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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Staples Principal Finalist Withdraws From Consideration Image
Shelly Somers (at Tuesday meeting): “I realized how important Central and Greenwich are to me.” Dave Matlow for

UPDATE Shelly Somers, the Greenwich middle school principal who as finalist for the Staples High School principal position met with Staples community members on Tuesday, today announced she is no longer a candidate and plans to remain in Greenwich.

Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon later confirmed Somers’s withdrawal, saying she called him Tuesday night to inform him but said she did not give a reason.

“After a long day yesterday at Staples High School, I have withdrawn my name for consideration for the principal position,” Somers said in an email to parents, which was first reported by “As I talked with the various groups of stakeholders in Westport, I realized how important Central and Greenwich are to me.

“I look forward to working to create a safe and challenging environment at Central Middle School that meets the needs of all of our students. I feel certain that in collaboration with you, my leadership team, and my teachers and staff, Central will continue to grow and to thrive.”

In her Tuesday presentation at Staples, Somers was up front in recalling that 20 years ago “I made a mistake” involving a child left sleeping on a bus. She said she learned many lessons from the experience which made her a better teacher and administrator.

The Board of Education met with Somers in executive session late Tuesday and was expected to vote on Somer’s application at its June 1 meeting.

Landon said he will begin the search for an interim Staples principal.

Somers is the second finalist to pull an application for the job. Louis Moore of Franklin Lakes, N.J. withdrew following an interview with Staples parents in March. (See WestportNow March 17, 2015)

Somers, who was named middle school principal of the year this year, had prematurely announced a week ago that she had accepted the Staples job. (See WestportNow March 20, 2015)

She and Greenwich Superintendent of Schools William S. McKersie later apologized to Landon and the Westport community for jumping the gun.

In her meeting with Staples parents in the cafeteria on Tuesday morning, Somers faced a number of questions about how a middle school principal was prepared to head a high school.

She was candid in describing the incident at a daycare center she operated involving the child left sleeping on a bus. She said she did not do a second headcount.

While no harm came to the child, she was dogged by the incident and eventually closed down her daycare center.

Some Staples parents dug up that incident on Google, and one made further comments at Tuesday’s meeting, questioning whether Somers was forced to shut down, to which she and Landon said was untrue.

“She called me late last night, and she indicated she was withdrawing,” said Landon. “She didn’t give a specific reason.”

“We’re going to go out and get interim, someone who is retired,” said Landon, adding that he would not appoint an internal person as an interim.

“I’m going to go outside, and if anybody on the inside wants to apply they might as well,” he said.

He said that the interim position would be for one year, and that he hopes to have a person in place by the start of the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“We hope for July 1; we’ll do our best,” Landon said.

The Board of Education has been searching for a Staples principal since December when Principal John Dodig announced he would be retiring at the end of the school year. Dodig came to Staples in 2004, starting out as an interim principal.

—James Lomuscio contributed reporting.


Posted 05/27/15 at 10:25 AM  Permalink


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Which is worse, a person who isn’t absolutely perfect or years of drift without leadership in place? How long did it take to get a stable Principal at Bedford Middle? I’ve yet to meet an absolutely perfect person. Doubt I ever will.

We have elected officials to vet exactly these types of questions, and while I can quibble with many of their decisions (definitely!), the people on the Board of Ed are a great bunch doing amazing things and for no monetary compensation to boot. Did this line of inquiry really have to be so public and apparently so harsh? Personally, I believe they are best handled behind scene with members of the Board to see if they were satisfied with the answers. They will most likely have the full backstory and more often than not, they will have worked through any lingering issues. For those who are so concerned, did you try this first?

Strong capable leadership takes time to mature and people stumble before they find their greatness. I can’t help but wonder if a great opportunity here has been scuttled but to avert what enemy exactly?

Posted by Kevin Green on May 27, 2015 at 04:49 PM | #

Shame on us for employing a hiring process that requires the participation of the general public.  I know of no other hiring process—notwithstanding the election of public officials—including publicly traded companies that involves this level of public vetting.  My concern is that the hiring team does not feel free to represent the community through their best collective judgments, lest they be subjected to the kind of treatment bestowed upon this candidate. If the hiring team in fact represents the community, we might consider letting them carry out the process we have ostensibly empowered them to do.

As a Westport resident and a parent, it is not the first time I have felt awkward (and embarrassed) by the line of absurd questions that we impart on those who are speaking.  We often come across as a hostile, entitled and ungrateful lot.  Perhaps we can learn from this experience.  Our goal is to hire the most qualified person for this position.  Let’s allow the hiring team to do its job on our behalf.

Posted by Marjorie Almansi on May 27, 2015 at 09:56 PM | #

If, as one commentator states, the parents come across as “hostile, entitled and ungrateful” , they probably are.

Imagine teaching in that environment.

John Dodig can fill in for about 150K until the correct responder is found.

Posted by Brian Zukauskas on May 28, 2015 at 08:06 AM | #

The “trial by ordeal” component of the hiring process, where an outstanding candidate is forced to endure a barrage of questions by hostile Westport parents bringing up mistakes made 20 years ago, should be eliminated in my opinion.

Posted by Paul Bradshaw on May 28, 2015 at 12:04 PM | #