Swampscott principal’s leave now indefinite

Swampscott Superintendent of Schools Pamela Angelakis. (Owen O'Rourke)

SWAMPSCOTT — Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has opted to extend the Stanley Elementary School principal’s leave of absence until further notice less than a month after the principal announced they were transgender.

Stanley families were informed last week that Principal Shannon Daniels was on a temporary leave of absence.

Daniels, 52, who became the school’s principal in 2012, was not working in the school last week, but did meet with Angelakis at the school last Wednesday. Schools were closed the previous week for February vacation and there was a police presence at the school last Monday and Tuesday.

“I have decided to continue Principal Daniels’ leave of absence until further notice,” Angelakis wrote in an email to Stanley families. “As usual protocol, Mr. (Liam) Hurley (the school psychologist) remains the point person in Principal Daniels’ absence. I will also be at Stanley School as often as possible during their absence.”

Angelakis said last week the reason for the principal’s leave of absence came after several conversations with Daniels, “in which she reported receiving messages that she considered hurtful relative to her recent announcement and the media attention it received.”

Angelakis and Daniels mutually agreed the principal would take at least a few days off when school reopened before they met last Wednesday, according to the superintendent, but no reason was given for extending the leave.

Daniels could not be reached for comment.

The announcement to continue the leave of absence indefinitely comes in the wake of a parent petition that was submitted to the School Committee last week, which declared a lack of confidence in the Stanley principal, with parents saying the dissatisfaction in Daniels’ performance came before, and was not related to their recent transgender announcement.

Amy O’Connor, school committee chairwoman, confirmed the committee received a petition last Friday, which represented a large number of Stanley parents.

“This was without precedent,” O’Connor said. “I’ve never received anything like this before. As with all communications that comes to the school committee, we ensure that the appropriate district staff is aware of it and it is being handled appropriately.”

The School Committee met in executive session last Friday to discuss complaints about a school district employee.

O’Connor said she called the executive session on Wednesday in response to a large quantity of emails that she had received from parents regarding the school employee.

But she said the school committee does not make any decisions about personnel matters, which is solely in the domain of the superintendent.

Daniels, a Swampscott resident, announced early last month that they’re transgender and would be presenting as female going forward. Daniels identifies as both male and female and prefers “they/them” pronouns for a gender-fluid identity, but plans to become fully transitioned to female.

Angelakis said previously that she and Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan agreed there would be a police presence at the school last Monday and Tuesday in order to ensure a smooth return for students and parents, which officials hoped would reduce the anxiety that parents may be feeling as a result of heightened media attention. There was also a police presence before the vacation week.

Madigan said in a previous interview with The Item that there have been phone calls, voicemails and emails at the school since the principal’s earlier announcement, but there was nothing that police felt rose to the level of constituting a threat.

He said at a recent joint Board of Selectmen and School Committee meeting, which discussed school security, that the calls were more about people expressing their opinion — some were angry and some used inappropriate language, but nothing that police felt was a threat.

But he said the communications were circulated on social media in a way that relayed there was a threat and generated a certain amount of anxiety. He said a lot of the fear was in the context of the recent Florida school shooting, which raises people’s concerns for safety.

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