NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — Several Norwich teachers reached out to state legislators seeking change.
“96 percent of the teachers feel are afraid to speak for fear of retaliation,” said Kate Dias, the president of the Connecticut Education Association.
She is referring to a recent survey and says she is speaking on behalf of Norwich teachers because they are afraid to do so themselves.
“A good chunk of our teachers in Norwich talked with their feet. They got up and they left the district in record numbers,” said Dias.
During the last school year 160 which is half the staff left the district. Many claim a culture of intimidation and abuse from the administration and in particular the superintendent of schools Kristen Stringfellow. They brought their concerns to state legislators.
“They felt that there was intimidation and not support for doing their job in particular relative to special education and that’s something that I think is really important,” said Senator Cathy Osten, (D) Sprague.
Sen. Osten believes this is less a legislative matter and more a board of education issue because the BOE supervises the superintendent. She’ll be reaching out to both.
News 8 received an email from the superintendent of schools who says she was not contacted by any of the teachers unions and was wholly unaware of these concerns through her daily interactions with staff. She also said several teachers who resigned, applied, and have now been rehired.
In the email she said “I respect, trust and admire our teachers. Supporting them is always in the forefront of my mind. If there is something that I am doing or that someone is perceiving that I am doing to make anyone feel uncomfortable, there is no way for me to rectify it without knowledge of what it is.”
She plans to implement ideas in the fall which include an open door policy, regular listening sessions, and establishing a teacher climate advisory committee.
“I think that’s a really good statement to make but when you have built a climate of distrust you can open all the doors you want and nobody’s going to walk through them,” said Dias.
She says teachers hope there will be a culture change but the rebuilding process takes time and energy which starts at the top.
The superintendent tells News 8 she has never and would never retaliate against a teacher or other staff member who had a complaint or concern.