Norwich superintendent on administrative leave following personnel complaints

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 5:45 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 12:08 AM EDT
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NORWICH, CT (WFSB) - Norwich’s Board of Education placed superintendent Kristen Stringfellow on administrative leave after a survey of teachers prompted an investigation.

A recent Connecticut Education Association survey of more than 230 Norwich teachers showed that 96 percent feared retaliation if they spoke out about school issues, specifically from superintendent, Kristen Stringfellow.

Another troubling statistic said that more than 135 teachers resigned from the district since July 2021.

More than 150 students, teachers, parents, and support staff rallied earlier this month to demand action from the board of education.

Many stated that they felt like they weren’t being heard by Stringfellow.

“I’ve worked for five superintendents for over 35 and a half years here in Norwich, and I have never seen or heard circumstances where teachers were walking around initially with a bullseye behind their back if they went against the superintendent,” said former Norwich teacher Gabe Lipman.

“You can’t chalk it up all to COVID or a wide open job market. It’s more than that. We want the board of ed to look into that and take the matter seriously,” said former Norwich teacher William Priest.

Teachers also shared their concerns about how the environment was impacting their students.

“When looking at kids that need as much support as possible, especially social and emotional. We are unable to give them everything they need if we don’t have an administration that puts kids first,” one teacher told Channel 3.

Many expressed that they just want to see a welcoming school environment where students and educators feel supported and respected.

Eyewitness News spoke with a Norwich parent who said she pulled her 9-year-old out of school because of the environment.

“They just don’t feel secure as being able to teach and do their job,” said Elizabeth Blevins, a parent.

Those leading the charge said they were wearing “Red for Ed,” and held a rally ahead of a special school board meeting Monday night.

After an hours long meeting behind closed doors, the board of education decided to place Stringfellow on paid administrative leave to further investigate personnel complaints.

The board also appointed Susan Lessard as acting superintendent. Lessard is the current principal of Stanton Elementary school.

Teachers said this decision is a big step in the right direction.

“That’s my hope that people will come and let the investigation get going and that teachers can speak without fear,” said Norwich teacher William Priest.

Colleagues of Susan Lessard believe she is the right person for the role.

“Susan Lessard has always been a fair principal. Certainly, hope that she brings people to the table when decisions will be made. We’re just happy to work with her, help her out and do what we can to bring stability to the district,” said one teacher.

We reached out to Dr. Stringfellow for comment but have not heard back.