Washington board to search for new superintendent

WASHINGTON — Region 12 Board of Education members last week appointed themselves to committee to search for a new superintendent.

The board received a resignation letter from Superintendent Pat Cosentino earlier this month. The document was acknowledged by board members at a meeting last Monday, although they did not vote on it or discuss it.

In the letter, Cosentino, superintendent for the last six years, said she will stay on until the end of the school year in June, when her contract ends. In an interview last week, she said it was “time to move on.”

“I’m just looking for another challenge,” she said. “It’s time to broaden my horizons.”

This is not a retirement, she added, noting she is looking for similar positions in Litchfield and Fairfield counties.

Her resignation comes weeks after the district was awarded a state grant to build an Agriscience-STEM academy at Shepaug Valley High School. Cosentino lobbied for the project and was instrumental in getting money for it after a delay, despite pressure from the governor’s office to shrink the project’s size and cost.

The academy was proposed to keep the district’s schools open by attracting students from outside the three towns it serves — Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater. Officials have said the academy would offset troubling enrollment projections.

Cosentino said last week she is sure the academy will be a success. Backlash from critics, who said it would fail and cost the district money, did not play a role in her resignation, she added.

“It is going to save Shepaug (Valley School), for sure,” she said.

It is unclear what the school board plans to do next, or if it will accept her resignation.

At its ;atest meeting, the board pushed any talk of Cosentino’s resignation to executive session. She did not attend the meeting.

School Board Chair Anthony Amato did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cosentino’s backing of Ag-STEM wasn’t her only controversial position. Her plan to merge grades in Bridgewater’s elementary school was initially met with town officials threatening to sue the district or secede from it. Another plan to merge all three district elementary schools into one building was defeated.

The new superintendent will have a lot of work to do. The district is drawing plans to start building the Ag-STEM academy next summer. It would open in September 2019. Meanwhile, enrollment in the district’s schools is still low and critics of the academy are still voicing opposition.

But many still back Cosentino. Both women who spoke during public comment last week thanked her for her hard work.

“Our school district is better and stronger due to her leadership,” one woman said. “I’m just asking the board to do whatever they can to keep Dr. Pat here. She is one of a kind and her shoes will not be easily filled and her absence will be greatly felt.”

blytton@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3411; @bglytton