Swampscott won’t renew a transgender principal’s contract

An employment agreement has been reached with former Stanley Elementary School principal, Thomas Shannon Daniels. (Jim Wilson)

SWAMPSCOTT — The principal of Stanley Elementary School has been let go after coming out as transgender last month.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has opted to keep Principal Shannon Daniels, formerly Tom, on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the school year and not renew Daniels’ contract with Swampscott Public Schools, which expires on June 30.

“In accordance with the terms of the contract, I notified Principal Daniels of that earlier this week,” Angelakis wrote in a letter to Stanley families. “As this is a personnel matter, and out of respect for Principal Daniels’ privacy, I will not be commenting on the reasons for this decision. Swampscott Public Schools wishes Principal Daniels the best moving forward.”

Daniels, who became the school’s principal in 2012, said they couldn’t comment.

Stanley families were told two weeks ago that Daniels was on a temporary leave of absence and early last week Angelakis said she was extending Daniels’ leave of absence indefinitely.

No reason was given for extending the leave, but initially Angelakis said the temporary leave was a mutual decision with Daniels, which came after several conversations with Daniels, “in which she reported receiving messages that she considered hurtful relative to her recent announcement.”

The decision to not renew the contract comes in the wake of a parents petition that was submitted to the School Committee earlier this month, 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 Daniels’ recent transgender announcement.

Amy O’Connor, school committee chairwoman, said in a previous interview with The Item that the committee had received a petition on Friday, March 2, which represented a large number of Stanley parents. She said the school committee met in executive session on March 2 to discuss complaints regarding a school employee.

O’Connor said she called the executive session two days before the meeting in response to a large quantity of emails that she had received from parents regarding the school employee, but clarified that the school committee does not make any decisions about personnel matters. The only personnel decision the school committee is involved with is the superintendent position.

“I can’t add any color to it because in the end this is in the superintendent’s purview since it’s a personnel issue,” O’Connor reiterated on Thursday regarding the superintendent’s decision not to renew the contract.

Daniels, 52, 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.

The superintendent’s decision to part ways with Daniels comes after a tumultuous period at Stanley Elementary School following Daniels’ announcement. There was a police presence at the school two weeks ago, and also the week before February vacation.

Angelakis said previously that she and Police Chief Ronald Madigan agreed there would be a police presence at the school to ensure a smooth return for students and parents, which officials hoped would reduce some of the anxiety that parents may be feeling as a result of the heightened media attention.

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

Lois Longin, former principal at Hadley and Clarke Schools and director of curriculum and instruction for the district, will serve as acting principal at Stanley School starting March 20 and will remain in that position through the end of the school year, Angelakis said.

Longin retired in 2016 after a 31-year career with Swampscott Public Schools that included teaching K-2, serving as principal of Hadley for nine years and Clarke for seven years, and as district wide administrator until she retired in June 2016.

“A Swampscott native and product of Swampscott Schools, she has a passion for education and a familiarity with our district that will allow her to hit the ground running,” Angelakis wrote. “I know she looks forward to meeting you and your children.”

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