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Upheaval in Derby Public Schools leaves parents uneasy

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DERBY–Parents of students attending Derby Middle School and Derby High School students are expressing frustration and concern after top administrators have either been removed from, or quit, their jobs over the past several weeks. Parents say they’re not being told exactly why this rapid-fire change is happening.

On Nov. 17, Derby Middle School was placed in a brief lockdown after a bomb threat, which police say was written on a wall by a 13-year-old female student. The student was subsequently arrested. After that incident, the school’s principal and vice principal were placed on administrative leave. However, the superintendent of schools, Dr. Matthew Conway, will not say if the suspensions are related to the bomb threat or another incident.

The latest administrative move came Monday, when the high school’s principal, Greg Gaillard, tendered his resignation, effective immediately, citing personal reasons.

“No explanation,” said James Stadt, a member of the Derby Board of Education. “Personal reasons. That could mean anything. He could be moving. No one knows.”

And parents don’t want to be left in the dark.

“Everybody hears something different,” said Vivienne Ziobro, the mother of twins who attend the middle school. “The students say something different. The administrators say something different. You call and you get a different answer.”

Stadt, who has a  daughter attending Derby Middle School, says parents can rest assured that their children are in the capable hands of experienced, interim leadership. And, he adds, there is no timetable to name a permanent successor for Gaillard who was principal of both the high school and middle school for a couple of weeks after the school’s two top administrators were placed on leave.

Parents were upset Wednesday night when, at a special Board of Education meeting, they learned Gaillard’s resignation was not on the evening’s agenda. Legally, Stadt says, an agenda for a special meeting cannot be changed fewer than three days in advance of the meeting. Gaillard’s resigned came in two days prior to the meeting.

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