In light of New Paltz School Board president Donald Kerr’s resignation — tendered on Nov, 7, three days after he was arrested for signing for a package containing eight pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $32,000 — the School Board chose sitting member Patrick Rausch to serve as its president, and former School Board member Barbara Carroll to fill the vacancy left by Kerr until elections could be held in May 2012.
After going into a closed-door meeting last Wednesday to discuss how they might go about refilling the vacancy left by Kerr, the board decided to opt out of a special election, which according to Rausch would have cost “taxpayers several thousands of dollars,” and instead move to replace and elect on its own.
At its Nov. 16 meeting, the board accepted Kerr’s resignation. His letter has not been made public, but has been quoted by vice president KT Tobin as saying that Kerr maintains his innocence, but did not want the court proceedings to distract the board while it deals with major issues, including a two-percent tax cap, a facilities master plan and a Race-to-the-Top mandate requiring greater standards and evaluations of students, teachers and administrators.
Superintendent Maria Rice and the rest of the board have been silent, making no comment on Kerr’s arrest on Nov. 4, despite him having had two marijuana-related brushes with the law in the past. Instead, the board unanimously and enthusiastically voted to appoint Carroll, who had served on the School Board for 13 years, as a member, a vice president and a president under several superintendents, to fill the vacant position. “We thought appointing a former School Board member who could hit the ground running, like Barbara Carroll, was the best decision, as we have a lot of work to do with the budget and facilities,” said Rausch.
Superintendent Rice noted, “Barbara Carroll will be a great asset to the board, as she is child-focused, positive and very current on the challenges schools are facing with the new unfunded mandates and decreasing revenues.”
The board welcomed Carroll, who also serves as the vice president of the Ulster County BOCES Board. “Thank you so much for agreeing to serve on such short notice,” said School Board member Edgar Rodriguez, “and for the time this will take in your already-busy schedule.”
After Carroll was sworn in, the board moved to appoint veteran member and former School Board president Rausch as Kerr’s replacement. “I’m very pleased that Patrick agreed to do this,” said Tobin. “He has a tremendous amount of experience and served as the BOE [Board of Education] president before.”
As for Kerr’s criminal case, he has pleaded not guilty and was released without bail. His attorney, Andrew Kossover, has stated repeatedly that Kerr was an “innocent victim” who did a neighborly deed by signing for a package that could have “been signed for by any number of people” for a person of unknown identity.
While the arrest — one of two in the recent past dealing with contraband being sent through the US Postal Service to residents in New Paltz — was made by the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) in cooperation with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the case has now been turned over to the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant DA Kevin Harp said that at this point, “The case is still being investigated, leads being followed, facts being checked.”
Kerr was charged with a Class D Felony, which could result in a year to 12 years in prison. Harp would not speculate on when or if the case would be presented to a Grand Jury or pled down. “We will not make that decision for at least four to six weeks at the earliest,” he said. “We just received the case, and need to continue our review and investigation.”
NPPD chief Joe Snyder said that there could be “further charges pending.” ++