A three-day interview process between teachers and Superintendent Margaret Marotta's leadership team has ended, after the teachers union issued a scathing letter expressing no confidence in the principal of Bradford Elementary School.
Union president Anthony Parolisi of the Haverhill Education Association said interviews were conducted confidentially to allow teachers to air their grievances against Principal Louise Perry.
Last week's sessions, including a Monday meeting with Marotta, were planned after 50 teachers union members put their thoughts about Perry in writing, accusing her of creating a “hostile” work environment for students and educators. Findings from the review will be shared with Bradford Elementary parents in mid-March, Marotta said. It will be the first time parents will receive an inside look at the issue.
“The meeting was brief and productive — it laid out a plan moving forward of how we would look more closely into the the concerns of culture and climate at Bradford Elementary in a manner that is efficient and effective, allowing educators to be heard and school to continue without disruption,” Marotta said of the Monday meeting with teachers before the individual interviews.
Perry has yet to comment publicly on the situation. The Eagle-Tribune has reached out to her on several occasions since Feb. 14 through multiple methods of contact, but there has been no response.
Last week, coming on the heels of school vacation, was the first week of classes since the teachers union letter was released on Feb. 14. Marotta has hired Cathy Giles of Seabrook, New Hampshire-based Seaside Consultants to maintain a presence at the school and offer what she calls a “supportive and stabilizing force to assure that learning continues, and all feel welcome.”
Parolisi said Giles acts as a liaison between teachers and the superintendent or parents and the Bradford Elementary School administration.
“If anyone feels uncomfortable reaching out to the principal, she (the consultant) is there as a safety net,” Parolisi said.
Since teachers have been able to speak their truth, the atmosphere at the school has been on the upswing, the union president said.
“The morale is definitely improving,” Parolisi said. “Many people left their interviews feeling better about their future at the school and about getting the help they needed. They're hopeful things are moving in the right direction.”
While attitudes around the building have been better, according to Parolisi, some city leaders are still not happy with how the situation was handled. Chief among them is Mayor James Fiorentini.
Fiorentini is chairman of the School Committee. He took Parolisi to task — and came to Perry's defense — at last week's School Committee meeting. Fiorentini criticized how Parolisi made the union's complaints known.
“I was a union lawyer for 10 years and understand your obligation, but what union leaders have to do is lead and you should have,” Fiorentini said. “She (Perry) is a human being and didn't deserve to be publicly humiliated like this. Once you have Google and go public with a vote of 'no confidence,' you damage someone irreparably."
In the teachers union letter, which Parolisi said was collaboratively written by Bradford Elementary union members, Perry is accused of making "racist and culturally insensitive comments" toward or in the presence of members of the school community. Derogatory comments have also been made by Perry about students with disabilities, the letter states.