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Future of Wellington principal up in air


WELLINGTON — Personnel files for McCormick Middle Principal Craig Housum shows he struggled with his ability be a successful leader during his first year serving as principal of Westwood Elementary School.

Housum’s future in the district is expected to be decided Wednesday when the board meets for an executive session to discuss whether to renew his contract. The board is mandated to make the decision by June 1.

During the executive session, the board could decide to not renew Housum’s contract, offer him a one-year contract, or offer him a multiple-year contract. The board is expected to take a vote in public after the executive session scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Westwood Elementary School, 305 Union St.

If the board offers a one-year contract to Housum, the next year they must either offer a multiyear contract or not renew the contract.

Housum, who did not return calls seeking comment, was hired by then-Superintendent Francis Scruci in 2012 and given a three-year contract. Scruci resigned shortly after Housum was hired and was replaced by John Nolan, who told Housum in emails and evaluations that he lacked effective leadership.

“Craig, we are quickly approaching the ‘mid-year point’ of your first year as an administrator at Westwood and I have not seen the growth necessary to be the effective leader that Westwood and the district must have at the primary level,” Nolan wrote in an letter to Housum on Dec. 5, 2012. “I am of firm believe (sic) that you are extremely caring and knowledgeable as to academic content but lack the ability to effectively engage the staff and to make necessary management decisions that this district, and particularly Westwood, needs for you to be the ‘effective leader’ that you were hired to be.”

Housum’s performance improved the next year, according to reviews.

In 2013, Nolan said in a performance review that “Craig’s working relationship has moved from being the ‘Rule Czar’ to the ‘Building Leader’ — strong improvement.”

Housum moved from principal of Westwood to principal of McCormick Middle School in the 2013-14 school year and received average performance reviews from Dennis Mock, who replaced Nolan when Nolan resigned in 2014 due to health issues. In a performance review, Mock marked Housum as being “skilled” in areas of continuous improvement, instruction, school operations, collaboration and parent and community engagement.

In 2015, when Housum’s three-year contract ended, the board offered and Housum accepted a two-year contract.

The board tabled its vote on Housum’s contract at its Tuesday meeting during which several parents spoke against keeping him in the district.

Tiffany Gancos said she “would love to see Mr. Housum go.”

“He does not create an environment where children are excited to learn,” Gancos said. “He does not create an environment where children are excited to go to school.”

Gancos said it concerns her that he is principal at the middle school because she doesn’t think her children will be ready for high school.

Cindy Buck also encouraged the board not to renew Housum’s contract.

“I’ve emailed Mr. Housum countless times,” Buck said. “It took a week, maybe two for him to respond.”

Uncertain future

Superintendent Ed Weber, who started with the district in December, said the vote on Housum’s contract was tabled because Housum wasn’t able to attend the meeting.

On Wednesday, Weber said Housum will attend the executive session “and give a little presentation about what direction he wants to take the school in and talk about its performance.

“We’ll go from there and I’ll give my final recommendation,” Weber said.

Weber said there are several things that go into deciding whether to renew a principal’s contract.

“There’s a lot to weight when it comes to making decisions like that, including lagging performance in test scores,” Weber said. “There are various needs that these schools have, but it also depends on how the next meeting goes where we discuss Housum.”

There was no review of Housum by Weber in the personnel file obtained by The Chronicle-Telegram through a public records request. The school’s administrative assistant, Beth Bresich, said on Thursday Weber’s review wasn’t included because it hasn’t been completed.

Housum wasn’t the only administrator whose future at Wellington hung in the balance Tuesday. Westwood Principal Paul Holland was offered a one-year contract renewal after dozens of parents came to his defense and the board held an hourlong executive session.

Parents were happy with the news, but many said they hoped Holland would be offered a two-year contract.

Holland was hired in Wellington in 2015 after serving for 13 years as the principal of Westview Elementary School in Avon.

Mock gave Holland an above-average performance review during the 2015-16 school year marking him “accomplished” in school operations, collaboration and parent engagement and marking him “skilled” in instruction and continuous improvement.

Because the board offered Holland a one-year contract this year, next year they’re mandated to renew his contract for multiple years or not renew his contract.

Holland did not comment on the one-year contract renewal, but thanked parents and teachers for showing support.

Contact Jodi Weinberger 329-7245 or Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.

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