Naugatuck school chief to retire in September

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson will retire in September. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson will retire in September. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The September Board of Education meeting will be the last for John Tindall-Gibson as superintendent of the Naugatuck school system.

Tindall-Gibson asked the board to approve his retirement effective Sept. 12 in executive session during the board’s meeting Thursday night. The board approved his request following the executive session.

Tindall-Gibson, 66, of Litchfield has been superintendent of schools in the borough since 2006. He was expected to retire June 30, 2014. In a letter to the board, Tindall-Gibson said he anticipated continuing through the 2013-14 school year, but “my situation has changed a bit.”

On Friday morning, he said, there are a lot of good things happening in the school district. However, he said, there are other things in his personal life he needs to take care of that caused him to seek retirement.

Tindall-Gibson said it has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Naugatuck school system.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to work with the students, parents and staff in Naugatuck. Naugatuck is a great community, and it’s a wonderful place to raise children,” Tindall-Gibson said.

In his letter to the board, Tindall-Gibson said the administrators who run Naugatuck’s schools day in and day out are the finest he’s ever met. 

“Working with them has been an outstanding professional opportunity, which I appreciate greatly and will always remember. Likewise, there are innumerable teachers and staff members who have been remarkably friendly and helpful to me and who have made the work here a joy every day,” Tindall-Gibson said in the letter. “My administrative assistant has taught me levels of grace, patience and competence that I didn’t know existed. I will certainly miss working with all.”

Tindall-Gibson has been discussing his retirement with the board for the past couple of years. Each year, the board extended his contract for another year.

Tindall-Gibson said he really appreciates the board’s support in extending his contract the past two years.

The latest extension was approved last November when the board voted 6-3 to extend his contract through June 30, 2014.  

Tindall-Gibson has been working under a contract that pays him $165,000 per year. It can be terminated by mutual consent, but requires Tindall-Gibson to give 90 days notice before stepping down.

David Heller, chairman of the school board, said administrators immediately began searching for an interim superintendent, and Tindall-Gibson indicated he could continue past his retirement date on a short-term basis if the board needs more time. The board is not contemplating legal action at this point, Heller said.

“I was very disappointed that he did not fulfill his contractual obligations to the district,” Heller said. “Several board members expressed frustration and anger that he had decided to do this.”

After municipal elections in November, the new school board will begin a search for a permanent superintendent.

Tindall-Gibson’s sudden departure comes on the heels of the retirements of former Assistant Superintendent Brigitte Crispino and former Business Manager Wayne McAllister. The board in July hired a new assistant superintendent, Christopher Montini, in hopes that Tindall-Gibson would train him for a year, Heller said.

Tindall-Gibson will also leave as a new teacher evaluation system is being rolled out, requiring the superintendent to set goals and evaluate administrators. If an interim superintendent is chosen quickly, that person can be involved in the goal-setting process from the start, Tindall-Gibson said.

Tindall-Gibson said he relished the opportunity to help spearhead the $81 million high school renovation project, which broke ground earlier this year.

Tindall-Gibson also promoted technological advances in borough schools and hired almost all the current building principals, said Heller, one of the few board remembers remaining from when Tindall-Gibson was hired.

“He said he thought it was time to do this for himself and his family, and you can’t really argue too much with him,” Heller said.

Tindall-Gibson’s low point came in 2009 and 2010 when mismanagement in the central business office caused the school system to overspend its budget both years by more than $1 million. McAllister, who was also the borough controller, took over as business manager in exchange for bailout money from the municipal budget. Unions gave concessions and dozens of teaching positions were also eliminated to stabilize the budget.

Mayor Robert Mezzo, who also serves on the school board, had just been elected to his first term when the school budget crisis exploded. Mezzo called for Tindall-Gibson’s resignation then, but said his performance improved after the situation was resolved.

“In the end, he was a gentleman, and despite our differences he’s able to put aside any bad feelings that came out of that and we were able to forge a strong working relationship,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo said he was not upset at Tindall-Gibson for leaving early. He and other board members said they were excited to begin searching for the next strong, community-oriented and forthcoming educational leader.

“While we certainly have our work to do, there’s opportunity here as well, and rather than fear change, we need to embrace it and be smart,” Mezzo said.

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