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August 6, 2013

School district's personnel moves make little sense

By Cary Brunswick
The Daily Star

---- — It is hard to believe, I know, but for the second time in seven years the Oneonta school district will be paying $100,000 or more for an administrator to sit in the bus garage to serve as transportation director.

The school board recently removed Scott Rabeler from his principal job at Greater Plains Elementary School and named him supervisor of transportation and operations, a job ordinarily added to the workload of principals.

Something is wrong here. It is unlikely that the district needs to have a full-time person in that position. And definitely not someone making $125,000 a year.

It is also surprising that taxpayers are not storming the board of education offices, since the board has acted so wastefully after closing an elementary school and eliminating teaching positions because of alleged tight budgets.

What also should have district taxpayers and education advocates upset is that is this the second time Rabeler has been shipped to the bus garage. In 2006, he was transferred there from the high school principal’s chair, after a negative review by then-new school Superintendent Michael Shea.

Apparently, according to sources quoted by this newspaper, Rabeler had some gender issues with his management style and didn’t like doing teacher observations.

At least he was only making $103,000 a year at that time.

And he didn’t like the idea of moving out of the high school, filing an appeal with the state Education Department to overturn the transfer. However, in a decision handed down in 2007, his appeal was dismissed.

Finally, after a three-year stint at the bus garage, Rabeler was moved in 2009 to replace Tim Gracy as principal at Greater Plains. Now, in 2013, another new superintendent, Joseph Yelich, arrives on the scene, and, lo and behold, he also wanted Rabeler out as principal. For some reason, new supervisors apparently just don’t like the guy. But that’s a personnel issue. 

What district residents should be concerned about is the extra money the district has to come up with — and what positions will be cut — to pay a new assistant high school principal, which is the vacancy created by all the shuffling after Rabeler’s transfer. And don’t forget how many teacher positions might have been saved with that bus-garage salary.

But Scott Rabeler is not the one at fault here. He just wants to keep working, and obviously prefers being a principal. The problem is with the strong public labor unions that make it so difficult to lay off, terminate or otherwise get rid of employees, for whatever reason, once they are tenured.

•••

I had not heard that the city of Oneonta started charging money for parking in the lower level of the municipal parking garage. So I was surprised recently when I drove in and saw no cars there. Ditto, the next time I went by.

What’s going on, I asked myself. And then I noticed the payment machine.

According to Jeff House, of the city Office of Community Development, the action was taken to make it easier for people seeking long-term parking.

You have to wonder if it were really the students the city was looking to charge, since with them away for the summer, few other motorists are using it. The middle and upper levels of the garage, with free parking, are certainly more crowded now.

Let’s hope the lower level doesn’t remain a ghost town.

•••

It was great to see Bernie Williams in town Friday night for a performance at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center.

After Williams’ successful concert at Foothills, Janet Quackenbush of Foothills accompanied the former Oneonta and New York Yankee, an accomplished guitarist, and his band to the nearby B-Side Ballroom.

Bernie wooed the crowd at the B-side with friendly chatting and posing for photos, saw a few old friends such as OHS baseball coach Joe Hughes, and even got on stage with his band to do a James Brown song.

He has recorded three albums of jazz/Latin fusion and has co-authored the book, “Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance.’’

During a brief chat Friday night, he even said it was OK that I was Dodgers fan.

Cary Brunswick, of Oneonta, is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at brunswick@earthling.net. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.