A rough year

Danville superintendent resigns after short tenure

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Print this page by Denice Thibodeau

Danville Superintendent Ed Newsome took over July 1, 2013 in a school district that had just closed three elementary schools and a middle school because a declining student population and budget constraints — closures that were unpopular with parents and students. The school board also had closed an alternative middle school program because of reduced funding.

Fighting in one of the middle schools brought the launch of a new alternative school program, but other initiatives Newsome attempted during the year got mixed reviews.

The superintendent wanted to reopen one school to start a performing arts academy, but school board members questioned how such a program could be funded.

Newsome’s vision also included massive restructuring of the school system, including the addition of new administrative staff. His proposed budget drew board disapproval when it included four new executive positions but no pay increases for teachers.

Teachers and principals retired or resigned in unusually high numbers. By the end of the school year, the district had 74 vacant teacher positions. In the previous three years, the normal level was about 50 resignations and retirements a year.

Parents, teachers and community leaders packed school board meetings in rarely-seen numbers — one in June even brought out fire marshals to clear a crowd that spilled out of the meeting room into an adjoining hallway.

While Newsome’s supporters regularly sang his praises at board meetings, his short tenure at Danville Public Schools ended June 30. He tendered his resignation, citing “personal and family reasons.” School Board Chairman Ed Polhamus said the board had approved a $160,000 severance package and announced Kathy Osborne, assistant superintendent for administrative services, had been appointed interim superintendent.

Osborne and Polhamus declined to comment on Newsome’s departure, saying that they want to focus on hiring teachers in time for classes to begin Aug. 11.

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