HELIX - Residents and school employees are expressing deep concerns over the future direction of the town's school system following the school board's decision against renewing Superintendent Barbara Ceniga's contract.

Lorin Kubishta is a business and social studies teacher who has worked for the Helix School District for 15 years, nine of those under the administration of Ceniga.

"According to the state, we've been rated an excellent school, and there's a reason for that," Kubishta said. "The bottom line is you can't argue with success."

He said it's his belief that most of the staff and students in the school district had been happy with Ceniga at the helm.

"When staff is satisfied, they're going to put more of their heart and soul into their jobs, and I've seen that here," he said. "The atmosphere is positive."

One of the concerns of Kubishta and others, including Kathy DeRuwe, who has taught at Helix for 12 years, is that other communities will look on and see the situation as a mark against Helix.

"What makes me sad as an individual is the initial response to the word 'Helix' could be altered in the minds of many because of poor choices by a few on the school board," DeRuwe said. "It's going to be a little black mark against Helix."

DeRuwe said she suspects the school board voted against renewing Ceniga's contract for personal, rather than professional, reasons.

"I'm concerned that appropriate justification for Barb's non-renewal was not represented," DeRuwe said. "I think there's a lot of misrepresentation going on in the board."

She added she was not impressed with the actions of some board members during the meeting last Wednesday.

"We're here for education, and we definitely got an education at that board meeting," DeRuwe said. "I would not allow behavior in a classroom that I saw exhibited by some members of the board."

Cindy Wood, who works at Helix Market and Pub, has two children who attend Helix schools. She said she's disappointed with the board's decision as well.

"You hate to see a community divided like this," Wood said. "Except it's not really divided. It's just a few who have personal issues with her and that shouldn't happen on a school board."

Wood said she knows all five board members and has yet to hear a definitive reason for the dismissal. Ceniga received a more-than-adequate evaluation prior to the decision.

"I don't understand it," Wood said. "It's not how good a job she does, it's just personal."

Ceniga said her concerns are for the Helix school itself.

"My concern with the decision is that it changes the direction of the school district at a very critical time," Ceniga said. "Since no plan has been forthcoming, I'm concerned there is no plan, and that leaves parents, staff, community and most importantly, students, without direction."

Wood said that was a concern in the community, as well. She said Helix schools attract a substantial number of students from other communities, and Ceniga's dismissal could have an adverse effect on that student base, by making parents look at Helix in a less favorable light than they have in the past.

"We get a lot of non-district students," Wood said. "You mess with that and we're not that far from closing our doors. I think Barb does a great job."

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