Home » Emails suggest Salerno was nearly fired in 2010

Emails suggest Salerno was nearly fired in 2010

WINSTED — This week, the Winsted Journal completed its inspection of emails written by the Board of Education pursuant to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request. As with previously viewed emails, the correspondence reveals personal conflicts on the board. There was discussion of firing former Superintendent Blaise Salerno as early as November of last year.In August, the Journal asked to view and inspect emails made by board members pertaining to board business from November 2010 to August 2011.Copies of emails since the date of the Journal’s request were submitted for public review by board chairman Susan Hoffnagle, board members Christine Royer and Joseph Hanecak.Board member Mari-Ellen Pratt Valyo was elected to the board in July. She has submitted her emails from the beginning of her time with the board.Board members James DiVita and Paul O’Meara did not submit emails at all, while board member Richard Dutton submitted emails from Dec. 27, 2010 to Aug. 8, 2011.Board member Carol Palomba left a note for the Journal that said, “My old computer had a hard drive crash. I have a new computer. This is all of my emails.”According to Hoffnagle, O’Meara told her that he has not originated any emails pertaining to board business except for four pertaining to collective bargaining.Hoffnagle said Divita deleted all of the emails pertaining to board business that he produced.As for former board chair Kathleen O’Brien, Hoffnagle said she requested emails from O’Brien, but has not yet heard a response from her.The remaining emails shine a light on a situation in which Salerno was nearly fired, an email argument between Hoffnagle and O’Brien concerning Pearson Middle School Principal Clay Krevolin and more details about O’Brien’s resignation from the board.Salerno discussionThe push to fire Salerno began in early November, according to an email sent from Hoffnagle to Dutton on Nov. 4, 2010.“Well, you missed some fireworks tonight,” Hoffnagle wrote. “We went to executive session to discuss firing Blaise. Kathy, Paul and Carol were pushing hard. Jim, Christine and I were opposed. Joe was asking questions, but I think he might be in favor. I don’t know.“[Former board member Raymond Neal], I figured, was with Kathy, but Jim thinks he is against. As we were getting out of executive session, Paul noticed that the meeting agenda did not state ‘possible action.’ Kathy insisted that she had it right, but then we found her original email and she made the mistake. Kathy said that she would ‘take the risk.’ Paul was totally adamant that we couldn’t take the vote. It was clear that he was not going to budge. Kathy then stood up, gathered her papers and declared we could do it all on our own. She then slammed the door with enough force to shake the whole building. Clearly she wants Clay in and does not want another road block, even a temporary one.”In response to Hoffnagle, Dutton wrote that he opposed firing Salerno.“How would we pay for that change?” Dutton wrote. “He remains the most knowledgeable person to guide us through the stormy waters ahead. I’m surprised to hear about the meeting uproar.”On Nov. 6, Dutton wrote to Hoffnagle again about Krevolin and O’Brien.“Joe called me and tried to get more information on [Kathleen O’Brien’s] social life and its effect on administrative decisions,” Dutton wrote. “I have heard rumors about this for several years, but really have no facts. I think Joe has heard the same stories and is not happy with what he has heard.”At the Nov. 9 meeting, the agenda listed an item for the termination of Salerno, with a possible executive session.Dutton, who was present at the meeting, wrote an email to Hoffnagle, who was on vacation at the time.“Anticlimactic is what describes my feelings about the meeting,” Dutton wrote. “I took your advice on Sunday and Monday and spent some email and face time with Joe, trying to get the fourth vote as we dealt with an agenda item on terminating the superintendent. Not his contract — him. I had hoped to have structured the vote on that issue by getting the opposition to put a motion on the table to take action on the process of termination.”Dutton explained in his email to Hoffnagle that a vote on terminating Salerno never occurred at the meeting.“As you remember on the agenda, there was a string of items under new business at the end of the meeting, beginning with the appointment of a new [Gilbert School] negotiations committee,” Dutton wrote. “Kathy put out the proposal that the committee be composed of herself, Carol and Ray, with Joe being the alternate, citing the need for ‘new blood’ and a ‘new motion for the process.’ The motion was seconded. She called for the discussion.”Dutton wrote that both he and Royer wanted Hoffnagle on the committee and cited Hoffnagle’s legal expertise during the discussion.“The vote completely failed at 3-5, with Kathy, Carol and Ray in favor,” Dutton wrote. “Amazingly enough, she crumbled completely at that point. She called for tabling all of the rest of the items because she said she did not feel well.”The vote to fire Salerno was never taken by the board and he would go on to serve until his contracted ended this year on June 30.O’Brien and KrevolinLater on in 2011, via email, Hoffnagle confronted O’Brien over rumors about her relationship with Pearson Middle School Principal Clay Krevolin.“Kathy, I have always tried to be open and honest,” Hoffnagle wrote in an email to O’Brien on June 3. “There have been continuing rumors about your relationship with Clay. That makes it worrisome when so many of your efforts are to advance Clay. Certainly, I should have completed the loop by talking to Clay, but frankly this was a step in the superintendent hiring process. The sentiments of many board members was to get rid of Blaise. Clay was always on the list of candidates and when the time came to appoint an interim, he would have certainly been in the mix. Frankly, I think we get along fairly well most often. But when it comes to matters regarding Clay I get weary.”“Susan, Clay and I have been friends for a long time,” O’Brien wrote in response. “He was a leader of a team that made the school a haven for my son when my father was dying in our home. When Clay came to the district, Pearson School was in chaos. Parents were frightened for their children’s safety. But he changed all of that. When [former superintendent] Ann Jellison was asked to leave, the board tapped Clay to be the interim superintendent because we knew we could not afford to hire another full-time superintendent. Clay began working an excess of 60 hours a week and started to take classes to meet the requirements of the new position. He acted as superintendent and principal until it became clear he could not do it all.“Then the election occurred and Rose [Molinelli] took over as Board of Education chairman. For whatever reason, she became extremely demanding. Clay decided that he could not work with her and did not apply for the superintendent’s position. However, everyone I have talked to said he had done a good job. He was rebuilding the relationships with the town and the Gilbert School. Most of the time he was three steps ahead of me when it came to school issues. Because Clay worked so hard, went to school and paid for classes to work as superintendent, I always felt he deserved a second chance. I have made a 180-degree turn on Blaise. You were right all along. We have taken away the tools for our staff to do their job, and then we expected them to do it anyways. No wonder teachers feel so demoralized.”Hoffnagle responded favorably to O’Brien’s email, which was sent on June 6.“I am very pleased to get a thoughtful response, this could have easily blown up into a different situation,” Hoffnagle wrote. “Clay may very well be an example of the old adage, ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ Glad to hear that you have had a change of heart on Blaise. He has his weaknesses, but no human being deserves as much abuse as he has been given. In respect to your other email, we should thank the gods that we did not close a school. We could have inadvertently created an MBR way lower than the old one. We dodged a bullet on that.”

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