Tensions Mount in Milford Over Future of Superintendent

May 31, 2019

Jessica Huizenga, Superintendent of Schools in Milford, shown here during an education-funding forum in April at NHPR.
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The Milford school board announced on Thursday that it will not fulfill a request by the local teachers' union to fire and replace the district's superintendent, Jessica Huizenga.

The announcement comes after months of controversy over Huizenga, who joined the district last year after what teachers says was an unfair hiring process lacking community input.

In a letter to the public, unions representing teachers, aides, and building-and-grounds staff announced a "no-confidence" vote in Huizenga - a rare move for the unions.

They allege Huizenga has made “drastic changes” without input from staff, including introducing new teacher evaluations, reappropriating Title I funds, and spending $80,000 on consulting services.

They also blame her for low staff morale and the resignation of 48 staff.

"We have had over 20 meetings with the Superintendent to work through these issues," said Suzanne Schedin, vice president of the Milford Teachers' Association. "We were looking for new energy and new ideas and we have not been able to work things out."

In an email to NHPR, Huizenga wrote:

"I am doing the job that I have been directed to do by the Milford School Board, which has involved a number of changes, that are needed and in the best interest of students.  In doing so, I have sought and received significant input from staff and the community."

Huizenga clarified that the nearly $40,000 of what the union called "consulting services" was for a strategic planning process, at the request of the board, whose current plan dates back to 2010.

At a school board meeting on Thursday, parents and district staff wearing black t-shirts with "Milford Strong" emblazoned across the chest peppered the board with questions about staffing changes and the boards' decision not to meet with the unions to discuss its concerns. Others criticized the unions for their efforts to unseat Huizenga.

In a letter issued on Thursday, school board members said the union’s allegations against Superintendent Huizenga were false and called for them to end "negative campaigns" against her. They praised Huizenga for implementing their vision and said she will continue in her post.