Letter: O'Connor understands Benn El's challenges

To the Editor:

I, too, am writing in support of Jerry O'Connor and to ask the Bennington School District board to reconsider their decision.

I've known of Mr. O'Connor's work for many years both as an administrator and as an advocate for children and families in our community. Over the past four years, I have seen first-hand the depth of his commitment to Bennington Elementary and the incredible number of hours he spends in service to Bennington's youth. On any day, both during and after school, Jerry can be seen walking the hallways, checking in with every child, parent, teacher, and volunteer in the building. He greets everyone by name and is able to quickly move in to reassure a child, answer a parent's question or assist other adults in the building. He has his finger on the pulse of the school.

So, how is it that Jerry O'Connor, an administrator so in tune with his school and community, could be dismissed by the BSD board?

The answer, if we are to believe it, is that "a new direction is required administratively in order for the district to move forward". What does this mean? A review of the BSD minutes for the past year shows no board discussion about the future direction of the elementary schools in Bennington.

Even my own questions to the BSD board from October asking for information on the $2.2 million of Title 1 funding awarded to our supervisory union for each of the past three years, specifically to combat the impact of high poverty in our school, still have not been answered.

We clearly can do better in our supervisory union. We should have open discussions about how to better support students, families and teachers — particularly in our elementary schools. But that community discussion has not happened yet. The last thing we need right now is to lose an administrator like Jerry O'Connor who truly understands what we are up against.

Transparency and openness in government does matter. So do administrators who know our community and are willing to put in the hours to make change. Bennington is a wonderful community and I do not want to see us splintered again by an ill-considered decision. In the last round, a poor set of decisions starting in the superintendent's office and endorsed by a school board resulted in significant damage to the morale at the high school, the loss of some very good teachers, and a climate of distrust. Let's not go there again. I urge the BSD board to demonstrate the courage to re-examine their decision and vote to re-instate Jerry O'Connor as assistant principal at Bennington Elementary School.

Jeannie Jenkins



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