Newmarket, NH school superintendent, trustees resign


NEWMARKET – Three top school trustees have resigned in Newmarket SA 31leaving the school board scrambling to find an acting superintendent.

Superintendent Susan Givens, Deputy Superintendent Debra Black and Deputy Principal of Junior High Sheana Thorell have each tendered their resignations according to an email from Givens to the school board dated April 13.

Newmarket Junior-Senior High School principal David Dalton also resigned in March, creating four main positions for the school board to fill this year.

The school board held an emergency meeting on April 15 to accept and discuss the resignations. The board issued a statement Thursday announcing the resignations. The statement said the board is in the process of recruiting new directors and the board and administration have made no additional comments at this time.

“The school board thanks them for their service to the school district,” the statement said.

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Board Chairman Gary Swanson was contacted by email on Friday but declined to answer further questions, including when the resignations were effective.

School board member Amy Tilton was reached by phone on Friday and declined to speak beyond the press release, although she said Givens’ resignation was effective 120 days after he tendered it.

She said she understood that David Dalton, who also resigned in March, would have to serve as principal until the end of the school year.

Givens did not return a call seeking comment.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, she told board members that it is district protocol to issue written press releases when the media seeks comment rather than speaking on the phone. Council members then voted 4 to 1 to release the written statement, with council member Phil Nazzaro voting against.

Superintendent Susan Givens

“I don’t think there’s anything dramatic going on here, but I think the language is powerful,” Givens said. She also advised the council to respond “in a positive way and one that puts us all in a positive light”.

The board considered discussing the press release in a non-public session, although Nazzaro said it “creates the appearance that there is potentially something here that isn’t.”

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The board also met Thursday with the executive director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, Barrett Christina, to discuss the upcoming search for an interim superintendent and then a permanent superintendent. He said it was too late in the year to find a permanent superintendent and recommended that a small committee find an interim in time for August.

“We’re looking for someone to kind of keep the lights on and pay the bills and just stabilize the ship for next year,” Christina said. He said the NHSBA recommends 14 to 16 weeks for the search for a permanent superintendent.

Board members discussed at the April 15 meeting whether to conduct exit interviews with Givens and Black, who were not present at that meeting due to prior commitments according to Swanson.

Givens normally conducts exit interviews and serves as the SAU’s human resources manager, Swanson said. Counsel was advised by counsel that counsel do not normally participate in exit interviews. Tilton said she wasn’t sure the board had the right to have exit interviews, but Nazzaro said, “It’s an anomalous situation.”

“There are reasons behind that why I’m not even entirely (indistinguishable),” Nazzaro said. Tilton agreed that the information would be valuable.

“How do we get these comments? I feel like those comments are lost between us and the superintendent, like why people are leaving,” Tilton said. “I would always like to know, so things can be worked out.”

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Dons was under fire in 2019 when a group of parents circulated a petition calling for a vote of no confidence due to a “lack of communication” to furlough then junior-senior high school principal Chris Mazzone. Mazzone was then reassigned from his position as director of school facilities in 2020, replaced by Dalton. The SAU 31 school board defended Givens by a 5–0 vote rejecting the request for a vote of no confidence, with Chairman Mike Kenison saying he “sees no merit” in the petition.

The resignations sparked concern among community members. Resident Anne Ellis of 8 Wiggin Drive said she had 17 years experience as a school administrator and expressed concern about the effect the resignations will have on the school district. She said her own child was struggling in fourth grade when, the following year, they found success with Thorell, then as a fifth-grade teacher.

“I just can’t imagine this district moving forward with this loss,” Ellis said. She also said the community of public school administrators is “tight.” She said that even though she hadn’t spoken with any of the resigning people, resigning is often a last resort.

“Sometimes the only way to stand up for something you’re being asked to do that’s morally, ethically wrong, or beyond your reach in terms of what’s good for your community and your position, is to quit,” he says. she.

“They are extremely dedicated people,” Ellis said. “I can’t believe they are leaving for any other reason than it is the only action they can take to defend themselves in this position.”


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