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Parents Question Principal Choice

Bedford Middle School will have a new principal next year, but not everybody is happy about the appointment.  The Board of Education voted unanimously last night to hire Melissa Paolini-Kay as principal of Bedford. Paolini-Kay is the current principal of Coleytown Elementary School.  She will begin her new position on July 1.  Before the vote, several Bedford parents and a student leader spoke during public comments expressing their disappointment that the school's current interim prinicial Dr. Carry Bell, Westport's first black administrator,  was not being hired for the permanent position.

"I think the decision is short-sighted and that we are missing an opportunity," said Brett Arranow, a mother of three Bedford Middle School students.  "Dr. Bell has had an impact on our school as demonstrated by the recent outpouring of support."  Arranow asked the board to "postpone the vote and reconvene and reconsider."

Baxter Stein, an eighth grader, also asked the Board to reconsider the current appointment.  "Dr. Bell has 400 student fans on Facebook.  He sits with me and my friends at lunch and knows my name," said Baxter.  For Susan Jacobson, a Bedford parent, the outpouring of support for Dr. Bell had nothing to do with the Board's current choice, but with the process by which Paolini-Kay was chosen.  "This process is flawed.  There is secrecy which is not beneficial ," said Jacobson.  "There is no understanding of the key selection criteria. You say we welcome public comments but the decision is a fait accompli."

After hearing the public comments, the Board Chair Don O'Day said that the Administration had two strong candidates to choose from, and they recommended Paolini-Kay.  Board member Mark Mathias said, "Change is difficult but Westport is fortunate to have such good candidates to choose from."

Paolini-Kay was present at the meeting and expressed her enthusiasm about her new position.  She has been the principal of Coleytown Elementary since 2006. Prior to Coleytown, she was an assistant principal at Stratford Academy and West Elementary in New Canaan.  Paolini-Kay was also a classroom teacher at Long Lots Elementary for 10 years.

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