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School superintendent given no-confidence vote; Gorky says teachers' action shocked her.

Byline: Bill Fortier

NORTHBRIDGE - The Northbridge Teachers Association overwhelmingly voted Tuesday it has no confidence in Superintendent of Schools Susan M. Gorky.

The union will formally present a letter informing Ms. Gorky of the vote at Tuesday night's School Committee meeting, according to Mitchell D. Hughes, vice president of the teachers association.

Mr. Hughes said the union executive committee is trying to set up a meeting with Ms. Gorky, who is in her third year as superintendent of schools. No meeting date has been set.

"The members in attendance overwhelmingly voted to state publicly that we no longer have confidence in your ability to effectively manage and successfully lead the Northbridge Public School District," said a letter signed Nov. 29 by the union's executive board and sent to Ms. Gorky.

Mr. Hughes, a history teacher at Northbridge High School, said he believes it is the first no-confidence vote against a superintendent of schools during the 12 years he has been teaching in the school system.

"This was not a decision that was taken lightly," said Jill C. Redding, president of the union, in an email to Ms. Gorky. "Our team has planned on meeting with you to discuss our members' concerns. I will have to see when a convenient time for all of us will be. I will get back to you as soon as I hear from you."

Ms. Gorky said yesterday afternoon she was shocked and disappointed by the no-confidence vote. She said there had been no indication of any problems during a Nov. 2 meeting with Ms. Redding and Mr. Hughes.

Mr. Hughes said yesterday the vote Tuesday reflected staff morale and teachers' feeling that a lack of leadership by Ms. Gorky is having an effect on student achievement.

"NTA members feel that communications are no longer open, honest and transparent, and this circumstance has created an atmosphere of distrust. ... Staff morale is low district-wide, which can negatively affect students' ability to learn and teachers' ability to educate effectively, and members question your ability to raise morale," the no-confidence letter stated.

"Moreover, staff members fear retaliation for expressing opinions that counter your views or actions. The NTA questions your ability to repair central administration's relationship with staff and improve communications problems with our members. Most importantly, broad concerns including student and staff safety have been addressed with little or no consideration for the well-being of those involved," the letter said.

The letter asks the School Committee to re-evaluate the superintendent's performance "and develop goals that would better meet the needs of the Northbridge School District."

Ms. Gorky responded to the teachers association in an email. "It is with a heavy heart and great disappointment that I compose this email to you after receiving your letter. I was under the impression that we were all working as a team to move the district forward with a keen eye on doing what is best for the students we serve (improved programs and student achievement). Creating a safe, positive district and schools climate and culture that effectively supports our stakeholders: staff students, families and community has been a top priority for central administration. Therefore, I was quite surprised by your letter.

"I try to be an open, honest and transparent communicator," she said, noting that no significant issues were presented at the Nov. 2 meeting and "that things seemed to be going well. However, it appears that is not the case."

Ms. Gorky ended the email by saying she is reaching out to the union's executive board.

"I truly care about what you think and I want to address the matters that are of concern to you and the teachers you represent."

School Committee Chairman Michael S. McGrath said he was disappointed in the no-confidence vote. "It's disappointing and humbling," he said. "I'm not sure where it will go from here."

Mr. McGrath said the two-and-a-half years Ms. Gorky has been superintendent of schools have been financially difficult but that the Northbridge school system has not experienced problems that have affected other school systems in the state. He said, for example, some staff has been added.

"We've been making improvements, inch by inch," he said.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 2, 2011
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