Principal's tenure causes tension between board and public


WEBUTUCK — A personnel recommendation approved by the Board of Education, 4-3, at its March 15 meeting brought residents in force to Webutuck High School’s library Monday night to express their displeasure.

The matter in question was high school Principal Kenneth Sauer’s tenure status.

Last summer, staff and members of the community spoke out against the principal, who some alleged treated students, especially females, in a distasteful and disrespectful manner.

The board’s March 19 meeting was originally set to be a work session on Superintendent of Schools Richard Johns’ proposed 2007-2008 budget.

However, midway through the week before, the workshop was revised to include three business items: Eugene Brooks Middle School Principal Scott Richard’s tenure, which was approved unanimously by the board; Sauer’s tenure; and a personnel appointment for Landon Johns (

align=justifyhowever, midway through the week before, the workshop was revised to include three business items: eugene brooks middle school principal scott richard’s tenure, which was approved unanimously by the board; sauer’s tenure; and a personnel appointment for landon johns (>

for full coverage on this issue turn to page A1).

 

Board members, especially Dale Culver, John Perotti and Joe Herald, said they were shocked when they saw the business items on the agenda for that night.

Motions for Richards’ and Sauer’s tenure recommendations were split to allow for separate discussion, board Vice President Susan Lounsbury said.

Lounsbury made a motion to grant Sauer tenure.

Culver, Perotti and Herald called for an executive session to discuss the issue, citing that when they left the March 12 meeting, they were "100 percent sure" talks would continue a week later.

All three said they thought the tenure issue would be dealt with at the April business meeting, which falls on April 10.

The superintendent said the board had to act on the tenure motion and could not go to executive session before the vote.

A day later, Johns said the only move that could temporarily halt the discussion would be a motion to table the tenure item and another motion to go into closed session.

In a interview conducted by The Millerton News the day after the March 19 meeting, Herald said he regrets that he "didn’t think fast enough" to make a motion that would table the tenure item until after closed session discussion.


Public calls for votes

to be rescinded


 

"I’m happy to see a full library tonight," Lounsbury said to the roughly 50 people in attendance. "You’re seeing a very small piece of what we’ve been working on for the last couple of months."

Both Tom Marshall, a Webutuck social worker and pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Amenia, and Millerton resident Chip Barrett called for the rescission of Sauer’s tenure, as well as Landon Johns’ position.

The crowd greeted both statements with loud applause.

Kate Seabury, a student at Webutuck High School, prefaced her comments on the tenure decision with a statement that she would be "respectful" to the board and expected the same respect back.

Last year, over 100 Webutuck High School students signed a petition that called for Sauer’s termination.

Seabury said she was puzzled as to why the Board of Education hasn’t taken the petition into consideration. "We deserve to be treated equally and appropriately."

Former Webutuck track coach Kim Travis, who was the first to levy complaints against Sauer last summer, said to ignore the students’ petition is wrong and "I think the rest of the community agrees with me."

She said if the board isn’t willing to make the right choices, the public will "elect officials that will."

"Excuse me, I think every member of the board takes their job very seriously," board President Bernadette Coniglio responded.

Lounsbury said the "masses" shouldn’t be swayed by last week’s article in The Millerton News, or a sign on the lawn of former board member Andrew Jablonsky that states there’s a rift between Culver, Perotti, Herald and Coniglio, Lounsbury and board members Joe Matteo and Joanne Boyd, a schism that yields a 4-3 vote on many important issues.

"We all take our positions very seriously," she continued, adding that the board felt prepared to vote on Sauer’s tenure because the issue had been discussed for months. "There may have been a request for additional comment ... we do our best to represent you folks. Making a controversial decision is going to result in one faction being unhappy."

After public comment had ended, both the tenure item and Johns’ position were discussed in board comment time.

"We have never disregarded the request of a board member to go into executive. It’s a violation of ethics ... to not bring it up. I’ve been outvoted I don’t know how many times and I don’t care," Herald said.

Coniglio said any board member could have requested that an executive session be placed on the agenda before the tenure vote.

"Is there any board member that didn’t agree that we were going back to discuss it?" Culver asked.

"The possibility existed," Coniglio returned.

Perotti, too, said he was under the impression that the March 19 meeting was strictly budget.

He received his board packet, which contained the revised agenda, mid-afternoon on March 19 and acknowledged that he only had time to "glance at it."

"Tenure is the most important decision that any board can make," he said as the audience, which had been whittled down after public comment ended, nodded its approval.

Wassaic resident Darren Koski asked the board "right now, what are you going to do about this?"

"It has to be discussed as a board," said Coniglio, who noted that this will probably take place at a board retreat tentatively set for next month.

Boyd, after receiving a call from Johns, said she asked if the workshop could become a business meeting.

Last week, Johns said that this is quite commonplace.

Herald wondered why the rest of the board didn’t get that same call.

At the end of the March 12 meeting, Culver said, all seven members of the board agreed there needed to be more discussion on Sauer’s tenure.

He was puzzled as to why that decision changed.

"Every one of us agreed," he noted. "I hope that the will of the board at one meeting will be the same at the next meeting."

Before the tenure vote on March 19, Coniglio asked the board if going into executive session would change their vote.

Everybody said "no."

However, this past Monday night, Culver said the board would have reaped the benefit of executive session because they could see what other members thought of the situation.

"I agree with Dale’s comment," Coniglio said. "It could have been done better."

Herald said he currently doesn’t know how to rescind a tenure vote but will read up and try to accomplish this before the board’s annual reorganization meeting, which takes place every July.

 

"I’m happy to see a full library tonight," Lounsbury said to the roughly 50 people in attendance. "You’re seeing a very small piece of what we’ve been working on for the last couple of months."

Both Tom Marshall, a Webutuck social worker and pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Amenia, and Millerton resident Chip Barrett called for the rescission of Sauer’s tenure, as well as Landon Johns’ position.

The crowd greeted both statements with loud applause.

Kate Seabury, a student at Webutuck High School, prefaced her comments on the tenure decision with a statement that she would be "respectful" to the board and expected the same respect back.

Last year, over 100 Webutuck High School students signed a petition that called for Sauer’s termination.

Seabury said she was puzzled as to why the Board of Education hasn’t taken the petition into consideration. "We deserve to be treated equally and appropriately."

Former Webutuck track coach Kim Travis, who was the first to levy complaints against Sauer last summer, said to ignore the students’ petition is wrong and "I think the rest of the community agrees with me."

She said if the board isn’t willing to make the right choices, the public will "elect officials that will."

"Excuse me, I think every member of the board takes their job very seriously," board President Bernadette Coniglio responded.

Lounsbury said the "masses" shouldn’t be swayed by last week’s article in The Millerton News, or a sign on the lawn of former board member Andrew Jablonsky that states there’s a rift between Culver, Perotti, Herald and Coniglio, Lounsbury and board members Joe Matteo and Joanne Boyd, a schism that yields a 4-3 vote on many important issues.

"We all take our positions very seriously," she continued, adding that the board felt prepared to vote on Sauer’s tenure because the issue had been discussed for months. "There may have been a request for additional comment ... we do our best to represent you folks. Making a controversial decision is going to result in one faction being unhappy."

After public comment had ended, both the tenure item and Johns’ position were discussed in board comment time.

"We have never disregarded the request of a board member to go into executive. It’s a violation of ethics ... to not bring it up. I’ve been outvoted I don’t know how many times and I don’t care," Herald said.

Coniglio said any board member could have requested that an executive session be placed on the agenda before the tenure vote.

"Is there any board member that didn’t agree that we were going back to discuss it?" Culver asked.

"The possibility existed," Coniglio returned.

Perotti, too, said he was under the impression that the March 19 meeting was strictly budget.

He received his board packet, which contained the revised agenda, mid-afternoon on March 19 and acknowledged that he only had time to "glance at it."

"Tenure is the most important decision that any board can make," he said as the audience, which had been whittled down after public comment ended, nodded its approval.

Wassaic resident Darren Koski asked the board "right now, what are you going to do about this?"

"It has to be discussed as a board," said Coniglio, who noted that this will probably take place at a board retreat tentatively set for next month.

Boyd, after receiving a call from Johns, said she asked if the workshop could become a business meeting.

Last week, Johns said that this is quite commonplace.

Herald wondered why the rest of the board didn’t get that same call.

At the end of the March 12 meeting, Culver said, all seven members of the board agreed there needed to be more discussion on Sauer’s tenure.

He was puzzled as to why that decision changed.

"Every one of us agreed," he noted. "I hope that the will of the board at one meeting will be the same at the next meeting."

Before the tenure vote on March 19, Coniglio asked the board if going into executive session would change their vote.

Everybody said "no."

However, this past Monday night, Culver said the board would have reaped the benefit of executive session because they could see what other members thought of the situation.

"I agree with Dale’s comment," Coniglio said. "It could have been done better."

Herald said he currently doesn’t know how to rescind a tenure vote but will read up and try to accomplish this before the board’s annual reorganization meeting, which takes place every July.

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