Sella resumes position as Phoenicia Elementary principal

Linda Sella

Linda Sella

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.

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According to the Stipulation, Onteora has now withdrawn the charges against Sella and has notified the State Education Department of that.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.”

There are 6 comments

  1. Joan Freer

    I think it is really funny…..I had my driving priveledges revolked by Onteora in May after a minor accident, after 32 years of safe driving, and an excellent record…….never was notified to come in for a meeting….just gone. I was not permitted to see any file, nor given a “formal” reprimand….However I am still gone, and will not be returning, and I have no rights… Funny, guess it’s the old story of not what you know, but who you know… Amazing school system…. Kind of glad to be out of it..

  2. Vikki Hall

    After all that has happened, I do not think that she should be allowed back to the school. This was not the first incident but it is the first incident that the school is acknowledging. I find this to be atrocious and I feel that they need to find another principal to do the job correctly and ensure the safety of our children.

  3. Nadine

    I think this woman should not be re-instated to her position. It is against Board of Education policy to put your hands on a student unless they have a behavior plan in place and then that plan is to be followed perfectly. The person performing said protective hold should also be trained and have had experience in performing said hold. I worked with children with autism and other learning disabilities for 7 years. If any teacher, aid, or other staff member laid their hands on a student there was a damn good reason and there HAD to be thorough documentation that was then gone over and signed by our behavior specialist and an administrator. If a student was being held frequently there was a committee to look into how to better serve this particular student so they didnt have to be held. Thankfully I have chosen homeschooling for my 6 year old son, and he does not have to go to this school. This woman is the worst thing that ever happened to Phoenicia school and she should be terminated!

  4. BeyondFrustrated

    The only reason Ms. Sella is back is that the Board of Ed and Superintendent have failed to do THEIR jobs and dismiss her properly. It has taken 6 months, 2 interim principals and unknown amounts of wasted taxpayer money to re-install her into the exact same spot. Moving her to Woodstock would have been a better choice, but the Board is looking to appease Woodstock at every turn, in order to remain in power at the next election. From the article and the Superintendent’s letter it is clear that all that is in store for Phoenicia is more instability. It’s time to stop playing games. Put in a competent, permanent administrator or close the building down.

  5. Ben

    Hear are some facts:
    1. Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill has driven two principals out of Woodstock in two years – both women.
    2. NYS DOE informed Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill and her legal lawyers “you and the district will not be happy if you continue with the unfounded and false charges against Principal Sella.
    3. The Stipulation of Settlement was a way for Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill to save her job and keep face.
    4. the BOE recently decided not to extend Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill contact.
    5. Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill is a lame duck and continues to harm the school district and its students.
    6. The real crime is the BOE does nothing and continue to let Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill draw a salary for he corrupt ways.

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