Petition calls for New Milford school superintendent’s resignation; students plan Monday walkout

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
New Milford Public School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo

New Milford Public School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo

New Milford Public Schools/ Contributed Photo

NEW MILFORD — A growing group of parents in the community has been very vocal in their insistence on the termination or resignation of School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo.

A petition posted Friday afternoon to one of New Milford’s Facebook pages, created by resident Brenden Farinha on Change.org called “Calling for the resignation or termination of superintendent DiCorpo,” had garnered 1,550 signatures as of Saturday.

The petition states that within the 18-month period since DiCorpo was hired in Feburary 2021, 10 members of the New Milford School District have left. The who have left include Director of Facilities Kevin Munrett, Information Technology Director Brandon Rush, Human Resouces Director Catherine Gabianelli, New Milford High School Principal Greg Shugrue and Schaghticoke Middle School Principal Chris Longo.

The latest staff member to resign is New Milford High School Principal Raymond Manka, who announced his news Friday, to go into effect June 30. Manka started his position in 2021.

In response to Manka’s announcement, students at New Milford High School are planning a possible walkout Monday around 9 a.m.

New Milford senior Taylor Balzi, 17, said students will be walking to the front of the school parking lot, on Route 7.

“We are going to be staying in the front parking lot and making signs to support Mr. Manka and everything that’s going on,” she said, adding that a group of students planned to meet *aturday evening to create posters to show their support of Manka.

Taylor, who has known Manka for 10 years, said he has “put so much into the school” and students like him very much.

“He has become like a parental figure in my life and I was so excited when he became principal of our school. When I found out that he was resigning, I just got so upset thinking of all the underclassmen coming up to the high school in the next couple of years are going to be missing out,” Taylor said. “He has constantly supported his students and made it a comforting and welcoming environment for them. And he honestly has changed all of our lives.”

She said Manka is someone students can go to if they “just need to smile.”

“He is just such an amazing person. Everyone loves him,” she added. “I know a lot of people are going to be walking out in supporting him.”

She said students will most likely wear green and white, the school’s colors.

Additionally, another group of students are organizing the sale of clothing that say “Bring Manka Back!”

The clothing page, which says, “help support principal Manka during these troubling times,” also links to the petition.

The start and end dates of former staff members in the district are stated within the Board of Education meeting minutes, which can be found on newmilfordps.org.

Manka, who became principal in June 2021, did not indicate in his resignation announcement if he has taken on a new position and didn’t comment as to the circumstances surrounding his resignation when reached by Hearst Connecticut Media.

In response to Manka’s resignation, DiCorpo wrote she “respects his decision” in an email Friday evening.

“I wish him the best,” she added.

When asked about the petition, she said she had no comment.

New Milford Board of Education Chairman Wendy Faulenbach said staff additions and staff turnover are part of every month’s board meeting.

“It is not unique to New Milford to have staff come and go,” she said.

Faulenbach additionally said the board is aware of the petition that has been circulated, “and the fact that it reflects the sentiment of a large segment of the community. We recognize the concerns that have been expressed.”

However, she said that as much as she and other board members would like to comment on this issue, the board has to respect the “legal protocols that require us to refrain from addressing specific personal matters while they are pending.”

Farinha, caregiver of a child in the New Milford Public School District, said he’s very concerned about the turnover — which he said is what prompted him to create the petition.

“After the difficulties we have experienced during COVID, and so many leadership positions leaving, how can our community expect to recover and see change in our education system and kids?” Farinha said. “We as a community need to come together to support our education system and support our kids and our educators who are trying to do good in our town.”