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April 20, 2013

CV-S BOE hires interim superintendent, ousts member

By Greg Klein
The Daily Star

---- — The Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School’s Board of Education approved an interim superintendent Thursday, and also dismissed an absent board  member.

Richard Rose, who retired as superintendent of the Canajoharie School District in December  2011 after 25 years in the position, was approved by the CV-S board by a unanimous 5-0 vote under a consent agreement that approved multiple resolutions.

The board approved two contracts with Rose. One contract appoints him to serve as deputy superintendent from April 23 through May 10. The other appoints him as interim superintendent, effective May 11.

Current Superintendent Robert Miller’s last day at CV-S will be May 10. He will take over as Superintendent of the Herkimer Central School District the following week.

Rose will serve until a new superintendent is hired. The search is being conducted by the Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES and has been posted with a target hire date of Sept. 1 to  the beginning of 2014, according to several board members.  BOCES also conducted the search for an interim superintendent.

Rose will be paid a total of $500 a day as deputy superintendent and as interim superintendent.

The board also voted, 4-1, to declare vacant the seat held by Corey Webster because of his frequent unexplained absences.

Webster missed his third consecutive regular meeting — his fifth consecutive meeting if two special budget meetings are counted — Thursday. He was elected in 2008, and his term will expire next month. The board is required to appoint an interim member or call a special election within 90 days of the vacancy. However, with the election scheduled for May 21, the consensus of the board was that it would no steps to fill the position before then.

Board President Robert Tabor and members Kevin Lennebacker, Hilary Lusk and Jeffrey Wait voted to declare the position vacant. Kathleen Taylor voted against it. Frank McGrath was not present.

“It feels punitive,” Taylor said. “If it was September and he had just been elected in June, then I would feel differently. But his position is open next month.

“I worry about the precedent we are setting. This is a really big deal to vacate a seat. It is a power we have, but not a power we must yield. It is a choice we are making.”

The other board members disagreed with Taylor.

“The law says the seat is vacant,” Wait said. “We are just affirming what the law is already saying.”

According to statistics presented by Wait, Webster had missed three consecutive meetings at least once before, had 23 absences during his five-year term and was absent or not available for full meetings 47 percent of the time.

Reached by phone Friday, Webster disputed Wait’s numbers and said the vacancy declaration was news to him.

“The mandatory board meetings are the ones you are required to attend, not the ones they keep calling every week,” he said. “I work for a living. I have a moderately successful dairy farm. I have six employees. I have a lot of responsibility.

“I made it clear to them that I could not attend every special meeting. I think the people who voted for me would be the first ones to understand that.”

Webster said that he was probably not going to run for re-election, adding that he had become disenchanted with the board this winter over a personnel issue. He said he realized the feeling was mutual.

“There were about four members of the board who hated my guts,” he said. “I guess you can figure out who they are. 

“If that is the action they have taken, then fine. I can go about my business with a lot less stress in my life. But I can tell you that there are a lot of problems with this board, in my opinion.”

The Cooperstown Crier reported March 22, 2012, that a member of the community had spoken up at the board’s monthly meeting to request that Webster’s seat be declared vacant in compliance with Education Law 2109. The board did not take any action at that time. The New York law states that a board of education seat is considered vacant if a member misses three consecutive meetings without explanation.

Webster disputed that his absences were unexplained, saying that he has been very clear with his fellow members in the past about his attendance issues.

“I had two surgeries in that time; my wife had a surgery; we had a baby,” he said. “I have a very demanding job. You would think that the board would understand that, given that another board member has a (family member) who also runs a dairy farm, but there is not a lot of understanding on this board.”

Some of the other board members expressed frustration at Webster’s absences during Thursday’s meeting.

 “We all have jobs and children and very busy lives,” Lusk said. “You talk about having a baby. I gave birth, and I was back at the next board meeting. I work very hard to attend meetings, and I feel like the rest of us do too.”