By Liz Markhlevskaya
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
FARMINGTON — After a recent vote of no confidence in Superintendent Seven Welford by School District employees, the School Board on Thursday will discuss Welford’s recent evaluation.
The SAU 61 School Board meeting will be held in a nonpublic session. It’s unknown whether any decisions regarding Welford’s employment will be made during the meeting, but some members of the teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ associations hope that Welford will be terminated.
Last month, 137 School District employees took a vote regarding Welford’s leadership, and 95 percent of those employees voted “no confidence,” said Sue Roy, who is a member of the teachers association.
“Morale is low,” said Roy, a special-education teacher. “He has bullied the paraprofessionals, and he has been found guilty of that.”
In March, the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) found Welford had violated the labor law on four occasions in 2012 and 2013. During one occasion, he interrupted former paraprofessionals union president Laura Parker while she was working with students to interrogate her about negotiations and wage pay. During another incident, he told Parker that employees “who included times for mandatory meeting attendance on their time cards were not working with the district as a ‘team,’” according to the PELRB decision issued March 20.
Roy, a School District employee of 23 years, said some employees suffered negative consequences for speaking out against Welford. For some who testified against him before the labor relations board, their positions have been either changed or eliminated, she said.
“I am speaking up because I’m retiring this year,” said Roy. “I feel as though if I can make it 23 more days I will be OK … I owe the children this.”
The vote of no confidence “has been a long time coming,” said Peter Miller of the National Educators Association in New Hampshire.
Miller, who helps the local teachers and paraprofessionals unions with contract negotiations and enforcement, said it’s ultimately up to the SAU School Board to decide the future of Welford’s employment, and last month’s vote by School District employees does not require board members to fire him.
“A vote of no confidence will hopefully alert School Board members about the problems,” he said.
On Thursday, members of the teachers and paraprofessionals associations sent an informational flier to about 400 parents in the district, asking them to call School Board members before Thursday’s meeting and ask them to terminate Welford. The flier outlines PELRB’s March 20 decision, and asserts that according to Welford’s contract, the School Board can terminate his employment if he is ever found guilty of violating labor law. His contract expires next year.
The information sent to parents also mentions PELRB’s recent ruling that School District officials violated labor laws when they outsourced and privatized food services in the district.
During an interview Monday, School Board member Penny Morin said the decision to privatize food services was a decision made by the Farmington School Board, not the superintendent.
Asked about the recent vote of no confidence and the future of Welford’s employment with the district, Morin said she wants to “allow Mr. Welford his due process.”
She said at the end of the day, she would like the School Board and the teachers and paraprofessionals unions to be able to work together.
Welford could not be reached for comment Monday.