WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – One day after Westfield High School’s interim principal was placed on leave, hundreds of students and staff members walked out of the building in protest, but that principal is expected to come back to work at the beginning of next week.
The exact reasons for the temporary departure of interim Principal Dennis Duquette have not been revealed, but Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Suzanne Scallion told our media partner, The Westfield News that social media rumors of the principal being escorted from the building by police are not true, and that the police department was not involved in the situation in any way.
Thursday morning’s rally also brought many parents to Westfield High. Those who showed up told 22News that they received an automated call about the situation Wednesday night, but that there was not an explanation as to why.
Parents at the rally said their children are concerned Mr. Duquette is in some kind of trouble with the administration because of money the students donated to him to help him pay for surgery for his dog. The dog had reportedly become somewhat of a school mascot— parents tell 22News he is a certified therapy dog the principal brings to school with him, and that has had a major impact on morale.
“I believe there is more to it. I wish somebody would just come out and say there is more to the story because all the kids see is that they raised money for the dog and now the principal isn’t here,” parent Lorena Sienko said.
Scallion told 22News late Thursday morning that this was a private personnel matter, but it had nothing to do with the dog. She said that because it is an employee situation, confidentiality is of the utmost importance.
Scallion also told 22News Mr. Duquette has her full support. She said he is a wonderful leader and she is proud of the work he is doing in the school system.
Shortly before noontime Thursday, Duquette released the following statement:
With the full support of the Superintendent, the matter that took me away from the high school is being resolved. I made a mistake, the details of which are private. I apologize for the disruption that this has caused and look forward to returning to Westfield High School on Monday. I want students to know that when you err, as we all will, you step up and make it right. When you are a public official, any misstep can and will get blown out of proportion. Thanks for respecting my confidentiality and let’s not blame anyone else for this. Let’s get back to the great work that is happening at Westfield High School.
We still have the best students and staff in the world. Thank You, Mr. Duquette.”
Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan told 22News that he feels this is a personnel issue that is being handled through the proper process. Sullivan said that he is proud of the students and staff at Westfield High School for the way this walkout was handled.