MANCHESTER — Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan will be stepping down at the end of the 2013 school year, after five years at the helm of the state's largest school district.
Brennan made the announcement at a Board of School Committee meeting Monday night.
Prior to the announcement, Brennan apologized for failing to heed the guidance of some committee members concerning the eligibility of an applicant to become principal at McLaughlin Middle School.
Brennan supported the applicant, Lisa Witte, the current director of federal programs for the district.
She then withdrew her application, because, Brennan said, didn't have enough middle school classroom experience for the job. Brennan attributed the confusion to the human resources department incorrectly posting the requirements for the position.
“It turned out those on the school committee were correct, and I was wrong,” Brennan said. “I want to publicly apologize to those members who trusted me to ensure the nominees I brought forward fell within the eligibility requirements of the position.”
Brennan then told the committee that he would not be seeking to renew his contract at the end of the 2013 school year.
“After much discussion with family and colleagues, I am hereby notifying the board that I will not be seeking another contract with the Manchester district,” he said with emotion in his voice.
There was no discussion of Brennan's announcement before the committee moved on to other business.
Brennan said his last day would be June 30, 2013.
Several committee members have clashed repeatedly with Brennan, particularly on hiring issues. At the full school committee meeting earlier this month, Brennan expressed frustration with the lack of faith some of those members appeared to have in him.
Those tensions were again evident on Monday, when committee member Debra Gagnon Langton questioned the process for hiring principals at McLaughlin and Parker-Varney Elementary with only a few weeks remaining before the start of the school year.
The Board of School Committee selected Brennan as district superintendent in 2008. He had previously served as superintendent for the Kearsarge Regional District, which is based in New London.
Speaking after the meeting, Mayor Ted Gatsas called Brennan's announcement “a sad day.”
“The superintendent gives us his all, 110 percent,” he said.
“Sometimes a time comes when you have to do what you have to do, but he will be sorely missed.”
Committee member Arthur Beaudry was less mournful about the decision.
“I think he realized he made some significant errors,” he said. “Not all were of his own accord, but he had people working for him that have led him down the wrong path. But he has to pay the consequences for his subordinates.”
As for the prospect of a new superintendent search during a year that is already expected to be full of challenges, Beaudry expressed optimism. “They say people don't want to work in this district. For $165,000 — not only for the money, but in a diverse district, a good district that has great educational leaders and teachers — I think we'll find people who want to come.”