AD: Gym Floor Resurfacing Schedule SNAFU Didn't Prompt Resignation

Paul Steinbach Headshot
Gene Gallin U Yi 1k Uh2o Unsplash

A "miscommunication" allowed contractors to resurface gym floors at two Massachusetts high schools while classes were in session last month, leading to complaints among students and staff that the fumes made them sick.

As reported by local newspaper The Berkshire Eagle,  Pittsfield Public Schools superintendent Joseph Curtis gave the City Council an update on his investigation Tuesday night.

Taconic and Pittsfield high schools dismissed early on Nov. 18 amid the complaints.

Curtis told council that high school athletic director Jim Abel had tendered his resignation earlier this week, leading some council members to question whether the departure was the result of the maintenance issue. Curtis said he couldn't parse the reason publicly, The Eagle reported.

"It's a personnel matter and I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about it," Curtis said in response to council questions. "I can tell you I wasn't looking for a fall person."

In a call with The Eagle on Thursday, Abel clarified that his decision to step back from his role with the Pittsfield Public Schools had come after months of consideration and was unrelated to the floor resurfacing.

"It's been something that I've been thinking about for the better part of the last few months in the last year," Abel said. "I can imagine that the timing of it creates some perceptions, but it was not directly linked to the flooring situation."

Lisa Ostellino, a 26-year veteran of the Pittsfield Public Schools, told the council late last month that two weeks after the resurfacing project ended she still had difficulty walking into Pittsfield High School without getting a headache from the fumes.

“This is decades and decades of miscommunication and mismanagement between the city, the school department and everybody that works underneath that,” Ostellino said. “There is no accountability for the things that are important for the safety and health of our students and staff.”

On Tuesday, Curtis gave an almost hour-by-hour accounting of his schedule on Nov. 17 and 18, according to The Eagle. The superintendent said that he’d noticed the fumes on two separate tours with the principals of Taconic and Pittsfield high schools on Nov. 17 but said that the odors weren’t “strong to my senses.”

He said he contacted Kristen Behnke, the assistant superintendent of Business and Finance, to ask why the floors were being refinished while school was in session and was told that Abel had scheduled the work and she thought it was happening during the approaching Thanksgiving break.

Curtis said that once he heard from Pittsfield principal Maggie Harrington-Esko that some staff were concerned about the odor, he reached out to the acting custodial director and was told that the project had been completed, that the smell would still be present on Friday, but also that it would “dissipate overnight.”

Curtis said he had the city’s Health Department director Andy Cambi join the high school principals on a walkthrough of the buildings on Sunday evening and that Cambi gave the all clear for students to return to school the next day, The Eagle reported.

Page 1 of 40
Next Page
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
AB Show 2024 in New Orleans
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Nov. 19-22, 2024
Learn More
AB Show 2024