The Warwick School Committee voted to approve Superintendent Philip Thornton’s recommendation to not renew the one-year contract of Norwood Elementary School principal John Gannon, despite a large showing of support by faculty, staff and parents who vouched for him at the committee meeting on Tuesday night.
Eugene Nadeau was the only member of the committee to vote against the measure. Karen Bachus was not in attendance at the meeting, and David Testa, chairwoman Beth Furtado and M. Terri Medeiros all voted in favor of non-renewal for Gannon’s contract.
“It was a surprise to us to learn Mr. Gannon would not return to Norwood School in the fall,” said a representative from the Norwood PTA during public comments who did not identify herself. “Mr. Gannon brings a quiet, strong leadership to Norwood School. He treats parents, students and staff with respect that should be emulated by all…He is the type of principal that school administrations should want to clone, not let go.”
The school administration has not disseminated a reason for Gannon’s non-renewal, holding firm to their protocol on not commenting on personnel decisions.
However some of those who showed up in protest of the decision had their own theories about why Gannon was effectively let go from his role as principal, despite the fact that Norwood is not one of the schools to be closed during the impending elementary consolidation in September.
One Norwood teacher who wished to remain anonymous said that she believed Gannon was let go because he refused to “toe the line they want him to toe” in regards to how he responded and interacted with requests from the central administration.
Representatives from Norwood who penned a letter in support of Gannon read that letter aloud, taking turns as they were cut off by the public comment time limit, to the school committee. Out of a small audience showing, well over 75 percent of it comprised Norwood faculty, parents and staff – and John Gannon was sitting right in the midst of them all. He could be seen hugging various people after the meeting concluded.
One member of the public, Corey Smith, who back in July started a petition to had Dr. Colleen Mercurio, principal of Cedar Hill Elementary, removed for charges of misconduct, delivered a scathing rebuke of the school administration – and the school committee’s – apparent refusal to listen to the will of the public.
“Mr. Thornton you sat in a room with my wife and I and you looked me in the eye and you said my opinion was important,” Smith said. “You handed me a piece of paper with your phone number on it to try to convince me that my opinion mattered to you. Clearly, when this many people come forward and ask for things and petition you to reconsider or take some action, and nothing happens, our opinion is not important to you – and I believe things need to change.”