For the next several weeks, Harwood Union’s school superintendent will be on leave with several members of the administrative team filling in to cover her responsibilities.
Superintendent Brigid Nease said Tuesday that she is taking sick leave, which started on Sept. 9, through Oct. 8.
“The HUUSD admin team and I put a plan in place while I am away,” she said in an email Tuesday. “(Waitsfield Elementary School) Principal Kaiya Korb will be named as acting superintendent.”
Shannon Lessley, director of curriculum and technology, and Stephanie Hudak, director of student support services, will be designated in several areas, Nease explained. “The three of them will have decision-making authority in my absence for basic daily responsibilities. I remain available to them, (Finance and Operations Manager) Michelle (Baker), and the principals by phone and email at any time. This is the usual and customary plan used by districts when a superintendent needs a substitute.” The school district did not announce Nease’s leave. Information was shared after an inquiry from Waterbury Roundabout.
The need for Nease to take this leave came after the school board on Aug. 24 agreed to pay Nease for 35 accrued vacation days during this school year. Nease plans to step down next June when her contract ends. She has been superintendent in the district since 2009.
Prior to her starting sick leave, Nease said she had a total of 89 accrued days (75 vacation days, 10 holidays and four personal days).
She said she hoped to take the remaining 54 days after the board agreed to pay for a portion of her total banked leave. Nease said the current four weeks falls under the federal Family Medical Leave Act which allows for workers to take up to 12 weeks leave annually either paid or unpaid, or a combination of the two. Nease did not say how much of this month’s leave would be paid.
School Board Chair Torrey Smith said the school board has been filled in on the plan to cover for Nease while she is away.
“While it temporarily increases the workload for several staff in the district, it offers continuity for all because they are already deeply familiar with the frameworks and structures that we use,” she said in an email Tuesday. “Our building and district leaders have been working very closely together for years and we are confident in the admin team’s ability to manage this temporary situation.”
Both Nease and Smith said the reason for Nease’s leave is confidential.
Since last week, several announcements to the school community have come from school officials other than Nease. A letter last week announcing a positive case of COVID-19 in an individual at Warren Elementary School — the district’s third case so far since school opened Aug. 26 — was signed by school nurse Allison Conyers, the district’s COVID-19 coordinator. A Saturday email to families announcing updates in the bus schedule came from Korb.
The school board at its meeting on Wednesday was to review a timeline for the search for a candidate to replace Nease in 2022. It calls for appointing a committee of the school board to work with a national search firm the board has chosen and to oversee that process with a goal of choosing a candidate for the job by February.