By Rick La Plante, New Haven Schools Director of Parent and Community Relations
Citing differences with the Board of Education regarding its role in management decisions, Superintendent of Schools Kari McVeigh announced today that she has decided to take an early retirement from the New Haven Unified School District.
“I am proud of the progress that our District has made in the past four-and-a-half years,” Ms. McVeigh said, “but it has become painfully obvious to me that the Board and I have irreconcilable differences about the Board’s insistence on injecting itself into management decisions.
“To best serve students and staff, a Superintendent must be confident that he or she has the authority to make decisions about the day-to-day management of the District, and I no longer have that confidence.”
Ms. McVeigh, who informed the Board of her decision before its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening and told principals and other administrators before school today, said she began considering leaving the District after the Board rejected one of her recommendations for the hiring of a principal and individual Board members threatened to reject other recommendations.
“For superintendents, hiring decisions are absolutely critical to the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning,” Ms. McVeigh said.
Ms. McVeigh plans to continue as Superintendent until Nov. 30, “to give the Board sufficient time to determine its course of action and, I hope, to minimize any distraction for our wonderful teachers, classified employees and administrators and, of course, our students.”
Ms. McVeigh’s formal retirement will begin Jan. 31, 2014. She plans to pursue other career opportunities, “but I want to emphasize that I do not have another job lined up,” she said.
Ms. McVeigh, who became Superintendent on Dec. 1, 2008. has concentrated much of her efforts on establishing District-wide instructional focus to improve teaching and learning and to involving teachers in the leadership process. At the same time, she has advanced efforts to improve equity both on campus and in the community. Her efforts earned national recognition in December 2012, when the District was awarded a $29.4 million “Race to the Top” grant by the U.S. Department of Education.
Under Ms. McVeigh’s leadership, the District adopted Seven Essentials for Continuous Growth and Improvement, with the goal that all students perform at or above grade level in all core subjects. She introduced Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs) at each school, bringing teachers together with their administrators to make critical decisions affecting student learning, and convened Targeted Leadership meetings of the ILTs, to provide District-wide focus and to share best practices between sites.
Ms. McVeigh also assembled an Equity Task Force to address often-difficult issues such as race, culture and gender, and she brought together several community organizations to launch the Union City Kids’ Zone, with the goal of providing cradle-to-career services for some of the District’s most vulnerable students and their families. And at Ms. McVeigh’s direction, the District opened access to honors classes and advanced placement courses to students who might not have been accepted into such classes in the past, with remarkable success.
With instructional and equity foundations in place, New Haven was well positioned for the “Race to the Top” competition, and the District ultimately was one of only 16 recipients nationwide. The District’s application was ranked No. 2 in the country, from among 372 applicants.
“I’m particularly proud that the hard work our staff and students have done was recognized and rewarded in the Race to the Top competition,” Ms. McVeigh said. “There still is much work to be done, and I will remain deeply committed to that work while the Board determines a course of action. Ultimately, I believe we all want what’s best for the children of New Haven.”