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Contract dispute leads to assistant superintendent's departure

Updated 4:46 pm, Monday, August 26, 2013
  • Dr. Mary Elizabeth Murray-Wilson addresses a March Board of Education meeting. The former assistant superintendent resigned from her position earlier this month. Photo: Tyler Woods
    Dr. Mary Elizabeth Murray-Wilson addresses a March Board of Education meeting. The former assistant superintendent resigned from her position earlier this month. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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Assistant Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Murray-Wilson resigned from her position at the New Canaan school district citing a contract dispute and an "ongoing lack of support" for her work, according to her resignation letter, dated Aug. 5.

Wilson submitted the letter, which was copied to an attorney, to Superintendent Mary Kolek after she was offered new contract terms in July.

"After careful consideration, I have decided to not accept the terms and conditions of this new replacement contract agreement. These actions, coupled with the ongoing lack of support for my work in the role of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, have informed my decision to leave New Canaan Public Schools," the letter stated.

In the letter, Wilson wrote that she received a draft of a new contract agreement from Kolek on July 12 and a "final copy" from Gary Kass, director of human resources for New Canaan Public Schools, three days later, "two weeks after the start of Year 2 on my prior contract agreement.

"I asked Mr. Kass to clarify the purpose of this new contract agreement. On July 18, 2013, Mr. Kass indicated that this new contract replaced my existing agreement with New Canaan Public Schools executed on May 18, 2012, with then Superintendent of Schools, Dr. David Abbey."

Wilson's last day was Aug. 9. Efforts to reach her were unsuccessful.

After repeated requests from the New Canaan News, Kolek released the resignation letter Tuesday.

The contents of the letter paint a different picture of the situation from what both Kolek and Kass had portrayed over the previous days, when they never mentioned a contract dispute or any dissatisfaction.

On Aug. 16, Kass said Wilson chose to pursue other opportunities -- though he didn't know exactly what they were -- and added that she was weighing several options.

"People come and go, people make decisions," he said. "When people want to pursue other avenues, that's great. Now we're trying to fill the position."

Also on Aug. 16, when asked if Wilson's departure was announced, Kolek said it is not the district's policy to notify staff when people resign from their positions, except as a roundup at the beginning of each school year. School starts on Aug. 26.

"I haven't sent out an email. We don't do that for anyone. At the beginning of the year, we send out announcements of all our new staff," she said.

However, in April when Finance and Operations Director Joseph Meehan announced his retirement, New Canaan Public Schools sent a press release to all local media outlets.

In an interview Monday, Kolek said, "I think the decision was the best one in terms of timing," explaining that the summer is the best time for personnel changes.

Kolek also said the staff would pitch in to cover Wilson's duties before a search would begin.

"We are going to start the school year. I've got a full team of extraordinary people and we'll make the normal changes. This is not the time of year for thinking about any searches," she said.

When reached Wednesday, Board of Education member Hazel Hobbs confirmed the board accepted the consent agenda, which included two resignations, in the Aug. 19 general meeting. Board Chairman Alison Bedula could not be reached for comment.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Wilson was still listed as the assistant superintendent on the district's website, though calls to her secretary were not picked up. The voice-mail message identified the number as belonging to the office of the assistant superintendent, but did not name Wilson. Her LinkedIn page also identified her as the assistant superintendent of the New Canaan Public Schools.

Wilson, whose salary was $186,000, is a graduate of the Teachers College of Columbia University. She previously was the director of curriculum and instruction for the Mt. Pleasant Central School District in Thornwood, N.Y.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews