2009-12-03 / Letters to the Editor

Reasons behind firing of principal

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify to parents and the community with regard to the leadership of the high school. Please know that it is a priority of my administration to guide and propel our high school, as well as all our schools, to greater excellence and achievement. Part of my focus in getting schools there is to ensure that principals in each school are moving forward in all aspects of their job.

With regard to the high school principal, I have received numerous communications on both sides of this matter. I have endeavored to be responsive to these communications. A common thread in many communications relates to how the principal is extremely well liked and does a wonderful job interacting with students. I agree with this point, but must tell you that the job of high school principal has many more components to it, and it is in these other areas that brought me to the difficult decision of the nonrenewal of Mr. Foley.

In most personnel matters, the information is not available to the public as the meetings are held in what is called “closed session.” In this case, the principal did elect open session and in this first meeting in the process, I was able to share some examples of the areas that brought me to my nonrenewal recommendation. Some of the examples I referenced in this meeting appear below:

• A failure to move the high school forward regarding the new state proficiency based graduation requirements (PBGR) process. This process is mandated by the state and is the process we must comply with to have a Regents-approved high school diploma system.

• In 2008, a failure to ensure that 95% of students took the NECAP tests (state mandate)

• A failure to respond to numerous communications from parents, teachers and administration related to questions about their students and work within the district.

• Major areas of concern with regard to spending of student activity funds as identified in the student activities audit published in September of 2009.

It should be noted that the information shared here is not the complete picture, as there are aspects to this process which remain unavailable to the public at this time.

As you are aware, on Wednesday, Nov. 25, Mr. Foley was suspended from his position as high school principal. While I am unable to go into detail at this time, I can tell you that it was based on a new situation unrelated to the previous Tuesday evening School Committee meeting on the non-renewal. I can tell you that a very brief meeting transpired in my office with Mr. Foley, after which time, he did exit on his own and proceeded to leave school grounds.

As superintendent, it is my job to ensure that the district moves forward in addressing all areas of teaching and learning. In order to do so, in the case of the high school principal, I had to make a very difficult decision. I stand by this decision.

I am committed to making my educational decisions, now and going forward, based on all the information I have available, and doing so with the mind of what is in the best interest of all students. I have an open door policy and am happy to meet with parents and community members who have input or questions. Please don’t hesitate to call and make an appointment with me. I can be reached at 268-6403.
Dr. Phil Thornton
Superintendent of schools
North Kingstown

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