New London school board votes not to extend superintendent's contract

New London — The Board of Education voted 6-1 on Thursday not to extend the superintendent's contract for another year, making the next school year his last.

Bill Morse was the lone board member in favor, saying he would have liked to extend Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer's contract by another year, to 2015. The contract expires June 30, 2014.

"This puts the district on hold for two years, but that's their choice," Fischer said after the meeting.

During the meeting, Fischer read from a list of the district's accomplishments during his four years in New London, including the move to make the district an all-magnet school district; New London High School's rating as the most improved high school in the state in terms of student achievement; Nathan Hale Elementary School's designation as a School of Distinction; and three students' enrollment in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for the first time in 15 years.

Thursday's contract discussion was supposed to take place in executive session, but Fischer requested that the talks be held in public. When it came time for discussion on the contract renewal, board members fell silent. There was no discussion, just a swift vote.

Visibly absent at the meeting was the district's state-appointed special master, Steven Adamowski.

"We did this last year and there was no discussion then," board Chairwoman Margaret Curtin said after the meeting. "I think one of the major reasons was that board members felt there was a lack of communication, they felt it wasn't forthcoming."

In a 2010-11 annual evaluation of the superintendent by the previous school board, a lack of communication between Fischer and the board was not noted in any of the nine evaluation categories as an improvement goal.

Board members this year have expressed frustration about not receiving information in a timely manner prior to board meetings, not having enough back-up information at meetings to make informed decisions, and not feeling embraced by the superintendent. However, Fischer has said that even though he reaches out to board members and invites questions and comments from them on issues, he rarely receives feedback.

During public comment before the vote, residents spoke in praise of Fischer's accomplishments.

Alvin G. Kinsall, the former chairman of the school board, said voting not to renew Fischer's contract would be a fatal mistake.

"Your vote to renew this contract is a positive step in the furthering of the future and health of the New London Public Schools system," Kinsall said. "Since his arrival, we have been fortunate to see continual improvement in the district. He was quick to recognize the district's weaknesses and rapidly make recommendations to address them. Don't be afraid of success. Be afraid of the alternative if you don't allow success."

j.hanckel@theday.com

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