NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School has a new associate principal, much to the chagrin of some students.
The Board of Education voted unanimously to hire John Harris to fill the associate principal position during its May 11 meeting.
“It is such an honor for me. Initially applying to Naugatuck it was clear that in addition to being a high quality school district, it is focused on making sure kids achieve at high levels,” said Harris, a Chester resident.
According to his resume, Harris holds a bachelor’s degree in education and history and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Both degrees are from the University of Connecticut.
Harris is the K-12 social studies curriculum coordinator for Madison Public Schools, a position he has held since August 2016. He worked as a social studies teacher at Valley Regional High School in Deep River from May 2010 to June 2011 and at Daniel Hand High School in Madison from August 2011 to August 2016.
Naugatuck Human Resources Director John Lawlor said Harris will start on July 1 and his salary will be $111,917.
Harris will take over the position from Tom Pompei, who has held it on an interim basis since last July.
Pompei will move back to his role as a dean of student life, a position that is currently being held on an interim basis by Brian Mariano, who is also the interim athletic director.
When asked what would happen with Mariano’s employment when Pompei returns to the dean of life position, Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said she could not comment on personnel matters.
Although officials did not comment on whether he applied for the position, the decision to hire someone other than Pompei as the associate principal was a cause for concern for some students.
Naugatuck High junior Ben Wierzbicki, a student representative to the board, said about 100 high school students walked out of class on May 11 to protest Pompei not getting the job.
When a reporter from Citizen’s News arrived at the high school prior to the walkout, he was told by an administrator that nothing was happening and to leave the premises.
Students also came to speak in favor of Pompei at the board meeting.
Senior Sophia Sciarappa said Pompei has been like a father figure to her.
“My father lives 45 minutes away and he works second shift, so talking to him on a daily basis is not a normal thing. If I ever have a problem I always go to Pompei. He is always there for me,” Sciarappa told the board. “I definitely wouldn’t be graduating if it wasn’t for Pompei.”
Senior Kelly Murphy pointed to a time when Pompei helped her smooth over an issue with a teacher regarding an assignment when she had to go on a field trip.
Although she is graduating, Murphy said she was voicing her support for Pompei because younger students would still benefit from him being the associate principal and Mariano being a dean of student life.
“Keep them both in consideration when you vote because they both do a great job at their jobs. I’m a senior so it probably doesn’t affect me, but for the other students in school it would be helpful,” Murphy said.
The motion to hire Harris was approved as part of the board’s consent agenda, which was not available to the public, and not as a separate motion.
Harris said he heard of the students’ concerns and plans to work to integrate himself into the school and district.
“My plan is to come in and spend a lot of time building relationships with teachers and students. I want to learn what you guys are doing so well,” Harrison said.
Board of Education Chairman Dorothy Neth-Kunin said she believed the students’ protest was mostly due to a resistance to change.
“I think, with change, there is always going to be individuals who are always nervous about what happens in the future. Not knowing who that individual is, they are unsure of what the expectations are because they are comfortable with what they know today,” Neth-Kunin said.
Neth-Kunin added Pompei’s position as associate principal was never a permanent one.
“It was an interim position from the beginning. I think what happens is people just get nervous and they get scared,” Neth-Kunin said.