Major Staff Changes Set For Meriden Elementary and High Schools

Retirements spark a restructuring of the central office and other changes in the district.


There will be some big staff changes at Meriden's public schools come next school year, sparked by the anticipated retirement of two principals and two members of the central office staff in June.

Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni announced to district staff via e-mail Wednesday that the Board of Education had approved a number of administrative changes at its meeting Tuesday night. The changes will take effect July 1, 2012, he said. 

Elementary School principal Tom Brown is retiring at the end of this school year, and current Elementary School Principal Dan Coffey will move schools to take his place. 

"Pulaski’s our largest school and I think Tom Brown has done a fabulous job," Benigni said in a phone interview Thursday.

Once he learned of Brown's retirement, Benigni said he gauged Coffey's interest. "Ben Franklin is running strong and effectively right now...I think he'll provide great leadership to our largest elementary school."

School Principal Judy Seldner will also be retiring in June.

Coffey's move does not mean Ben Franklin is on the district's chopping block for next year, assured Benigni – even though the school board has been if it does not receive a sufficient increase in its budget from the city this year.

The board is hiring consulting firm Milone & MacBroom to perform an analysis and plan for how the district would go about shuttering a school. 

"The last thing we want to do is close an elementary school," Benigni said. He said that there would be no decision on which school would be closed until the study is done, and the district won't pursue closure if it can get the requested funds.

Because of the possible closure, the district will only be posting a job advertisement for one elementary school principal until the budget process is over, Benigni said.

The district will also be advertising for a high school principal. Current Principal Donna Mik will be moving to the district's central office in the role of Director of Pupil Personnel Programs. Palma Vaccaro, who currently has the position, will be retiring June 30.

The Office of Pupil Personnel Programs manages gifted and talented and special education programming, and administers the Venture Program for middle and high school students that is housed in the Rushford Center complex on Paddock Ave.

"Donna has a strong special education background – she taught special education for many years...and she brought strong, solid leadership to Platt High School," Benigni said. "We were looking for someone to be very active, involved, with a hands-on approach and be very creative."

One item Mik will be charged with is formulating in-district special education programs. This is something the district has been discussing for the past year in an attempt to alleviate the major costs – some upwards of $50,000 a year per student – of placing Meriden students with special needs in programs outside the district.

The central office's Director of Adult Education Donn Friedman will be retiring this year, and the position itself will be eliminated, according to Benigni. Friedman's duties will be split between Lois Lehman, Director of Curriculum and Adult Education and a part-time Adult Education Coordinator, Benigni said.

Tom Giard, current Director of Personnel, will take on some of Lehman's duties in addition to his own and be promoted to be the district's new Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Staff – a newly created position that comes at the same salary for Giard.

Benigni says that the staff changes in the central office will save the district $110,000.


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