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ELDRED, NY — A clarion call went out on September 5 through a letter posted on the Eldred school district’s website, announcing that the search has begun for a new high school principal.
Eight days earlier, a member of the school board had responded to a question regarding rumors of the same. The question was acknowledged with a statement that it has always been the board’s intention to find a permanent replacement from the beginning of Jean Maxson’s latest appointment in August 2018, but no further details were provided.
Maxson had been brought in to serve the district as high school principal in November 2017 during an administrative shuffle and, after providing support to the high school for six months, was replaced for a short time by elementary principal Virginia Keegan. Keegan resigned from the district after five months and Maxson was rehired. She was awarded a four-year contract in August 2018.
That amount of time is mandated by the bargaining unit of which Maxson is a member. Despite the four-year contract, Superintendent Dr. John Morgano said there was a tacit agreement with Maxson that she and he would not leave the district at the same time. They wanted to provide a modicum of stability in the administrative ranks, which has undergone tumultuous change in the last three years.
Morgano further stated that a few good candidates have been identified for the position, but there is no urgency to fill it. He scoffed at the suggestion that any link existed between the timing of the search and rumors that bullying issues at the school had gone unaddressed.
The board approved a motion at its July 2 reorganization meeting to grant both Maxson and Scott Krebs, who serves as principal at the elementary school, the maximum raise allowed of 3 percent.
Morgano said that if and when Maxson leaves the district she will be paid for unused paid-time off but will not receive any additional salary.
The letter posted on the website was an invitation for interested parents, students, community members, faculty, staff and administration to provide input on the search process through service on a task force. The task force includes at least six teachers/counselors, five students and two parents of students.
Football, enrollment and new staff positions
Addressing other matters, including the issue of declining enrollment in the district, Morgano noted that the date at which enrollment figures become official for state reporting purposes is in mid-October. The 26 students currently enrolled in Kindergarten are being served by a teacher, teaching assistant and aide, with another aide assigned to one student. Grades one through six continue to include two classes for each grade level.
Morgano said the decline in enrollment is county wide, but that any drastic action is years off. He added that the state no longer provides financial incentives for districts to consolidate operations as it used to.
This fall season, the varsity football program was scrapped due to a lack of players. Three students have joined the Sullivan West squad.
A special board meeting was convened on September 16 where the board gave its approval to restore the position of director of instructional services.
This position had previously been held by former superintendent Robert Dufour. For a time, Dufour maintained responsibility for both positions. Morgano said the reporting and oversight responsibilities mandated by the state continue to increase. Handling both, he said, is no longer feasible. The board approval allows the district to advertise for a candidate, but Morgano said that finding a new principal takes priority over the new administrative position.
Funds to cover the expected salary, which would be in the $80,000 range, would come from about $20,000 currently being paid to BOCES to assist in these tasks, as well as from funds to make up for the expenses related to foster children within the district. The state mandates that a foster child’s district of origin is responsible for the cost of sending that child to school. Because of the revolving door of business officials, these funds had not been sought in the past at Eldred. Business manager Caleb Russell said that since it has come to his attention that the district does indeed have foster children within its student population, he has commenced the billing process to recover these funds.
These monies were not included in the current operating budget, but the cash inflow will be ongoing as long as foster children are present in the district.
Future staffing plans at Eldred include the restoration of a high school reading teacher and guidance counselor. Of the nine positions eliminated at the end of the 2017 school year, a special-education teacher and teaching assistant have been restored to the ranks and an elementary teacher has been added.