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After Kadri's Firing, Accusations Begin

Board Member Shelley Gardner says her colleagues allowed a bad situation to get worse by extending former Superintendent Paul Kadri's contract.

Groton School Board Member Shelley Gardner said Tuesday the members of the board who voted to renew former Superintendent Paul Kadri’s contract in 2011 allowed a bad situation to continue and should resign.

Kadri was fired Tuesday, after an independent arbitrator found that he “engaged in conduct warranting termination of his employment".

“The people of Groton were faced with the misfortune of having to terminate a board of ed employee through a lengthy legal process,” Gardner said. “Board members were knowledgeable of the misconduct and most chose, not all, to not only ignore it by not pursuing it, but to reinforce and enable the unhealthy situation to continue and escalate by renewing the individuals contract...”

Gardner said every one who voted to renew Kadri's contract should resign effective immediately.

Chaz Zezulka said the board acted appropriately and he feels no need to resign.

"I just feel it's sad for the students and the town of Groton. It's part of our history now that this happened," Zezulka said. "But to say that we're responsible. . .we acted responsibly. We had to move cautiously. We had to provide him with due process."

"You have to have good cause if you think somebody is being irresponsible or not fulfilling their duties and it takes a long time," Zezulka said. "And that's why we are where we are right now because we crossed our Ts and dotted our Is."

The board voted 5-2 in August 2011 to extend Kadri’s contract one year until 2014.

Board members Zezulka, Patricia Doyle, Robert Peruzzotti, former board chairman Brian Shirvell and former board member Jen Sim voted yes; members Rita Volkmann and Beverly Washington voted no. Kirsten Hoyt, the vice chairwoman at the time, and Elizabeth Gianacoplos were absent for the vote.

Zezulka said the first few years after Kadri was hired, things the board wanted seemed to be there: A zero increase in the budget, no teacher layoffs and increased student achievement.

But there were also warning signs, he said: Rumors without proof.

"I don't know if any board members were actually privy to anything that would be detrimental to any interactions between his employees," he said. Zezulka said no one ever came to him personally and discussed the problems.

Gardner said she believes that when the next superintendent is chosen, the school board should not be solely responsible for the decision.

“I think people should be chosen from different boards in town and make up a committee who will chose the next superintendent. Because the board uses poor judgment,” she said.

Zezulka said he agrees the search should involve other people, but not because the board lacks judgment.

"We should be working together for the betterment of the students and the town of Groton. It's not happening when a board member attacks other board members," he said.

Franky Camper March 06, 2013 at 11:07 AM
Mr. Zezulka, you are an embarrassment to the residents of Groton, the educators you were time and again fail, and likely several members of the BOE. You brought us Kadri despite many red flags in his history, you kept him here by extending his contract despite red flag after red flag being raised by GPS employees and parents, and you were responsible for a significant waste of tax payer dollars to remove him. Resign, in the best interest of my children, Groton's children, and Groton's tax payers. Francis C.
CA March 06, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Picking of a new superintendent should not be allowed from the BOE alone. As you can tell. Many warning signs were there even before this person was hired. Town council and teachers should be involved as well as parents in this town. I do agree that this was a paid situation where the BOE didn't listen well and extended a contract that should not have happened and now the taxpayers have to foot the bill and the schools (teachers, students and parents) have to suffer with layoffs.
CA March 06, 2013 at 11:46 AM
I meant to say above that "I do agree that this was a "bad" situation where the BOE didn't listen well and extended a contract that should not have happened and now the taxpayers have to foot the bill and the schools (teachers, students and parents) have to suffer with layoffs. Sorry for not correcting the word before.
augie42 March 06, 2013 at 12:05 PM
The BOE NEVER properly vetted Kadri to begin with. And for Chas, it is time to hang it up. Stop treating Rita like Paul did his associates. Your grandstanding tirades are no longer working. We need leaders with solutions....not horn tooters....leaders that take credit for the good and the BAD, learn from it and move on. And to YOU MR. KADRI, do us all a favor and move on without causing any more damage then you already have!!!!
Genevieve Cerf March 06, 2013 at 01:29 PM
My respect and admiration goes out to Shelley Gardner for speaking out on the terrible choices which were made by the BOE in renewing Kadri's contract. I'd also like to thank Beverly Washington and Rita Volkman for voting no on renewing the contract. I'm reluctant to state the obvious, but it seems the men on the BOE turned a blind eye to Kadri's male chauvinism toward many of his female employees, and the women (at least those who were present) were ignored and overruled, For years now, I have personally deplored how TOG leadership is chosen... seemingly behind closed doors by the "powers that be". We are always presented with a "fait accompli", i.e. by the time the chosen ones are announced, it's too late to consider any alternatives. In light of how much the whole Kadri story has cost us -- probably close to a million by the time we finish paying his contract and the legal fees -- I do think a special commission should be appointed to look for and approve future candidates for ALL important positions, School Superintendent, Town Manager, Public Works Director, Planning Director, etc. We need people from different walks of life on this commission, especially business men and women who understand how costly hiring mistakes can be. Teachers and parents should be included for the choice of School Superintendent, perhaps even some from neighboring districts (e.g. Stonington and Waterford) who can bring an unbiased point of view to the table.
jean park March 06, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Enough with the divisiveness already. Gardner needs to learn to work collaboratively. She should ask her seasoned and intelligent colleagues such as Zezulka to help her. If Gardner refuses to collaborate, SHE is the one who should resign.
CA March 06, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Zezulka needs to leave the BOE because of his behavior towards others in the group who don't agree with him. Gardner should stay because she is questioning how things have been done in the past.
augie42 March 06, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Jean Park, Are you serious? Have you seen the attacks Chaz has made during piblic meetings? We need more BOE members like Shelley Gardner who will challenge the 'status-quo' as Gen Cerf has stated above. Lets do Groton a favor and elect BETTER people to these positions.
jean park March 06, 2013 at 06:38 PM
augie42, whoever you are, if you want BOE members to "challenge" whatever status quo you disagree with, then you should back Gardner. Not me. I want the BOE to thoughtfully work together to educate our kids.
augie42 March 06, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Jean, To say blindly " thoughtfully work together to educate our kids" is a blanket statement that has no real meaning. I am involved locally in government as an RTM, RTC and PAC chair. I go to TC, BOE and other meetings to speak and to get informed. OUR new PAC (GATE...groton advocates for tax efficiency) is interviewing Dr. Ramos next week and will be televised on Comcast local access. Please don't take this wrong, all I am asking is to get informed and maybe get involved. Then we can have a civil debate on the issues. We need to tell our officials how good or bad they are doing based on the facts. It is all part of the political process to self government. Lets all open the GATE to transparency. Scott Aument/Groton RTM/GATE PAC chair.
Genevieve Cerf March 06, 2013 at 07:26 PM
If "thoughfully work together" is how they picked Kadri, then perhaps less thought and more scrupulous analysis is what's needed....
joe March 06, 2013 at 10:06 PM
I agree with everything Shelley Gardner has said in this article. Those board members should resign. They are the main reason we have the problems we do. They continue to make bad decisions. Chaz Zezulka has no clue as to what is going on, as shown by his comments. How can we all stand behind Shelley and make these resignations become a reality ? It would be nice.
B-Mom March 07, 2013 at 02:27 AM
The only member of the board who ever questions Kadri was Rita. Ms. Washington was the chair at the time he was hired and if I recall correctly was very supportive of Kadri because of his business background. Also, the hiring committee needs to include teachers, parents and community members for the entire process this time. All members of that team should google candidates and discuss those findings. With that said - this board needs to stop bickering and get to work.
jean park March 07, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Hi Scott, thanks for the intro. See you at a meeting.
Franky Camper March 10, 2013 at 03:58 AM
You got it right Joe. Some Members are more at fault than others for this catastrophe. Clearly the newer members were not responsible for bringing Kadri here, and thankfully Brian Shirvell and Jennifer Simm, who were instrumental in it, left office last year. One can't imagine how this mess would have shaken out had those staunch Kadri supporters been in office for all of this. As a Groton resident and teacher I would like to see Chaz Zezulka, Bob Peruzzotti, Kirsten Hoyt and Beth Gianacoplos excuse themselves from their BOE positions immediately. They share responsibility for bringing Kadri to Groton, and, much more so than the newer Board members, have time and again demonstrated an inability to function effectively as a Board. Frankly, the thought of this group of people finding, vetting, and hiring Kadri's successor is downright frightening. We must do everything we can to see that this scenario does not arise. Francis

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