and it had since made the rounds.
Somers continued that “vicious and malicious events” and accusations that followed made her, a mother of four concerned about the welfare of her own children, decide to close her center she had run for 11 years.
The incident, she said, not only transformed her into a person who “dots my ‘i’s and crosses my ‘t’s, It also taught me humility.”
That sense of humility, Somers added, made her grow as an educator by listening more closely to students who felt marginalized by their own mistakes.
Several parents said they admired her candor and openness. But one woman, who had her eyes fixed on her i-phone, said that Google had suggested there was more, that her license had been taken away for five years and that she had been forced to shut down the center. Somers said that was untrue.
Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon jumped to Somers’ defense, saying that Greenwich school officials and their attorneys did their own research and “none of that is true, and it had no impact on her certification.”
Most parent’s questions, however, focused on the future and what Somers would bring to Staples.
“What did you do that had endeared you so much?” one mother asked about Somers being named Connecticut Middle School Principal of the year for 2014-15.
“I set out to change the culture,” Somers replied, noting that she is a student advocate who changed programs or implemented new ones.
Regarding the common core curriculum, Somers said she supports it because it allows student to get beyond the facts to sort through information, “to scrutinize what they are reading.”
Somers also displayed that she is no proponent of standardized tests, saying they increase stress among young people. When one man asked if Somers thought it would be a good idea to incorporate an SAT prep course into the curriculum, she said no.
“I would hope that the course work would be preparation enough,” Somers said.
When asked about her vision for Staples, Somers said it was too early. She said she would have to explore it with students, parents, teachers and staff.
One father asked how being a middle school teacher would prepare her for a job as a high school principal.
“I’m an educator,” Somers responded. “I taught every grade, and I am prepared.”
Prior to joining Greenwich in 2010, Somers served as head of school of arts, communication and technology at Beaufort High School in Beaufort, S.C. from 2006 to 2009. She was also assistant principal of Hilton Head High School in Hilton head, S.C. from 2003 to 2005.
Somers was selected as the finalist’s for the Staples job following a six-month search started in December when current Principal John Dodig announced he would be retiring at the end of the school year.
Posted 05/26/15 at 12:12 PM Permalink
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In addition to a meeting with parents, is there a forum for current/former Staples students and current Staples teachers to meet the candidate and/or weigh in on the Board of Ed decision? Current students and teachers are the two groups whose input on this decision seems most important!