Parents and teachers in Salem fed up with school administration

Parents and teachers in Salem fed up with school administration
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 7:10 PM EDT
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SALEM, CT (WFSB) - Teachers and parents are fed up with the school administration in Salem.

Katie Wisniewski has both a fifth and third grader at Salem School; the only K-8 school in Salem.

“I don’t even know who my daughter’s teachers will be next year,” Wisniewski said.

The school is led by Principal Dan Driscoll and Superintendent Brian Hendrickson who have both lost the support of Salem teachers  and many parents.

“What is unsettling is the direction the school is now going in because it doesn’t honor the excellence that our Salem school district has come to appreciate in the past,” parent Suzanne Gendron said.

In a nearly unanimous vote in late April, the Salem Federation of Teachers (SFT) voted ‘no confidence’ in their leaders; citing instances of intimidation and high teacher turnover.

Brian Fleming is a social studies teacher, coach and vice president of the union.

“Communication is poor and really we have just lost all confidence for them to lead us in the right direction,” Fleming said. “I’ve been here 23 years and this has never happened in the 23 years I have been here.”

Since the vote, the Board of Education voted to renew Hendrickson’s contract. It happened on Monday May 1, about 24 hours after the no confidence vote.

Parents were upset the BOE voted to move public comment until after the vote; the main reason many were going to speak.

“I honestly think they went in with a pre-determined plan,” Wisniewski said.

She was there to speak but did not because of the last-minute change.

“All we’re asking for is a Board of Education and superintendent that will support the excellence of education that’s been here for decades and their actions Monday didn’t prove that,” Fleming said.

In the time since Channel 3 interviewed Fleming, he was placed on administrative leave. In documents obtained by Channel 3, Superintendent Hendrickson says the reason was for ‘multiple acts of alleged misconduct, including throwing a chair at a student in anger.’

Fleming joins the president of the union who is also on administrative leave for inappropriate conduct during open house last fall.

In a statement to Channel 3, Hendrickson writes: “I support teachers. The majority of teachers are dedicated, caring professionals. My late mother was a teacher who inspired me to become a teacher. I have devoted my near 20-year career in education to helping and supporting teachers and upholding the values of the profession. The issue at hand is not about teachers, it’s about the local union’s leadership. I support teacher unions and respect the role of labor; however, I will not support the leaders of Salem Federation of Teachers (SFT) using bad faith tactics to interfere in investigations, mislead staff and the public, and attempt to bully and intimidate administration from carrying out their mandated duties to protect our students.”

With all the back and forth, parents are left wondering if the town’s one school is worth it.

“If they’re not getting the education they need then we don’t need to stay in Salem,” Wisniewski said. “We can find something else.”