With less than three weeks left until classes start, two more teachers have left the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.
A sixth- and seventh-grade science and mathematics teacher and an inclusion specialist left the school last week to pursue teaching jobs in other communities, according to an e-mail school Executive Director Tony Blackman sent to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
They mark the latest of several departures over the year including the former Head of School and two Special Education directors.
While the school has seen several departures over the last year, Blackman said he’s filled almost all of the empty positions, and has interviews scheduled for the rest. Even with just over a week until the staff’s first day left, Blackman said the late August departures aren’t anything out of the ordinary. Districts from Hamilton to Gloucester have posted openings this year as well, he said.
“In most districts, you see a fair amount of movement,” Blackman said.
Blackman notified the department that Lisa Critch, inclusion teacher at the charter school and Sarah Gilliam a grade six, seven and eight science teacher left after finding work in other towns. Blackman said he’s hired Elieen Pushee to fill Gilliam’s position, and is working on filling Critch’s position.
Blackman added that the school has hired a music director, and another kindergarten-first grade teacher as well.
Those hires, however, had not been reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as of Friday morning
Gilliam and Critch are the latest in a series of teachers and administrative staff who have left the school since the start of the 2011-2012 school year. The school’s annual report states that it retained 55 per cent of it’s staff for the coming year. The charter had 18 teachers on staff last school year.
Last year’s turnover started in October, when Elissa Henebry, a Special Education teacher hired in August, left on Oct. 14. according to staffing notifications from the DESE. Kailey Munroe, a paraprofessional, took over her work, the notification states.
In January, the school’s Music Director, Jeremiah Gallant, part-time theater teacher Jennifer Salvucci, Grade 2/3 teacher April Odell, and Grade 6/7 teacher Justin Favazza, resigned. They had been hired six months earlier, in July 2011, according to DESE staffing notifications.
They left just before the DESE cut the charter’s per student tuition from $11,800 to $11,200. Following that cut, Special Education Director Les Keihn left. The charter placed his duties on two special education instructions Carol Kennedy-Hurley and Critch, also according to DESE staffing notifications. The school’s annual report lists Hurley as special education director
Staffing didn’t change until June, when the school ousted Head of School Jody Ziebarth. In July, both Hurley and school nurse Sue Symonds left the school. Symonds had been hired last August.
Blackman said the turnover isn’t surprising in a charter school. He said that, because of budget constraints, charter programs hire relatively new staff, and the environment demands a lot from them. Some of them leave, he said, after a year or so when better-paying work opens up elsewhere.
Some of the turnover, he added, came when the budget took an around $500,000 cut when the DESE reduced sending tuition.
Blackman said the charter school is hiring more experienced teachers now that it has a larger budget.
Last month, the school had nine openings. Blackman says he’s filled almost all of them. The school has hired a Director of Education, Beth Delforge, fine arts curriculum director from the Marblehead Public Schools. It’s also hired retired Rockport Public School’s Special Education Director Manny De Cruz.
Blackman said he’s hired all classroom teachers, a school councilor and physical education and student life director.
All that’s left, he said, are two Special Education positions that he plans to fill next week.
The school’s Board of Trustees, meanwhile, has unresolved concerns of it’s own. The board, after roughly 16 hours of negotiation still hasn’t approved a new contract for Blackman for the new fiscal year, which began July 1. Chairman James Caviston said the he wants to have concensus on the contract and said he was working on scheduling a meeting for Tuesday or Wednesday to wrap up negotiations.
“We are very close,” Caviston said.
Blackman said the board would meet for executive session on Wednesday. The meeting would be posted on Monday, he said.
Board members have also not discussed a 29-signature petition calling for a review of Blackman’s time as executive director, or a list of allegations levied at Blackman given to the board along with the petition. The allegations run from public misuse of funds to public humiliation of a child.
Caviston said the board had not received any documentation supporting the petition or allegations.
“It’s been five weeks, and we haven’t gotten a scrap of anything back,” Caviston said.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StevenGDT