A second Easthampton School Committee member has resigned following the controversial search for a new superintendent, citing the way the committee botched its search process as the main reason for parting ways.
Laurie Garcia submitted her resignation to the committee on Saturday, just weeks after member Shannon Dunham also announced she was leaving the committee. Both departures come as the district continues to grapple with the fallout of the failed superintendent search, which has gained national attention.
In her resignation letter obtained by the Globe, Garcia told her colleagues that she could “no longer work with a committee that has proven to act in ways that are detrimental to our school district and community at large.”
“I am especially disheartened that I can no longer strive to model for our students the integrity and transparency that are needed in leadership, and I hope you consider the students more as you try to move forward,” Garcia wrote in her resignation letter.
Garcia, who was elected to the committee in 2017, told the Globe in an interview on Monday that she was frustrated with the School Committee’s refusal to reinstate an offer for the superintendent job to its first pick, Vito Perrone, and felt that her opinion on the matter no longer has any value in the committee.
Perrone was offered the role in March but said that it was rescinded after he addressed School Committee Chair Cynthia Kwiecinski and Suzanne Colby, the committee’s executive assistant, as “ladies” at the start of a negotiation e-mail. Perrone said he was told by Kwiecinski that doing so was a “microaggression.”
Kwiecinski has since told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that while she was insulted by how Perrone addressed her in the e-mail, there were other factors in the decision to rescind his offer.
Garcia voted in favor of Perrone’s appointment and has spoken in support of him since his offer was rescinded. During a School Committee meeting last week, she called for the district to re-enter negotiations with Perrone but the effort failed by a 5-2 vote, with Garcia and Dunham being the only members in favor.
Dunham publicly announced on Facebook that she decided to resign due to health reasons. Dunham recently told the Gazette that her resignation was due to “a combination of things” but that the circumstances around the search process became too stressful, especially since she has been recovering from a stroke she had over a year ago.
Last week, the Easthampton School Committee decided to pause its search and seek out a one-year interim superintendent, instead of going through the process of selecting a third finalist after controversies involving the first two candidates selected for the job.
In April, after Perrone’s offer was rescinded, the School Committee selected Erica Faginski-Stark, the director of curriculum and instruction at Ludlow Public Schools, for the role. But Faginski-Stark withdrew her name just days later after Easthampton students raised concerns about a Facebook page they believed to be hers. The students told Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle in an e-mail obtained by the Globe that the account posted “conservative and transphobic rhetoric a multitude of times.”
The committee plans to meet Monday night to discuss the search for an interim superintendent and plans to solicit guidance from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
Garcia argued that the School Committee is moving backward by looking for an interim instead of reinstating an offer to Perrone, which she said would be the only way to “heal” as a district.
“I was extremely frustrated with that and I wasn’t going to put more time into a search when we already found the perfect candidate,” Garcia said.