Greenwich shocked by school chief’s sudden departure
GREENWICH — Shock and disappointment followed the announcement Friday that Superintendent of Schools Jill Gildea is resigning her position in Greenwich after less than one year to accept a new job in Utah.
Gildea told school board members of her decision Thursday night, and official notification of the resignation was made the following morning.
The school administration issued a statement that said Gildea is leaving “due to her family’s unanticipated relocation to Utah.”
News of the abrupt departure came as an unsettling turn of events. The position of Greenwich schools superintendent has seen turnover a dozen times in the past two decades — including interim school chiefs who filled in for a year while the school board searched for a new “permanent” leader.
“It’s shocking, I’m really surprised,” said a school parent near New Lebanon School on Friday afternoon. “Whoever takes the job next, I hope they stay,” she said.
Another parent said there were many questions in her mind about the latest resignation.
“Why?” asked the New Lebanon School mother. “Why so much turnover? Is the town that dysfunctional?”
First Selectman Peter Tesei wondered the same thing.
“The fact Greenwich has been unable to retain a Superintendent for the long-term, is indicative that something is structurally, and perhaps philosophically, wrong with the processes employed by the Board of Education,” Tesei said in a statement. “It is my hope and desire that the Board of Education will review its policies, procedures and processes and be able to identify what needs to be done to bring long-term stability in the leadership of our school system.”
Tesei said he enjoyed working with Gildea and appreciated her commitment to work through the summer. But, he added, “While I understand her decision to leave Greenwich, I certainly am disappointed.”
Gildea, whose salary was set at $250,000 this year, wrote in a statement to the Greenwich community: “Though my time here in the district was shorter than I imagined, I look back with great pride and satisfaction knowing that we, together, have prepared students for their next steps. I remain grateful for and impressed with the work of our instructional and operational administrators, educators, and support staff. Their dedication and commitment to excellence is evident in all they do across the District.”
Gildea was hired by the district in March 2017 for a term that began July 1. She replaced interim Superintendent Sal Corda, who was brought on in the prior year after former Superintendent William McKersie left to take over the schools in Weston in 2016. McKersie took the Greenwich post in 2012, and his four-year run was the longest in recent history.
The school district in Park City, Utah announced Friday it had hired Gildea to be its new superintendent after “an extensive national search.”
Gildea and her husband, Greg Gildea, have three adult children and a daughter who was attending Greenwich High School. She was known during her short time in Greenwich for a level-headed, low-key style, according to a number of parents. Prior to coming to Greenwich, Gildea was superintendent of a school district in the Chicago suburbs for six years, and another in northern Illinois for three years before that.
In addition to her annual salary in Greenwich, she received a $15,000 annuity and a $3,500-per-month housing allowance. The district reimbursed her moving costs to Greenwich from the Chicago area. McKersie was paid $238,368 in his last year.
“Today’s announcement certainly came as a surprise to Council,” said Karen Bierman Hirsh, president of the Greenwich PTA Council. “I have really enjoyed working with Dr Gildea and in her short tenure, feel she has been an incredible asset to the district, our students and to Council. ... We are a district with high expectations, and while I am sad to see her leave and wish her well in Utah, we must now turn our attention to hiring a new superintendent who will continue to build on to the great framework created this year.”
The Park City School District Board of Education voted Friday morning to appoint Gildea.
“She has a proven track record in managing school districts using data-driven decisions and sound fiscal practices, working collaboratively with staff and parent groups, as well as with local township governments to fund educational needs,” the district said in an announcement on its website.
“Her experience as a superintendent both in the Chicago area and in Greenwich will bring valuable intellectual capital to our district,” Park City Board President Andrew Caplan said, adding Gildea was the first choice for the Utah position.
Park City, a winter-resort town near Salt Lake City, is best known for hosting the Sundance Film Festival.
“From my perspective in visiting other districts across the country through my work with a variety of national organizations, I believe that Park City School District keeps its students at the center of key decisions, and models whole child practice,” Gildea said in a posted statement. “The District is well poised as a leader not only in Utah, but in the nation. I look forward to joining this talented and dedicated team.”
Gildea was selected for the Greenwich job from a national candidate pool as part of a nine-month search led by Ray and Associates. The school board interviewed seven superintendent candidates starting in February 2017.
Local school officials indicated Gildea’s abrupt departure means more turnover is likely ahead.
“The Greenwich Board of Education initiated recruitment efforts today for an Interim Superintendent immediately following Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea’s announcement that she will be leaving the Greenwich Public Schools later this year due to her family’s unanticipated relocation to Utah,” the school board said in a statement. “In addition, the search for a permanent Superintendent will begin without delay. Dr. Gildea will be available to provide support throughout the transition.”
BOE Chair Peter Bernstein said the Greenwich district is “well-positioned” to attract a new superintendent “based on the roadmap provided by our Strategic Plan, the continued success of our students and the continuity of our dedicated administrators and staff.”
The school board spent about $35,000 on the search that resulted in Gildea’s hiring.