Preston superintendent to retire following 2016-17 school year
Preston – School Superintendent John Welch has announced plans to retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year following a 12-year tenure that included major school upgrades in technology and security and initiatives such as full-day kindergarten and preschool.
Welch, 68, met behind closed doors with the Board of Education in a special meeting Thursday and requested a one-year contract extension through the next school year. The board approved the request following the executive session and also voted on a motion to create a subcommittee to study whether the school system should have a part-time superintendent.
On Monday night, the board appointed members Sean Nugent, Cindy Luty and Charles Raymond to the subcommittee.
Board Chairwoman Jan Clancy said Monday the subcommittee has been asked to report its findings and recommendation by June 1. The board then will decide whether a search committee will seek a new full-time or part-time superintendent, Clancy said. Welch is budgeted for his salary of $124,757 in the coming school year, pending any increase authorized by the school board.
Welch told the board he would retire in June 2016 if the board had planned to convert the position to part-time for the coming school year.
Welch said Monday he is proud of his accomplishments during his tenure as head of the town's two schools. He posted a two-page list of some of those achievements on the school system website, touting both his own initiatives — bringing Spanish education to grades kindergarten through eight and launching full-day preschool and kindergarten — and more global changes faced by all school districts.
Welch oversaw the upgrading of in-school computers and telecommunications systems to better communicate with parents. After the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook school massacre, school systems throughout the state hastened to improve security. Preston upgraded cameras, installed security locks and equipped staff with emergency communication equipment. The town received a state grant for more than $200,000 to cover much of the cost.
Welch and the Board of Education came under criticism two years ago when the board included expanding full-day preschool to all age-eligible children in town. Residents ultimately rejected the budget increase to pay for the program, and it was temporarily removed from the budget.
But when an unexpected budget surplus was evident by mid-year, Welch asked the board for approval to launch the program in January 2015. The program remained intact in the 2015-16 school budget and will be included in the 2016-17 school budget.
Welch said he next hopes to expand science education in grades four and five, as state and federal education standards push for enhanced science curriculum.
Preston students' scores on Connecticut Mastery Tests also improved steadily from 2004 through 2014, when the test was retired in favor of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.
Clancy said Monday she was not surprised by Welch's plans to retire in 18 months. Clancy praised his accomplishments and said Norwich Free Academy officials, who met with the Preston board last week, said the town's students enter the large, regional high school well prepared.
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