Kingston Board of Education trustees decided at their Monday reorganizational meeting to shake up the leadership, ousting James Shaughnessy as the board’s president, moving its vice-president up to the top spot and filling the No. 2 slot with a relatively new member.
It began with the nomination of Matthew McCoy as president by longtime Trustee Maureen Bowers. McCoy, the vice-president last year, joined the board in 2007.
“I think he has demonstrated skill, knowledge and has longevity on the school board,” Bowers said. “I think he is deserving to demonstrate his ability to lead. I know sometimes he can be feisty … perhaps passionate is more appropriate.”
Bowers added that the decision was not an easy one to reach, and credited Shaughnessy for the work he’d done during his two years as president. She said her decision was partly influenced by other school boards who have fairly regular turnover of leadership, even when the makeup of trustees changes very little.
“Jim, this is not in any way a reflection of your leadership, because I think you have been a good leader. I’ve thought about it, and I know that other boards stay with a two-year turnover and I think there’s value in that. I’m going to support another colleague and friend and comrade, and that would be Matthew McCoy.”
Nora Scherer agreed.
“Change is good,” she said. “It keeps us on our toes.”
McCoy was put up against Shaughnessy after the Rev. Arthur Coston nominated the incumbent to retain his seat.
“I think that Mr. Shaughnessy did a marvelous job in the last two years,” Coston said. “I nominate Mr. Shaughnessy for Board president.”
Shaughnessy said he felt the desire for consistent turnover in leadership was less important than considering what was best for the future.
“I don’t agree with the understanding that most of you seem to have that our terms of presidents are limited to two years,” he said. “That’s the way it’s turned out the last several years, but it’s certainly not a requirement. Each board should make its decision on the upcoming year and not on years in the past. I’m proud of the job that I’ve done as president for the last two years and I think I’m qualified and competent to serve this coming year. I just think it’s a bad policy that after two years you’re not qualified to be president again.”
McCoy credited Shaughnessy with helping shape him as a leader and trustee.
“I believe I’ve learned a lot,” McCoy said. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the board members, including Mr. Shaughnessy. We do have a lot of hard work ahead, and with your support and my nomination I believe we can do it.”
McCoy won the presidency by a 6-3 margin, with Bowers, Scherer, Kristen Uhl, the Rev. James Childs and James Michael also voting for him. Shaughnessy voted for himself; Coston and Robin Jacobowitz also voted for him.
“I think Jim did a very good job and I appreciate the job that he’s done,” said Childs. “But I feel that I have to vote for Matt.”
McCoy spent three years as the board’s vice-president and has been an instrumental member of the district’s Dietz Stadium Commission and the school board’s Building Inspection Team. He is employed as the Catskill Central School District as the clerk of its school board.
Scherer, who has served on the board for one year and has been on the Building Inspection Team and the subcommittee to seek alternative uses for the now-shuttered Frank L. Meagher Elementary School, was nominated as vice-president without opposition and elected by a unanimous vote. She is a retired teacher, having worked in the district for 38 years.
Though the purpose of a reorganizational meeting is primarily to set the district up for the coming year with a series of resolutions and appointments, and to swear in returning and new trustees (Shaughnessy, Jacobowitz and Michael were all sworn in for three-year terms), the topic of Superintendent Paul Padalino’s comprehensive redistricting proposal was on the minds of some of those in attendance.
Slideshow image: Matthew McCoy is sworn in as school board president by District Clerk Camille Ellsworth. (Photo by Kathryn Heidecker)