School chief on medical leave, to resign

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James is currently on medical leave. James is expected to return by the end of May but will resign when a new superintendent is hired and in place. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James is currently on medical leave. James is expected to return by the end of May but will resign when a new superintendent is hired and in place. –FILE PHOTO

REGION 16 — Citing medical compilations, Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James has submitted his resignation to the Board of Education.

“Unless I am able to consistently give 150 percent each day to the superintendency, I do not believe it is fair to the school district and those who have entrusted me with leading Regional School District #16 to continue in this position. The students, staff and the residents of Beacon Falls and Prospect deserve a superintendent who can completely dedicate him or herself to the position without distraction,” James wrote in an April 15 letter to the board.

The board accepted James’ resignation “with deep regret and appreciation” at its April 23 meeting. Although his resignation was approved last week, James will remain with the district until a new superintendent is in place, which is likely to be sometime in the summer.

School board Chair Donna Cullen said the board is upset to be losing James. But, she added, he has to do what’s best for himself and his family and get healthy.

“He’s been an amazing asset to the board and region,” Cullen said.

James came to the district in January 2012 as interim superintendent for the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, when former school chief James Agostine left to take the superintendent position in the Monroe school district. Prior to taking the interim job, James was superintendent of schools for the Orange Elementary School District. He retired from Orange before taking the interim position.

James made such an impression on the Region 16 school board that he was hired as the permanent superintendent in August of 2012.

“We have achieved much together on many different fronts in a relatively short period of time, and I will continue to work diligently to achieve more over the next few months,” James wrote in the letter.

James fell ill last year with an undisclosed medical condition and took a leave of absence for treatment from February to May of last year. He is currently on medical leave again as he recovers from a surgery that is unrelated to the undisclosed medical condition. It is complications from the undisclosed condition that led to James submitting his resignation.

The current medical leave began April 21. James is expected to return by May 26. The board has turned to Gail Gilmore to lead the district as interim superintendent while James is on leave.

“I’m very committed to this district and it feels just wonderful being here as interim superintendent,” Gilmore said. “And the welcome that I have received has been incredible.”

Gilmore, who was recommended by James, began her tenure as interim superintendent April 21 with two transitional days before the board approved hiring her at last week’s meeting. Gilmore will be paid a per diem rate of $588.46 and will not receive health benefits from the district.

Gilmore most recently has been teaching in educational leadership programs at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford and Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

She was superintendent of Watertown public schools from 2011 to 2013 and assistant superintendent of schools in Wolcott from 2008 to 2011. Both districts have five schools like Region 16.

Interim Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Gail Gilmore listens to a presentation during the Board of Education’s April 23 meeting. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Interim Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Gail Gilmore listens to a presentation during the Board of Education’s April 23 meeting. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“This was just a perfect match of my skill sets to lead a district very similar to districts that I came from,” Gilmore said. “I certainly feel that I can make a difference because I know the expectations, I know the demands and the accountability needed for two smaller districts, so to speak, and I just feel it’s a great match.”

Cullen said Gilmore has the necessary knowledge for the position.

“She’s coming to the region with experience,” Cullen said.

Gilmore began her time in Region 16 by reaching out to students, staff and community. She said it’s critical to establish and build relationships.

To help build relationships with the community, Gilmore is hosting meet and greets Thursday and Friday night to introduce herself to the community. On Thursday night she’ll be at Long River Middle School in Prospect from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria. On Friday, the meet and greet will be held in front of the auditorium at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls from 6 to 7 p.m. before the school’s production of Grease.

While she may only be here for a short time, Gilmore said she’s looking to carry on the good work of the board and James and enhance it anyway she can.

“I certainly want to make a difference with everything that’s in front of me that I touch,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore started in the district at a time when the board’s proposed spending plan for next year is to be decided upon by the voters. The proposed $39.7 million budget will be voted on next week.

Gilmore said she’s communicated with staff and officials from both towns about the budget.

“It’s about all of us getting on the same page, having the same voice that the budget is fiscally responsible and we need to go forward with something that is in the best interest of the students and the community and the taxpayers,” she said.

When James was first hired as interim superintendent, he offered to conduct the search for a new superintendent for the board free of charge. Although that time has come later than anticipated, James is holding true to his word. He will conduct the search for his successor.

“I am committed to planning a comprehensive and rigorous selection process,” James said in an email.

James said when he returns from his leave he will present a draft selection process to the board. His successor is expected to be in place before the start of the 2014-15 school year, at which time James will resign.

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