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New London school superintendent announces sweeping changes in administrative roles

New London — School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie announced sweeping changes to administrative roles in the school district on Wednesday, part of a planned restructuring that will lead to new leadership at the middle school and high school for the upcoming school year.

New London High School Principal William “Tommy” Thompson is being shifted to a new position heading secondary-level curriculum, instruction and assessment. Alison Burdick, the former principal at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and more recently the director of the International Education magnet program, was named Director of Adult Education. Burdick will replace the retiring Maria Pukas.

The moves will leave the district with open director positions at the high school and middle school, which are expected to be posted in the coming weeks. Laurelle Texidor will remain the director of the Science & Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.

Ritchie, in an email to school board members on Wednesday, provided a list of more than a dozen administrative positions. She identified the new directors or assistant directors for those positions by first name only. Ritchie did not immediately respond to requests for the complete list of first and last names.

Burdick’s and Thompson’s new roles were independently confirmed through school sources.

In a message sent to the school community, Ritchie said the moves “will allow us to further progress on all of our academic, magnet pathway and social-emotional development goals outlined in our three-year strategic plan entitled NLPS 2021."

“Placements of our existing administrators for next school year came to be through collaborative processes in which each individual’s strengths were highlighted,” Ritchie said. “We are pleased that deep work surrounding instructional practices will occur across all programs, PreK-12 and Adult Education.”

The changes come even as the district struggles to cope with the expanding police investigation that has led to the arrest of three middle school employees — two of them on sexual-assault charges and another for failing to report abuse or neglect. Several other school employees have been placed on paid administrative leave for various reasons that include complaints to the state Department of Children and Families about inappropriate interactions between employees and students.

Burdick and STEM Director Lawrence Washington are the two administrators placed on leave though there are no allegations of misconduct with students against them. With two of three top middle school administrators on leave, Ritchie announced last month that arts magnet school Director Maureen Bransfield would serve as the overall middle school campus director on an interim basis until the new hire is made.

Ritchie had announced the planned restructuring in the budget passed by the Board of Education in March.

“The proposed budget aims to restructure (shift) leadership and staffing to ensure the district develops coherent academic curriculum and coherent magnet-themed pathway curriculum, K-12,” Ritchie wrote. “The request repurposes current leadership roles to begin to serve as instructional content leaders (leading curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development) for grades K-5 and 6-12. This request also promotes new leadership and new school-level supports in the areas of attendance, climate, culture, equity and restorative practices.”

The new positions announced to the school board by email include Supervisor of Mathematics, Supervisor of English Language Arts 6-12, Supervisor of EL/Bilingual Programming 6-12, Director of Climate and Culture and Director of Athletics, Health and PE.

Board of Education President Manuel Rivera said Wednesday the school board was aware of the impending organizational changes. He said the superintendent has the authority to make transfers without board approval when they are consistent with bargaining unit agreements.

“There are more changes than usual,” Rivera said. “The superintendent is exercising her authority to put people in the best positions based on their expertise and the need of the district.”

He said it was part of the overall effort to improve student performance.

Board of Education member Jason Catala said he was flustered by the moves, particularly the removal of Thompson as high school principal.

“I understand some (of the changes), but I don’t understand the high school move,” Catala said. “He’s been there for 10-plus years.”

Catala also said “the horse was put before the cart,” and that the board was not kept apprised of the changes. He said the school board had yet to see job descriptions or salaries for some of the new positions.

Burdick and Thompson could not be reached for comment.


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