A group of parents have questioned the transparency of the Pelham school district’s search for a new superintendent.
On Wednesday, the Pelham school board went into executive session to interview an interim school's superintendent candidate. Dennis Lauro, the district’s current superintendent, and the district wants until Lauro’s replacements is found.
Although the board has announced its intention of hiring an interim superintendent and a search firm to help find a permanent replacement for Lauro, some people are arguing that the board has made these decisions behind closed doors.
“I’m not opposed to them interviewing a candidate in executive session,” said Jennifer Slattery, a district a parent. “That’s part of what executive session is for. None of the rest of it is for that. There’s case law to speak to that. A member of the public has gone to the committee on open government in this state and the director there said that they violated open meetings law by doing that.”
Slattery also said the board gave the impression that it was going to take its time finding an interim superintendent and she was taken by surprise when the district sent out a request for proposal for search firms last week.
School board Vice President Martha Arden, who presided over the meeting in President Robert Eicher’s absence, said the board had no intention of hiring an interim superintendent Wednesday.
Arden said the purpose of the executive session was for the board to come up with interview questions and interviewing the interim candidate. The board did not give the name of the candidate, but Arden did say only one person was being interviewed Wednesday.
Board Trustee Peggy O’Leary also made a motion to approve a request for proposal for a search firm to help the district find a new superintendent. The board sent out a request for proposal nearly a week ago, but O’Leary said the board did not vote on the document before sending it out.
“We should’ve done that before we sent the RFP out and I’d like to rectify that,” O’Leary said.
Arden said the four candidates in this year’s school board election were also invited to attend the executive session.
“Because it’s so close to election day, very late, we decided to it would be a good idea to invite the candidates for the school board,” O’Leary said.
School board candidates Madeline Smith, Michael Recca and Paul Prencis attended the executive session. Candidates Christine Rosskopf declined the offer to attend.
“I have an objection to the process and being invited to be included in an improper process to me doesn’t fix the problem,” Rosskopf said. “So I don’t want to join in on the backdoor politics, I just want to try and get them to change the process.”
Peter Liaskos, a district resident who regularly attends school board meetings, said he is glad that the board revised some of the things it is doing.
“I expected that once some of the members of the community pointed out how black and white the issue was, that the board would retreat from its prior position,” Liaskos said.
Slattery said she is pleased that the board decided to do things the right way. But she believes the board still nees to make imrpovements in the way it communicates with the public.
“I just think that after talking for so long at board meetings and going in thinking that this was going to be an open and public process—that we’re going to take our time... they’ve clearly discussed all of this and what they want in an interim or how they’re going to select an interim in private and that’s not OK,” she said.
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