A former Gridley School teacher explained her resignation from the school, and said he told told parents not to sign up for the program following the tuition and deposit increases.
At Tuesday's selectmen's meeting, Sandy Hart, who taught at the Gridley pre-school program for 19 years, said she left because it had no benefits and she believed the school was being overlooked by the town.
“We were an island and not supported by any part of the town,” Hart said Tuesday. “We took care of the maintenance of the building except for the lawn care and the air conditioning unit. We did everything from mopping the floors to doing the bathrooms.”
Hart was one of four teachers – the entire teaching staff at the school – who announced their resignations this spring.
That prompted the Recreation Cepartment to look into whether the program could be run the coming school year. As of June, 12 students were enrolled with paid deposits for the coming fall, and 34 children were needed for the program to break even, according to Recreation Director Janet Maguire.
Selectmen decided in June to increase the deposit from $40 to $400 and wait and see if other parents came forward before the June 28 deadline.
None did, and the program was canceled.
Hart said she encouraged parents not to enroll in the program because she thought the deposit increase and a corresponding tuition increase were too high.
Hart also took exception to comments made by Selectman John Connolly at a June meeting, when he expressed strong disapproval of how long the teachers waited to inform the Recreation Department they would not be return for the coming year.
Hart told selectmen she met with Maguire on May 5 after being offered a job at another school, saying she wanted to remain with the Gridley School. She said she was told that she would not be able to get benefits, and she felt that she was not a priority for the town.
The other teachers put in their resignations after they heard how Hart was treated, she said.
“I am frustrated,” Hart said. “I don’t like confrontations. I’m a preschool teacher and I teach children how to deal with confrontations.”
Connolly told Hart that the program was losing money and had lost $10,000 the previous year. He said selectmen were worried that the program would lose more money and that is why tuition had to increase.
“We didn’t end the program; lack of participation ended the program,” Connolly said.
Selectmen Chairman Gerald Salvatori said the program would be looked at again and selectmen would see whether they could make it a viable program with new teachers.
Selectman Avril Elkort said she had spoken to Maguire about continuing to have recreation programs for young children in the Gridley School location, even if the preschool does not continue.