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Webster School principal on leave shows up at Manchester school board meeting to thank supporters

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 26. 2018 7:08AM

MANCHESTER — Webster Elementary School Principal Sarah Lynch used the public forum of Tuesday night’s school board meeting to thank staff and parents for supporting her while she is on administrative leave — without shedding light on the reason for her absence.

“I need you to know I am an extremely level-headed individual, who sits and reflects prior to making rash decisions,” said Lynch.

“Even in this instance I know I am being true to who I am, but I can tell you it has been very difficult some mornings to get out of bed. What’s impacted me greatly is that the staff, who I utterly adore and who has gotten me through the last few weeks, found out 10 minutes before school started on the first day of school that I would not be at the helm of their ship.”

Lynch, the principal at Webster for the last two years, was not on hand when school began Wednesday, Sept. 5, but numerous parents said she was greeting parents and children the previous week at kindergarten orientation.

On Sept. 10, the district sent a letter home to parents from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas saying Lynch is on a leave of absence, with former Beech Street School principal Elinor Murphy acting as substitute principal.

On Tuesday, Lynch spoke briefly during the public forum portion of a meeting of the Board of School Committee.

She said she feared the impact the situation could have on students.

“Those are my kids,” said Lynch. “There’s a lot of kids that have now suffered another adverse childhood experience because of this experience.”

Dozens of Webster staff members and parents filled the aldermanic chamber at City Hall Tuesday night, wearing yellow to show their support of Lynch. Many addressed school board members during the public forum portion of the meeting, including her father Neil Lynch, who said his daughter was escorted into Webster and given five minutes to “gather her belongings.”

“I can’t imagine how humiliating that is,” said Neil Lynch, who said his daughter at the time didn’t know why it was happening.

He went on to describe hours his daughter put in at Webster to get the school ready for students, and her love of the Webster community. Testimony from both Sarah and Neil Lynch was met with a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Several Webster teachers went before members of the Board of School Committee Tuesday night expressing support for Lynch.

“We here at Webster have no idea what could possibly place our principal on administrative leave,” said Anite Kuniegel, a Webster teacher. “She treats every student with dignity and respect every time she is called to deal with a tough situation.”

School board members did not address the comments, which is always the case with statements made during the public forum section of the meeting.

The 2018-19 school year marks Lynch’s third year with the school district. She was an administrative mentor in the Lawrence, Mass., school system when she started at Webster Elementary School on July 1, 2016, hired after a community forum that featured two finalists.

“Ms. Lynch is a great match for the children of Webster,” then-superintendent, Dr. Debra Livingston said in announcing Lynch’s hiring. “I am confident she will be an asset to every aspect of the school community.”

Last year, Lynch launched a public campaign to raise $62,000 to renovate the school’s library.

Located on outer Elm Street, Webster Elementary School serves much of the North End and is also a magnet school for elementary-age students who do not speak English as their first language.

Education Manchester

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