Brookfield Middle School Principal Toby Gibson was brought to tears by the hundreds of people who populated the green in Brookfield Center Tuesday to show support for Gibson’s candidacy for superintendent and try to pressure the school board to reconsider its decision not to give Gibson a second interview.
Gibson said he found the support from students, parents, senior citizens, coaches, former school board members and teachers and other school employees “humbling.”
“I just want to take a minute and thank everybody for the well wishes and support of the past few days,” he said in a brief address that was interrupted by a woman shouting, “You rock, Mr. Gibson.”
“If there’s something positive that’s happened, it’s that there’s this renewed enthusiasm for your school,” said Gibson, who signed a petition asking that he be reconsidered. “The Brookfield Local Schools is not one person. It’s not five people. It’s the people. It’s you, it’s the students, it’s the staff, it’s the parents, it’s the community members. If you keep this momentum and this unity going, no matter what the outcome may be, and you keep the focus that’s what’s best for kids, the sky’s the limit of what you can do over the next few years. I just hope to be a part of it.”
Mary Arp, president of the 73-member Brookfield Federation of Teachers, attended the rally and took a diplomatic approach in responding to the support for Gibson.
“It was inspiring to see the confidence this community has in Toby Gibson,” Arp said. “It is up to the board to hire the person who will do what is best for our students and the Brookfield community. We have confidence the right decision will be made”
Brookfield Board of Education President Ronda Bonekovic has not addressed to NEWS On the Green the news that has been splashed on Facebook, that Gibson is not one of two superintendent candidates who will be interviewed Thursday by the school board. Gibson was the only insider who had made the final five.
Bonekovic said Tuesday night that the board is preparing a statement through an attorney.
The board has said it wants to hire a new superintendent – current Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor is leaving to take a job at Lakeview schools in Cortland – on May 22.
“I believe what he stands for. I’ve known him ever since I started here at Brookfield, and I just don’t think he was done right by this whole process,” said high school science teacher Tim Reinsel.
For many, Gibson stands for stability in a position that has been seen as a stepping stone to bigger schools.
“He is a father, he’s dedicated to Brookfield, he has proven himself, he has proven himself in the leadership position at Brookfield and I know that, if Toby is given a shot at superintendent, that not only will he continue the good work that’s been going on, but he’s not gonna go anywhere,” said Melissa Sydlowski, who said she has known Gibson for 40 years.
“He’s not leaving Brookfield for a better paying job somewhere else, because this is where his heart is,” Sydlowski said. “We’ve been saying that Toby bleeds blue and gold, and that truly is the case.
“We’ve done, back-to-back, superintendents that lasted, maybe, three years,” said George Kurpe. “This is my fourth one since I’ve been coaching up there in 12 years. It’s not good for the school; it’s not good for the morale. We just failed a levy. We need a leader that can bring the community together behind the school. We and a lot of other people that you’re gonna see today feel that Toby Gibson is that guy.”
Terry Teal called Gibson “a great principal” who has “dedicated his life to the children in Brookfield.”
“I have young children,” Teal said. “I’d like to see the superintendent be there for, hopefully, five to 10 years and maybe even longer than that, just so that way he can start to make some changes in the community.”
Brookfield High School freshman Lucas Beckstine offered his support for Gibson.
“He’s been my principal throughout elementary and middle school,” Lucas said. “He’s always done things right, in a professional manner, and I think he should be the superintendent.”
Kurpe called Gibson the “superintendent-in-waiting,” and criticized what he has heard was the board’s reasoning in passing over Gibson.
“He was told that he was eliminated as a candidate because of his experience,” Kurpe said. “Whatever job are you supposed to have before becoming a superintendent? Eight years as a principal in our school district. Prior to that, he was a student, coach, teacher. He’s not going anywhere. I think this is the long-term answer that we’re looking for.”
Sydlowski added that the board floated a survey to get a sense of what the community wants in a superintendent.
“I would just like to point out that, if the board was going to send out a survey to the public and get feedback from the community, whereas, 95 percent indicate on that survey that they wanted Toby and aren’t going to abide by that, then, why send the survey out to begin with?”
Copies of the petition, which says Gibson should be the next superintendent and asks the school board to reconsider him as a candidate, will be available to be signed at Belly Buster Sub Shop, 6949 Warren Sharon Road.
Rally organizers said they still were deciding how and when to present the petitions to school officials.