SHEA President Amy Foley discusses a vote of no confidence for Mosier Principal Cynthia Flynn during School Committee meeting on May 16.
Reminder Publishing screen capture by Tyler Garnet

SOUTH HADLEY — The South Hadley Education Association have submitted a letter to Superintendent Mark McLaughlin and the School Committee to express a vote of no confidence in Mosier Elementary School Principal Cynthia Flynn.

Three-fourths of the staff voting or 95.6% of the staff that voted that they have no confidence in their principal.
South Hadley Education Association formally submitted its concerns to McLaughlin on June 27, 2022, but have not seen meaningful improvements in Flynn’s leadership in the past two years, according to their letter.

So far, during Flynn’s two years at Mosier, staff have filed seven grievances, two unfair labor practices and one mutual respect claim.

For perspective, only two grievances have been filed throughout the rest of the district in this time frame, according to SHEA President Amy Foley.

The letter highlights a list of concerns the group is seeing including in management, operations and professional culture.

It states that Flynn has admitted that there are no schoolwide behavior expectations, has failed to inform parents when students threaten to bring a weapon to school, sexually harass other students, use racial slurs and get in fights, has poor recruitment and hiring skills, poor scheduling and has poor communication skills.

The letter goes as far to say, “She is not a presence at Mosier School and many students don’t even know who she is. While the vice principal interacts with students every day, Principal Flynn is often nowhere to be seen. She frequently avoids difficult conversations with staff, students and caregivers. Individual staff sometimes hear about major personnel decisions via whole-staff email. Principal Flynn often neglects to consult with affected staff privately, causing them to feel blindsided and disrespected.”

Association representatives asked Flynn to host school assemblies to establish acceptable behavior, but they say Flynn has largely disregarded these requests.

There are multiple examples in the letter to highlight some of the association’s concerns including that all other South Hadley staff received application information for the Michael E. Smith Endowment at the beginning of the school year, Mosier staff didn’t receive anything until April 25, eight days before the application was due and that Flynn rarely, if ever, communicates to staff about her own prolonged absences from school.

According to a SHEA building survey conducted in February 2024, staff morale is very low.

The study shows that 88.9% of staff disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “day to day running of school, finances, teacher issues and support for student success is appropriately done.”

When asked if the school leadership “puts the best interest of the students and educators first,” 83.3% of staff either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The staff has stated that they have seen no meaningful changes since they sent letters to the superintendent in June 2022 for submitting its vote of no confidence.

The letter said, “Staff members have repeatedly attempted to communicate productively about these concerns with Principal Flynn, but we have been met with defensiveness, deflections and at times retaliation. There have been many instances in which Principal Flynn has blatantly lied to members of the school community. Her incompetence and lack of integrity has breached our trust and caused harm to educators and our students.”

Reminder Publishing reached out to South Hadley Public Schools for their view on the matter and Superintendent McLaughlin provided a statement.

McLaughlin said that the first time that he or the South Hadley School Committee became aware of the South Hadley Education Association’s vote of no confidence was during SHEA President Amy Foley’s presentation at the School Committee meeting on May 16.

“There was no prior notice given either to me, the School Committee or Principal Flynn,” he added.

McLaughlin said that they are in the process now of looking into this matter in “the service of both the teachers and the principal and in service of accuracy and fact.”

He added, “An action of this sort is very serious and must be addressed with utmost care with respect to fairness, accuracy and the interests of all affected parties, including but not limited to the teachers of Mosier Elementary School themselves and the principal. During the SHEA president’s presentation, a far-reaching array of allegations were offered in support of their no confidence vote. I expressed then, and reiterate now, my belief that many of those allegations were either untrue or mischaracterized.”

In response, Foley asserted that she could produce documentation for each allegation, according to McLaughlin.

He added, “The production of such documentation will aid in the service of fairness to all impacted parties and will be used by me as the basis for my investigation into the matters raised by SHEA. Since SHEA has not produced the documentation yet, we will reach out to them requesting the supporting documentation the SHEA president said could be produced. Until we receive this documentation, we have no basis to comment on the substance of SHEA’s action or any specific allegation upon which the action appears to have been based.”

McLaughlin concluded, “The district’s goal always is to work in the context of fairness and accuracy to resolve differences. That includes ensuring that due process rights are followed for the subject of the no confidence vote at least somewhat equal to those many protections rightly afforded to any teacher.”

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