Letter: What is 'new direction' promised for Benn El?

To the Editor:

In talking to people in the Bennington community, there is shock and dismay over the decision not to renew Mr. O'Connor's contract as the assistant principal at Bennington Elementary School. After reading the Banner article, Feb 1, 2018, and the statement from the BSD Board: "The Board determined to take this action because it believes that a new direction is required administratively in order for the District to move forward," I have a few questions for the Bennington School Board.

What new direction is the BSD Board planning for the Bennington Elementary School? What does it mean to move forward? I believe it would be helpful for the Bennington community to understand what plans the BSD Board has for Bennington Elementary School. What is their vision and how do they plan to implement it?

I have read through the past ten months of BSD meeting minutes looking for this new direction, a new vision for BSD and Bennington Elementary School. However, month after month in the minutes under chair's report, the chair was looking for "ideas about what the district's vision should be." In fact, over the past ten months the BSD Board had no retreat to talk about new educational or administrative directions or a vision.

I was not in attendance at the BSD meeting on January 31, nor was it videotaped however, it seemed the motion to not renew Mr. O'Connor's contract came from the board itself. Did the superintendent offer a recommendation not to renew Mr. O'Connor's contract? Typically a board acts on a superintendent's recommendation.

I have known Mr. O'Connor for his entire teaching career. He is dedicated and cares deeply about Bennington's students. Mr. O'Connor student-taught when my children were in third and fourth grade at Molly Stark under the direction of Mrs. Harrington, twenty years ago. He was chosen to be a middle school team teacher in the new MAU middle school. Mr. O'Connor, along with another teacher, ran the 21st century afterschool program at the Middle School. He was always giving his time to the students of Bennington, before school, after school and during school. After receiving his administrator's license Mr. O'Connor applied and was hired as Bennington Elementary School's assistant principal in 2012.

In all of Mr. O'Connor's positions he continuously looked for ways to improve students' lives, whether by coaching, listening or calling in a team of adults to work with a child or simply having lunch with them. Mr. O'Connor has given back tenfold to the Bennington community and this is how the BSD Board treats him? I hope there is a way for the Bennington School District to reverse its action.

Sean-Marie Oller



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