Ridgefield superintendent resigns

Photo of Peter Yankowski

Superintendent Dr. William Collins resigned as the top administrator of Ridgefield Public Schools Monday night, the Board of Education has announced.

His resignation will go into effect Saturday, Aug. 31.

In an email, Chairwoman Margaret Stamatis said Collins’ resignation was due to medical complications.

Dr. Collins health did not raise concerns among the board during a background check prior to his hiring in December of last year. He took over as head administrator in February this year.

Collins tenure as Ridgefield’s superintendent was brief — since announcing he would need to undergo a medical procedure on May 15, he has spent 12 weeks on medical leave, the same number he spent working full-time. A consulting agency’s search for a new superintendent to replace Collins will likely be free, since he was in district for less than a year.

Stamatis indicated there had been nothing to suggest Collins’ health would impact his ability to work when he was hired.

“We had a comprehensive background check done,” she said. As much as his health could be looked into by the board due to privacy concerns, “there was no indication — it was unforeseen, to him and to us,” she said.

Collins had been on medical leave for three months before he announced his resignation to the board Monday night.

His contract with the district lists his salary as $233,303, along with a $14,660 annuity,

Search process

The district will not have to pay for a new search through Cooperative Educational Services (CES), said Charles Dumais, the nonprofit’s executive director, because Dr. Collins was employed by Ridgefield Public Schools for less than a full year.

“We will conduct a search again if the superintendent is in district for less than a year,” Dumais said. “It’s free of charge.”

Consultants from the CES have been in touch with Stamatis to start the search process, he added. Dumais described the organization as a quasi-public nonprofit that offers support for school districts, while also serving as a school district.

Former board chair Fran Walton said the original search cost around $15,000, plus costs for advertising, but said she was no longer chair when the bills were finalized.

Stamatis confirmed that the replacement search through CES would be free, but declined to speculate on which organization the board will use to find the next superintendent.

It took the board ten months to find and hire Collins, after the previous full-time superintendent, Dr. Karen Baldwin, announced her resignation amidst allegations of plagiarism in March 2018.

Assuming the district hires a superintendent already working in another district, the schools will likely have to wait three months before the candidate can assume the job in Ridgefield, because most superintendent contracts include a 90-day notice that the administrator will be leaving, Dumais explained.

The school board has not elected a personnel search committee to find a replacement superintendent for the district, Stamatis said Tuesday.

Typically the board votes to elect all nine members as the committee.

The full board will meet Monday Aug. 26. Stamatis said the board plans to meet in executive session to discuss Collins’ resignation. “I anticipate that after that we will form a search committee, but I won’t know that until I have all the board in front of me,” Stamatis said.

Interim leader

The board chair said the interim superintendent, who was hired July 1, will continue in that role until the district finds a new full-time head administrator.

Collins has been out on medical leave since mid-May. In an email to parents at the time, he left Assistant Superintendent Craig Creller in charge of the district, and said he expected to be back at work within four to six weeks.

Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote has led the district since July 1, after taking over from Creller.

Stamatis said Paddyfote has great respect among the school board, as well as school staff and parents.

“We’re confident that her leadership will bring us through until we have another superintendent at least,” Stamatis said

It is the second time she has held the position. Paddyfote was previously hired as interim superintendent from July 2018 through February 2019 when Dr. Collins took over.

In a phone interview Monday, Stamatis explained that as a retired superintendent in Connecticut, Paddyfote can work only 45 percent of a full-time position.

The board plans to stretch her time out in-district by having her work fewer days where possible, Stamatis said. “There isn’t a hard date that she has to leave,” Stamatis said.

Stamatis said she has spoken to Dr. Collins since he announced he would step down, and said he is working on getting better.

“He’s really sad to be leaving the district — he had a lot of hopes for working in Ridgefield. This was not an easy decision on his part, but he decided he needed to focus on his health,” Stamatis said, adding “he liked our community and thought very highly of our administrators and staff, and students.”

Collins could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.