Within the space of a week, Frencthown parents found out they were losing their principal, rallied dozens of supporters, got their principal back, and then began wondering what the whole situation had been about in the first place.
Frenchtown Principal Laura Cretella, who was hired in 2017 following a decade in the Fairfield school system that included five years as Holland Hill School principal, informed parents that she was resigning in an April 25 email.
“It is with mixed emotions that I share I have announced my resignation from Frenchtown at the end of June,” she wrote. “I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented educators, amazing students and supportive families. The Frenchtown community will always hold a special place in my heart.”
But five days later Cretella told parents she had a change of heart, and would be staying.
“After speaking with the Superintendent of Schools, I have rescinded my letter of resignation and will be continuing on as the Principal of Frenchtown,” she wrote on April 30, just minutes before the Board of Education was scheduled to accept her resignation. “Looking forward to continuing our partnership.”
She wasn’t the only one happy to be continuing the partnership. Frenchtown parents and staff packed the meeting room at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday. Many of the supporters, who had planned to urge the board to keep Cretella, were pleasantly surprised to find out she was staying after all. Despite this, though, most opted to go ahead and deliver their comments anyway.
“Principal Cretella has brought new ideas and positive energy, and a much needed change,” said Olga Caruso, a paraprofessional who works with special needs students at Frenchtown. “She treats everyone with dignity and respect, and shows great leadership.”
Ellie Grosso, one of the parents who had organized the show of support, said Cretella had “more integrity than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Grosso noted the presence of the parents and staff in the room, and the nine people who had written the board letters of support.
“Our voices matter,” she said.
Former PTSA Vice President Kerry Malzewski said she had always found Cretella to be approachable, responsive, and welcoming. She also questioned why it seemingly had taken an 11th-hour reprieve to keep their principal.
“As parents we deserve a little transparency,” she said to the board. “It’s difficult to understand how the decision was reached. Every one of us had a part in putting you up there, we deserve a little back in return.”
Frentchtown teacher Rachel Dustin, speaking for a small group of fellow teachers who were not present. told the board that Cretella had created an environment where staff was comfortable approaching her with personal and professional problems.
“Our staff are team players thanks to her leadership,” she said, adding that Cretella was an asset to the school and the town and would be sorely missed if she were to leave.
Kira Howell spoke very few words, but made her point nonetheless. Taking the podium, she asked for a show of hands from parents who were there to support Cretella.
“That speaks volumes,” she said pointing to the dozens of hands in the air. Fighting back tears she added that Cretella had taken a personal interest in her son’s education, and that was why she had spoken up.
“It’s because of her, the administrators and teachers, that care about my son,” she said.
Editor's Note — Cretella and School Supt. Gary Cialfi did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Story will be updated.