Three Central Falls School Administrators Missing in Action
Thursday, May 19, 2011
A copy of the payroll lists three administrators as receiving the following salaries—even though sources confirm they are no longer working in the district:
■ Joseph Rousseau, Principal at Captain Hunt Elementary School—$80,000
■ Elizabeth Legault, Principal at Central Falls High School—$105,500
■ Sonn Sam, Co-Principal at Central Falls High School—$100,000
The payroll list was provided by Finance Director Giovanna Venditti in response to a GoLocalProv request for a list of current employees and their salaries. But yesterday, a spokeswoman for the district said Sam and Rousseau had resigned in March of this year while Legault is currently on administrative leave. Sources tell GoLocalProv that Legault has been on leave since early October 2010.
Officially, Sam resigned for “personal and family reasons,” according to a district news release. The district has not disclosed the reasons for why Rousseau resigned or why Legault was placed on administrative leave.
Yesterday, district spokeswoman Yaviri Grosso-Escalera was unable to provide an explanation for why Legault, Sam, and Rousseau are still listed on the payroll.
State senator: ‘Very atypical’
The ongoing payments to those three administrators are raising eyebrows inside—and outside of the district.
“If I resign tomorrow and put [in] my two weeks notice, I think I will not get a paycheck in two weeks,” said one Central Falls High School teacher. “I don’t know any other walk of life where you can resign and still get paid.”
“It’s still very atypical … still unusual that you would have that kind of thing going on,” said Sheehan, D-North Kingstown. “It would have to be something big to implicate a number of administrators at that level. Otherwise, it could be an issue at management—at top management.”
Several sources inside the school district tell GoLocalProv that it’s a case of the latter, calling into question the management of Superintendent Dr. Frances Gallo. They said the circumstances surrounding the departures of the three administrators point to what they described as “erratic behavior” by Gallo.
Sources: ‘Erratic’ management style
“I have to summarize her management style as erratic,” said one teacher at Central Falls High School. “She fires and hires and moves around administrators like chess pawns. There’s no consistency. It’s like we’re building a house on sand here.”
Sheehan expressed surprise that the departures of the three administrators have not caught public attention—especially since two are connected to the high school, which has made national headlines for its efforts to turn around low class performance and graduation rates. “Because it’s Central Falls do we look the other way and say we don’t have high expectations?” said Sheehan, who is a history teacher at Tollgate High School in Warwick. “I think that’s inappropriate.”
‘Power struggle’ between superintendent and principal
Although the district has not explained why Legault was put on administrative leave, one source tells GoLocalProv that she was removed on the basis of “trumped up charges of wrongdoing.” Multiple sources inside the school district say the real reason for her departure was a power struggle between Legault and Gallo.
“Dr. Gallo views Liz Legault as a threat to her power and control over teachers in the district,” one teacher at Central Falls High School said.
Sources also offered an alternate explanation for Sam’s exit—saying the real reason was not personal and family-related, but stemmed from questions raised about his job performance.
One teacher at Central Falls High School conceded that changeover in principals could be a reflection of the difficulties of trying to fix a failing school in an urban school district. “No matter who would be in charge of the district, it would be a monumental challenge,” the teacher said. “It’s a difficult position, no doubt, but she’s done more harm really than good.”
Editor's Note: Efforts to reach Sam and Rousseau yesterday were unsuccessful. When reached for a comment, Legault referred calls to her attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment.
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