Stephen Merlino – the former Windham High School principal whose controversial removal from his post in June caused a town-wide uproar – has been offered a job in Coventry.
The Coventry Board of Education voted at Thursday’s meeting (Aug.11) to offer Merlino the assistant principal position at Coventry High School, according to John Barrett, a Coventry school board member.
Barrett said all the assistant principal candidates were informed of the decision following the vote.
Merlino was removed from his post at the high school, essentially, in exchange for a $2.4 million school improvement grant.
One of the conditions of the grant included a stipulation that the existing principal be replaced.
The move was up to Windham Superintendent Ana Ortiz, who decided against requesting a waiver to keep him in the position.
Windham school board members had asked that Ortiz consider a waiver request in an attempt to keep the popular Merlino.
Ortiz never gave an official reason for her decision to not request a waiver, saying it was a confidential personnel issue. She has said that disclosing the reason would be a violation of Merlino’s rights.
Her decision, which was made in June, upset board members.
Windham Board of Education Chairman Ken Folan said Friday night he still disagrees with her decision.
“I cannot see, or ever agree on, the reasoning not to go forward with the request for a waiver,”
Folan said, adding that, when Merlino contacted him for a letter of reference, he was “honored” to provide one.
As far as Folan is concerned, he said this is a loss for the Windham school system, which in July offered Merlino the position of assistant principal at Windham Middle School.
“I feel strongly that it’s a loss for the Windham school district all the way around,” Folan said. “I think Steve brought a lot to the table.”
What Folan dubs a loss for Windham, however, board members in Coventry clearly feel is their gain.
“I think he’s an awesome gentleman,” Barrett said. “Stephen really impressed the heck out of us.”
Merlino was dismissed from his position at the high school after only a year on the job, which he took over for former WHS Principal Gene Blain.
When Windham High School was identified as one of the lowest performing schools in the state, the district was required to set in place models for “improvement” and “transformation.”
The transformation aspect of the model included replacing the existing principal, along with identifying changes to curriculum, professional development and other strategies for improvement.
Folan said he is happy for Merlino.
“He knows how to motivate staff and he certainly knows how to motivate children,” Folan said. “You can’t stay where you’re not going to be happy.”
In addition to Merlino, Coventry has offered Carla Kennedy the assistant principal position at Capt. Nathan Hale Middle School.
Kennedy is currently the K- 8 Challenge and Enrichment Program teacher at the school.
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