According to a letter from Onteora Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill that was sent home to parents of Phoenicia Elementary school students dated August 8, 2013, Linda Sella had returned to her duties as Principal of Phoenicia School as of August 7. The letter announced her return and stated, “We want to assure you that Mrs. Sella is committed to successfully resuming her duties, and we have every confidence that the upcoming school year will be a rewarding and enjoyable one for your children.” Sella was placed abruptly on administrative leave sometime in February 2013 with McGill initially covering as interim, followed by Mona Jacobs.
District officials will make no comments due to what they see as the confidential nature of the matter. A Freedom of Information request (FOIL) has shed some light over Sella’s quick, albeit temporary departure.
According to the document titled Stipulation of Settlement, McGill filed disciplinary charges against Sella to the State Education Department office of Employer-Employee Relations, “upon which the Board found probable cause on March 21, 2013.” Sella requested a hearing. However a settlement was reached, bypassing the need for expensive litigation.
According to the Stipulation, Onteora has now withdrawn the charges against Sella and has notified the State Education Department of that.
In the Stipulation, however Sella, admits that she “engaged in a protective hold without being TCI certified,” according to the document. Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) is a crisis management procedure used to prevent an escalating crisis with a student. Sella admits she “failed to meet her reporting obligations as it relates to reporting the use of physical force and the discipline of students, to the Superintendent.” She also failed to communicate and inaccurately reported to McGill that a “student in crisis,” was transported home. She also “acknowledges that it was perceived that she failed to provide a collaborative, supportive and respectful working environment for the staff.”
Sella received a formal reprimand from McGill on August 7 that will be contained in her file.
In that formal reprimand, which was included in the FOIL request, McGill writes that in 2012-2013 school year Sella “failed to apprise the Superintendent of matters that required further attention such as, staffing concerns, student behaviors and parent communications.” It’s also been perceived that she did not provide, “a collaborative supportive and respectful working environment.” Allegations include that Sella would put her hand up in a person’s face while they were speaking, reassigned staff members, which she has no authority to do, and monitored and observed teachers “surreptitiously.”
Sella will be required to participate in several training programs including TCI, Violent and Disruptive Incidence Reporting (VADIR) training for school safety, Response to Intervention (RTI), Pupil Behavior Intervention Service (PBIS) and “other professional development as requested by the District.” She is also expected to meet with the director of Pupil of Personnel, the Superintendent or designee weekly during the 2013-14 school year to review intervention related to behavioral referrals and therapeutic restraint. Sella will also be required to maintain and submit to the Superintendent a log of parent communications, and “all communication with building staff regarding deficiencies in staff performance.” Sella will be expected to provide a better working environment for staff and “refrain from retaliating against any staff member pursuant to District Policy 5573.” She will conduct staff observations consistent with the new Academic Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan. Sella will receive no compensation regarding the settlement or compensation for additional training. Sella has signed all necessary papers in agreement and if any “further acts of misconduct, the District will seek formal disciplinary action through which the District may seek termination.”