NEWPORT – The two unions representing the teachers and staff at Newport Public Schools submitted to Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain a vote of no confidence letter regarding Thompson Middle School Principal Xavier Barrios.
In the March 30 letter, the unions wrote Barrios and his administration team’s tolerance for “unsafe behaviors” has led to a “chaotic and unsafe teaching and learning environment” this year.
“Rogers (High School) works like a well-oiled machine. Pell (Elementary) works like a well-oiled machine. Thompson does not, ”said Jennifer Hole, acting president of the Teachers Association of Newport.
Barrios began working as Thompson Middle School’s principal in July 2021 after former Principal Laurie Sullivan’s retirement a year prior. Before coming to Newport, Barrios worked in various school leadership and administration positions in Chicago, Nashville, New Jersey, Boston and Providence.
Salary list:Who are the top municipal, school department earners in Newport?
He was hired as principal for Thompson Middle School after a five-month search process, and his current contract with Newport Public Schools ends in June 2024.
Barrios did not reply to a request for comment on the unions’ action.
In a conversation with The Daily News, Hole called Barrios a “very nice man,” but said he has not proved an effective leader for the school, and communication between the administration, teachers and staff has been lacking since he was hired. That’s led to confusion over teacher responsibilities.
Council 94, the union representing the non-teaching support staff at Newport Public Schools, had submitted a letter of no confidence at the same time as the TAN union.
The majority of the concerns listed by the unions are related to student behavior and its impact on safety at school. Hole said administration has done little to curtail poor student behavior.
Previously:New principal hired for Thompson Middle School
“The reports that come to me from teachers and staff, and sometimes students, regarding daily, violent fighting, the language that’s just commonplace, the graffiti, the vandalism, the destruction of property, the assaults on teachers, the assaults on students, and all the things going on up there, and it’s just not being handled the way we believe it should be handled, ”Hole said.
“We know it’s kids that attend Thompson Middle School. We understand they are adolescents, but that should not be a free pass to say and do whatever it is you’d like to do. There needs to be leadership and consequences for behavior, and that’s just not happening this year. ”
Hole believes some of the behavioral issues can be tied to the current class schedule, approved by Barrios and the school’s scheduling committee, which gives students 400 minutes of “ungraded” time during the school week. These blocks of time, whether they’re scheduled as study halls or advisory sessions, give middle school students an excess of free time, she said, and are often misused.
From 2018:Thompson students charged after assault with bat
“That’s not to say that some of them are not valuable,” Hole said. But for the most part… unstructured time, ungraded time is a recipe for disaster at Thompson Middle School. ”
Hole penned a formal press release that said teachers had overwhelmingly supported the vote of no confidence. She later told The Newport Daily News the union had submitted the letter and the press release as a public way to show support for the concerns teachers and parents have shared with them.
“The daily unsafe, and at times violent behavior that is tolerated by administration must stop,” Hole wrote in her email that accompanied the press release. “Mr. Barrios is not an effective leader. He does not support his teachers, the communication in and out of the building is poor, he has created an unsafe teaching and learning environment where threats to teachers, staff and students, physical assaults and verbal attacks are commonplace and tolerated. The climate and culture being cultivated at TMS is one of complete disrespect; and the teachers and staff have had enough. ”
Previously at Thompson Middle School:Parents express concerns over attack, bullying
Messages left for Jermain were not returned but in an April administrative update to members of the Newport School Committee, obtained by The Daily News, Jermain said she is arranging a “listening” session with the unions and Assistant Principal Nicholas Vockerodt to hear to their concerns . A date for that meeting has not been set.
“For now I will continue to monitor the building on a regular basis, along with the other administrators to get first hand observations and provide support for everyone – Principal Barrios, (Assistant Principal Vockerodt), the teachers and the students,” Jermain wrote in the update.