BRATTLEBORO — Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) board members say they don't have any information regarding the status of Brattleboro Union High School (BUHS) Principal Steve Perrin, who has been on paid leave at an annual salary of about $120,000 since spring break.
At the July 19 board meeting, parents Lisa Ford and Melany Kahn peppered the board with questions about the lack of public information about Perrin's status.
Ford, chair of the BUHS Leadership Council, brought up what she called the “huge leadership gap” currently at the school.
In addition to Perrin's absence, Vice Principal Chris Day has recently begun a two-year military leave.
“We've had no information regarding staffing,” Ford said, noting the administrative turnover.
Cassie Damkoehler has been hired as assistant principal for grades 10 and 12, Traci Lane as assistant principal for grades 9 and 11, and Hannah Parker as dean of students, a new position.
But whether Perrin will return remains unknown.
“I think there are a lot of people who are very concerned,” said Board Chair Kelly Young. “We are in a position where there are unknowns.”
Asked to comment, Superintendent Mark Speno said, “that's a good question,” regarding whether Perrin will return. “I would think that we need some clarity on that by the middle of August for sure.”
“We don't have an acting principal in place right now,” he acknowledged. “A very new team is working very hard to get organized.”
When Ford asked who would make decisions about hiring a principal, Speno said he would bring a recommendation to the Board, if a new hire is needed.
“That would have to be collaborative with the Board,” he said. “I really can't discuss the leave of absence until information is shared.”
Asked who would share such information, Speno answered, “I really can't answer that.”
“As a board member, I have no knowledge,” said Sean Murphy. “None at all. It seems like somebody must know, but it's not me.”
“We are not given information,” said Board Vice Chair David Schoales, noting that the process of addressing the factors behind Perrin's leave is “happening in other places that we are not at liberty to talk about.”
“We can't satisfy your need,” Schoales told Ford. “We've been saying the same things for months, 'When are we going to hear something?' We hear this.”
“This isn't the first time people have said, 'What's going on with the principal?'” he continued. “But we don't have that information. It has to unfold in the way it has to unfold, and we don't have any control over it. And when it's done, you'll hear something just like we will and everyone else.”
“With all due respect, I actually don't believe you,” said Kahn.
Murphy then admonished his colleagues, saying the word “transparent” is often used about Board actions and business, but in this case doesn't apply.
“Don't use that world anymore,” he said. “It's not transparent.”
“I understand it's not satisfying to the public,” said Young.
“Don't lie to us,” Kahn countered. “It doesn't go over well.”
“At this point, there's nothing else we can tell you,” said Young. “We don't have an interest in hiding information, but we have a responsibility to do certain things.”