WARWICK, RI — Norwood Elementary School Principal John Gannon’s contract, up for renewal, is in doubt, and 32 faculty and staff there hoping to save his job have signed a letter asking the School Committee to keep him on.
Pauline Pinto, grade six teacher, said Gannon informed teachers and staff that he would speak with the Warwick School Committee about his expiring contract, which Superintendent Phil Thornton has recommended not be renewed, during the Feb. 13 School Committee meeting’s closed session.
“He held a meeting,” for Norwood School faculty and staff on Tuesday, Jan. 30 to inform them, Pinto said, after learning that his contract may not be renewed the previous day.
Pinto said she and Mary Mason, a second grade teacher at the school, wrote the letter after collaborating with several of their colleagues supporting Gannon. Everyone who was present at the school on Friday, Feb. 9, signed the letter, she said.
The letter asks why Gannon’s contract wouldn’t be renewed. “Other than the district moving in a new direction and needing to make some difficult decisions, administration seems to be questioning Mr. Gannon’s educational leadership skills,” the letter states.
But, the letter says, Gannon’s educational leadership skills were demonstrated with distinction during his handling of a recent smoking heater that necessitated the evacuation of the school Jan. 9, and earlier in spring of 2017 during the discovery of broken fire alarms at the school which was not reported to the community for months.
Though Lynn Dambruch, director of elementary education at Warwick Public Schools, said at the time that Gannon had not informed teachers that the system was broken, Pinto said Gannon did inform teachers.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Pinto said. In fact, she added, School Committee Member Karen Bachus read a statement from Norwood School faculty during a meeting last year correcting the record in Gannon’s defense.
“Mr. Gannon is a man of integrity who serves the children of our school with compassion. The exact nature of the fire alarm’s condition was not made known to him or his immediate supervisor. This situation was beyond his administrative level. If this is not a matter for the superintendent to step forward and take the lead, then what is? Having spoken with our colleagues at Holliman, and realizing that they had no more information any earlier than we did, we insist that this fact be officially stated so as to make Mr. Gannon’s reputation whole again,” Norwood’s faculty wrote to Bachus April 4, 2017.
The Feb. 9 letter praises Gannon’s leadership.
“Furthermore, he has earned the trust and confidence of the parents in this community and of his faculty and staff, many of whom are losing faith in and have had difficulty collaborating with central administration for a multitude of reasons including ineffective communication. Mr. Gannon bridges the gap created as a result of these obstacles,” the Feb. 9 letter reads.
Pinto said they sent the Feb. 9 letter to every member of the Warwick School Committee on Saturday.
Also, she said, “Many teachers have written their own letters.”
“We stand united with our parents in support of him. He has gone above and beyond,” bridging the gap between the central administration and rank and file teachers, Pinto said.
Three elementary schools are scheduled to shut down as part of the School Department’s consolidation plan, creating a surplus of three elementary principals: John Brown Francis, Holden and John Wickes School.
Pinto said that while it’s obvious that some administrators may lose their positions when their own schools close, there’s no obvious reason for Norwood School to lose its principal.
She said she hopes their letters and message will reach the School Committee in time to make a difference in their decision, but she is concerned because while they intend to read the letter during public comment, that will happen at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, hours after the closed-door session during which Gannon will discuss his contract with the Committee.
The Warwick School Committee meets Tuesday, Feb. 13, for an executive session at 6 p.m. followed by open session at an unspecified time, according to their agenda, which usually convenes at 7 p.m. A full list of the agenda items and documents to be discussed during the open session is available at the district’s Google drive account.Gannon support letter