Almont Board denies Principal’s contract extension,
over 40 people fill Media Center with concerns
ALMONT — Monday night’s Almont school board meeting was supposed to be a workshop session for the board’s self-evaluation.
Instead, it turned into a meeting where more than 40 people filled the school’s Media Center, upset with the board for a situation teachers believe forced a resignation of former High School Principal Elizabeth Gallagher.
The former Almont administrator spent five years as the principal of the high school and decided to resign her position, after failing to have additional years added to her current contract, as requested.
School Board President Angela Edwards began with a prepared statement.
“First and foremost, I want to thank you all for being here, willing to have a difficult conversation directly. Any time there is a lack of trust in the intentions and leadership of the Board, we have failed.”
She went on to say, “We cannot control the perception or rumor, but what we can control is how we communicate with our staff, both in listening to their concerns and articulating our reasoning and decisions. Clearly, at best, we did not succeed in that regard.”
Edwards said the Board was not “shirking responsibility” in how the situation was handled saying, “Instead of an explanation, we will just acknowledge this consequence was not the objective, nor the intent of the Board. Regrettably, this was a devastating learning experience, one that we do not take flippantly.”
Gallagher’s contract “was never at issue,” according to Edwards who feels the Board would be wrong to set a precedent, had they agreed to the request.
Leigh Stroh, a 30-year educator of the Almont school district and the Almont Education Association’s Chief Negotiator also read a prepared statement. In part, he said, “from the standing ovation she received in receiving her 5-year service award to the outrage at the rumors that she was among “the next to go” which was seemingly confirmed when her contract was not routinely extended, you should have known how much this leader meant to her staff. In 30 years of education, I have never encountered her equal.”
Stroh continued, “The completely avoidable loss was botched at every step by the Almont school board. In doing so, intended or not, you have sent a loud and clear message to staff at all levels that myopic personal vendettas and agendas outweigh long term vision and thorough understanding, and what’s best for kids.”
The veteran educator told the board, “If any kind of rapport or trust is to be reestablished between the Board and staff, you have a great deal of work to do; work now that requires much more than words. If you want to keep what made Almont a magnet district for kids, and in large part, the staff, you must put an end to blindsiding superintendents and other Board members. You need to be a functional team, one that doesn’t push away their best players.”
Stroh concluded by saying, the Almont Board of Education has to do something, not just say something, to reverse the perception that “those who make us great are being pushed out the door.”
One teacher with the district said she couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw a resignation letter distributed by Gallagher. Another said he couldn’t express enough his disappointment and anger at the board.
Interim Superintendent Kim VonHiltmayer said it is important to keep the students at the forefront, that’s most important. She has three scheduled interviews this week to find Gallagher’s replacement.
Gallagher has since been hired by the Imlay City school district.