Tonawanda News

December 19, 2013

Principal tenure raises tensions

By Michael Regan michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda Board of Education on Wednesday approved the tenure of Spruce Elementary School Principal Victoria Pohlman following an overwhelming response from teachers and administrators in the district who supported the move. 

Only one board members objected to her tenure, James Martineck, who did not cite his reasons for his decision. 

But the discussion among board members during the weeks and months leading up to the vote about Pohlman’s tenure, held outside of the public’s purview in executive sessions, was initially split, sources said, though they declined to elaborate on the nature of the disagreement.

Union employees, made up of teachers and administrators, packed the district’s board room on Wednesday, some speaking out in support of Pohlman during a public session. 

Pohlman is a longtime educator who has more than two decades in the district as a speech therapist, had various stints in Amherst and North Tonawanda as an assistant principal, and two years as principal of Gilmore Elementary before it closed and she moved to Spruce. She was in attendance. 

Pohlman had already been granted tenure for several of her past positions, but was up for a new evaluation while in her third year as principal. 

The possibility that the board would not back Pohlman’s tenure caused dozens of letters to flood into members on her behalf, including one from Mayor Rob Ortt, while board member Colleen Osborn said she received what she described as a threatening letter at her home, which she read aloud during Wednesday’s meeting. 

The letter, obtained by the Tonawanda News, was not signed, but referred to Osborn as “vindictive” and called her the “worst mother of the year.”

“I don’t know your name but have reason to believe you are in this room,” said Osborn, of the letter’s author, while also citing the fact that many of her own children have attended Spruce over a 12-year period. “I have firsthand information when it comes to turnover and turmoil that surround the school.” 

Every board member in attendance spoke out against the letter and in support of Osborn, including Board President Kevin LoCicero, who said he has also received threatening letters at his home. 

“I guess it comes with the territory but it’s a shame that this is how it has to be,” said Art Pappas, the board vice president. “It’s a sad commentary but it seems to going on more and more all the time.”