Cynthia Kwiecinski recall, Easthampton Public Schools, Massachusetts (2023)

In 2023, Cynthia Kwiecinski found herself at the center of a contentious debate in Easthampton, Massachusetts. As chair of the Easthampton Public Schools School Committee, Kwiecinski was part of a divisive process to hire a new superintendent that ultimately failed. The controversy led to a recall effort against Kwiecinski that galvanized supporters on both sides of the issue. While Kwiecinski kept her seat, the ordeal provides insights into the challenges of public service and handling divisive issues in a small community.

Background on Cynthia Kwiecinski

Personal history

A longtime resident of Easthampton, Cynthia Kwiecinski first became involved in local issues as a parent advocate. She served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and stood out for her thoughtful approach and efforts to build consensus.

Professional background

Professionally, Kwiecinski works as a guidance counselor at a nearby high school. Her background in education lent expertise in evaluating superintendent candidates. However, it also meant interfacing with some future subordinates in the hiring process.

Election to school committee

Kwiecinski was elected to the seven-member Easthampton School Committee in 2021 after running unopposed. She brought experience as an educator and consensus builder to the role. In 2023, she served as chair of the committee.

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Controversy Over Superintendent Hire

Initial vote to hire Vito Perrone

In March 2023, the school committee voted 4-3 to hire Vito Perrone as superintendent. Kwiecinski was part of the minority who voted against Perrone’s hiring.

Rescinding job offer

However, just a week later, the committee rescinded its offer to Perrone in a closed-door meeting. The decision came during contract negotiations.

Explanations and reactions

School committee confidentiality

Kwiecinski and other school committee members cited confidentiality rules around contract discussions as limiting what they could say. This led to frustration among some parents and residents.

Recall supporters’ perspective

Backers of a recall effort felt the committee was not transparent enough about why they changed course. They saw the rescinded offer as absurd.

Recall opponents’ perspective

However, one school committee member claimed Perrone had made unprofessional comments during negotiations that justified withdrawing the offer.

Recall Effort Against Kwiecinski

Recall process in Easthampton

The Easthampton city charter allows for elected officials like Kwiecinski to be recalled. Supporters first had to collect 400 signatures to file an affidavit starting the process.

Signature gathering efforts

Recall backers worked to collect the required 2,517 signatures needed to force a recall vote of Kwiecinski. However, they fell short, submitting only around 1,060 valid signatures.

Reasons for and against recall

Supporters saw the rescinded hire as warranting recall, feeling Kwiecinski failed to properly address concerns. She argued confidentiality rules limited her ability to comment publicly.

Outcome of recall effort

With insufficient signatures, the recall attempt stalled and no election was triggered before signatures expired in June 2023.

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Aftermath and Reflections

Kwiecinski’s re-election

Despite the controversy, Kwiecinski won re-election to the school committee in November 2023 along with five other members. She was not the only target of public frustration with the superintendent search process.

Lessons learned

The recall attempt sparked productive discussions about transparency and better avenues for public input on hiring decisions. Kwiecinski demonstrated poise under pressure during heated debates.

What’s next for Easthampton schools

With the superintendent search set back, the district named an interim leader while working to improve outreach around finding qualified candidates. Kwiecinski will likely play a key role in getting the process back on track.

Conclusion

The unsuccessful superintendent search tested Cynthia Kwiecinski as controversy engulfed Easthampton schools. While a recall effort fell short, Kwiecinski emerged as a leader willing to reflect and help the community move forward. She exemplifies how even divisive episodes can provide opportunities for growth when handled with care.

FAQs

Q: What was the original vote to hire Vito Perrone as superintendent?

A: The Easthampton school committee initially voted 4-3 to hire Perrone, with Kwiecinski part of the minority voting against him.

Q: How many signatures did the recall petition need?

A: Recall organizers needed 2,517 valid signatures to force a recall election, but only collected around 1,060.

Q: Did Kwiecinski lose her school committee seat?

A: No, she was re-elected to another term in November 2023 despite the earlier recall effort against her.

Q: Why did the school committee rescind their hire of Perrone?

A: They cited confidentiality rules in not giving full details, but concerns were raised over unprofessional comments during negotiations.

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Q: What lessons did Easthampton residents learn from the controversy?

A: It sparked discussions about improving transparency in hiring and getting more community input on picking a superintendent.

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