Update 7:10 p.m.
The school board voted unanimously Wednesday on a settlement with Superintendent Michael Frechette that will see him leave the district almost immediately. Frechette's last day on the job is Friday.
A lawyer for the district and the board's chairman refused to disclose the financial details of the agreement or who would succeed Frechette, who was hired in 2005.
Only six of the board's nine members attended the executive session meeting the board held late Wednesday afternoon; Ava Hart, Cheryl McClellan, Ed McKeon, Gene Nocera, Mitchell Wynn and Ryan Kennedy. They deliberated for about 40 minutes and then convened in a public session, as required by law, to vote on a resolution to accept the settlement agreement.
Frechette did not attend the meeting. Members Sheila Daniels, William G. Grady and Theodore Raczka also did not attend.
Nocera, the board's chairman, refused to take questions after the vote.
"We have agreed with Dr. Frechette and the Board of Education ... the statements are pretty clear."
Nocera offered Frechette's written resignation, which states he will leave tomorrow.
"In light of differences with the Board of Education and in agreement with them, I am resigning my position and plan to move on professionally March 9," Frechette says in his letter.
Attorney Christine Chinni said the financial details of the agreement would be released within a few days, but wouldn't elaborate.
The school district has come under increased scrutiny and criticism in recent years following several highly-public and controversial issues during Frechette's tenure. The district and city were involved in several lawsuits regarding who has the authority to hire certain central office staff and recently the board acknowledged that it has a $1 million budget deficit.
Perhaps most damning, however, was the controversy that erupted in recent months over the use of so-called "scream rooms" at Farm Hill Elementary School. The isolation rooms have drawn scrutiny from state officials and lead to a hearing this week before the state's legislature on a new law that would require better monitoring of such disciplinary measures for students.
Frechette's letter lists his many accomplishments in the seven years since he took over the school district in 2005, including Middletown's national recognition for its lesson plan template.
"The achievement gap has closed; standardized test scores have dramatically increased, especially in the area of reading. ... Many school districts visit our schools because of our successful implementation of data teams and the progress we have made on standardized tests," according to his resignation letter.
Frechette expressed "profound gratitude for the support received from the members of the community, parents, students, staff and previous Board of Education and [it is] with sadness I will not be continuing our work together for the children of Middletown."
Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Barbara Senges was in central office while the Board was in executive session, but did not attend the meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Claims No Knowledge of School Chief's Ouster
The assistant superintendent of schools says she has no knowledge of an alleged buyout being considered by the school board.
Middletown Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Barbara Senges says she isn't privy to information about Frechette’s contract being bought out by the at this evening’s special personnel meeting. “I know nothing about tonight’s meeting," Senges says. "No one has spoken to me about it.”
In fact, Senges learned only about the issue from a story in the newspaper — and hasn't had time to check for updates. “I’ve been working all day,” she says.
When asked to confirm rumors she will be taking over should Frechette leave, Senges said, "That's the first I've heard of it."
She confirmed it is not unusual that she is kept “out of the loop” on such matters. “When the Board does the superintendent’s evaluation every year, I’m not there. When they meet in executive session on personnel matters, I wouldn’t be there,” Senges says.
An examination of Superintendent of Schools ’s original three-year contract, which ran from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2008, reveals a base salary of $132,666 plus a $2,285 annuity contract.
On June 28, 2011, with two years remaining in Frechette’s contract, the Board voted to extend it for one more year.
The Board voted 5-2 with one abstention to increase his salary by 1.9 percent to $157,480, continue the $3,000 contribution to the Teaches Salary Annuity and continue his Ph.D. stipend of $2,000 for a total cost of $162,480.
Annual contract renewals are common, Senges says. “If the superintendent gets an adequate evaluation, the Board will extend it for another year.”
“Prior to the end of the second year of a three-year contract, the Board shall vote on a new three-year agreement,” Frechette’s contract reads.
Written copies of Frechette’s evaluations, which are public record, are not available, says Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools Marcy Poppel.
That’s because Frechette’s evaluations have always been done verbally, Board of Education Chair Eugene Nocera confirms — at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. But that’s due to change, he says. “We have a new policy now. In the future, we will be using the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education online superintendent evaluation, which is much more elaborate.”
So if the Board were to vote to buy out Frechette’s contract this evening, it would be based on an end date of June 28, 2014 — with two years and just over three months remaining in his employment agreement.
This morning, Common Councilwoman Deborah Kleckowski sent a strongly worded letter to the Board of Education members calling for the Michael Frechette's firing.
In it she writes, "I understand that Dr. Frechette may be leaving due to family concerns."
If a termination agreement is reached, Frechette’s contract states, “the parties may, by mutual consent, terminate the contract at any time,” and he would be paid any unused vacation or sick time. Under the agreement, Frechette receives 15 paid sick days per year and 20 non-consecutive vacation days, not including holidays. Sick days can be accumulated, the contract states, from year to year but not in excess of 180 days.
The Board will meet tonight at 6 p.m. at the Board of Education Central Office, 311 Hunting Hill Ave., in executive session.
A statement is expected at the conclusion. Check back with Middletown Patch for updates throughout the evening and be sure to sign up for our breaking news alerts for up-to-the minute news.