Nashua principal switched in July has resigned

NASHUA – Dee Addis-Simonson felt frustration and uncertainty last year when the principal of Amherst Street Elementary School was replaced. Now those feelings have returned.

Last week, Karen Crebase, who was chosen by Superintendent Joseph Giuliano to replace Ruth Tuttle as principal at Amherst Street, resigned nearly six months after she took over at the school.

Addis-Simonson, like many people at both schools, opposed Giuliano’s decision to swap the principals. Once it became clear the switch was going to happen, Addis-Simonson welcomed Crebase as the new principal. Once she got to know Crebase, Addis-Simonson was impressed. Now Crebase, too, is gone.

“It’s like starting from ground zero,” said Addis-Simonson, who has two children at Amherst Street, one of two schools in the district labeled “in need of improvement” by the state.

“I’m frustrated and I think most people at the school are frustrated,” she said. “Having an administrative staff that is as transient as the school population isn’t going to help.”

But it’s not like Crebase’s resignation was unexpected. When Crebase took over at the school in July, she did not hide the fact that she was pregnant. In October, she gave birth to a son, and she has been on maternity leave since.

Addis-Simonson bears no ill will toward Crebase. In fact, she had only glowing things to say about the former principal.

“I love Karen. I think she’s top-shelf,” said Addis-Simonson, who is the vice president of the school’s parent-teacher organization. “If Karen had remained in the school, she would have made some positive changes. But she was pregnant and we all knew she was leaving. Under the circumstances, I don’t think it was the right choice.”

As a result, Addis-Simonson said, parents and teachers at the school are left wondering, “What now?”

The next step, according to Giuliano, is to hire a new principal. Giuliano said he would establish a committee made up of parents and teachers at the school to interview candidates for the job.

He expects a replacement to be hired by July, perhaps sooner if someone from within the district is chosen for the job.

Currently, Joanne Paquette, a retired assistant principal from Bicentennial Elementary School, is the interim principal at the school. Bruce Blau is the newly hired assistant principal. He splits his time between Amherst Street and Dr. Crisp Elementary School.

Giuliano said Blau is one piece of consistency the school didn’t have last year, and that counts for something.

Tuttle, the principal at Broad Street Elementary School, said the decision to leave Amherst Street was not her own, but she has a new school now. “I have commitments here,” she said. “Broad Street needs to be treated fairly. It’s not their fault this all happened.”

Nor is it the fault of the people at Amherst Street. “This was a leadership decision and they need to figure out what their next decision will be,” Tuttle said. She said she’s confident in the Amherst Street community’s ability to pull through.

“In the years I spent at that school, the staff was incredible. They did a lot of learning, they did a lot of growing, and they really moved the school ahead, and I think this year’s test scores prove it,” she said.

Two years ago, assessment test scores at Amherst Street were among the lowest in the state. Scores released this fall revealed dramatic progress. Students at the school were no longer scoring among the worst in the state. In fact, they beat several other schools in the district.

At the time, Giuliano said he decided to switch the principals to give Amherst Street a new set of eyes that might prevent it from becoming a school labeled “in need of improvement.”

Giuliano couldn’t say if knowing about Crebase’s resignation would have changed his original decision to swap principals.

“It’s information I didn’t have, so I don’t want to go back and second-guess myself,” he said. “What happened, happened. It’s now behind us.”

Crebase could not be reached Monday. In a letter sent home to parents last week, she explained she was resigning in order to spend time with her family. She also thanked the school community for being so welcoming.

“I have been extremely pleased with the education that Amherst Street provides for your children,” Crebase wrote. “The staff is extremely devoted to providing your children with the best education possible.”

Jonathan Van Fleet can be reached at 594-6465 or