Norwich board of education gives superintendent one-year extension

Norwich — Superintendent Abby Dolliver is an "outstanding educational leader" who juggles numerous complex school improvement grant programs with minimal staffing and professional qualities that are "above reproach," according to the Board of Education's annual evaluation report.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend Dolliver's contract by one year, through June 30, 2017, and gave her a 3 percent raise. Dolliver will earn $164,800 in the 2014-15 school year.

The board also approved 3 percent raises for all non-union staff members, totaling $35,496 for the 17 regular staff members, not including part-time substitute workers, school business administrator Athena Nagel said.

Board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso on Wednesday spoke in support of the raises.

"We want to reward them for the work they do," she said. "Athena, and the staff and Joe Stefon (curriculum director). They stay there many hours to work on this. We have to keep the good people we do have. We don't want them to leave."

Dolliver thanked the board for its support of her efforts and said school administrators and the board both work hard to improve student performance.

"I try to do the best we can for our community and our families," Dolliver said. "We look for funding opportunities and we're trying to provide all the things for enrichment that we can."

Prior to completing the five-page report Tuesday, the board had met with Dolliver three times behind closed doors over the past three months to conduct the evaluation. Dolliver's performance was evaluated in four areas - educational leadership, organizational management, community and school board relations and personnel and professional qualities and relationships.

"Mrs. Dolliver is a great example of an outstanding educational leader," the report said. The board praised her initiative in applying for the highly competitive state education improvement programs launched by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Under Dolliver, Norwich achieved Alliance District status, bringing in $2 million this year. And the John B. Stanton School was among the first four schools in the state to be named a Commissioner's Network School, bringing in about $1 million per year. Last month, the application to designate Uncas School as a Network School was approved, bringing more than $500,000 in additional funding in the coming fiscal year, along with state-bonded capital improvements.

Jacaruso said some people criticize school officials for seeking to be designated by the state as low-performing schools to obtain temporary grants. But, Jacaruso said, with its lack of local funding, Norwich cannot turn down offers of even temporary grants to fund key staffing to improve the schools.

"It's Abby who brings it to the table to us," Jacaruso said. "It's her initiative. The scores at Stanton have improved. It's human resources that are needed in the schools."

c.bessette@theday.com

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