Onteora Central School District Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill’s contract expires June 30, 2016, leaving approximately two years left on a four-year contract. As required in McGill’s contract, the Board of Education in June met in executive session to review it, but no action was taken to renew or extend.
According to McGill’s contract agreement, the board reserves the right to renew or extend the contract annually beginning, “on or about June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015 for an additional year or years subject to agreement on terms with the Superintendent.” The Board has given itself one additional year to decide how to proceed with her contract.
However, through the experience of previous boards and discussions with members it is apparent that it is customary that superintendent contracts extend to three-to-five years if a board is satisfied with performance. State law governing such agreements says that no contract being initiated may be for less than three years, though it does not mention ongoing contracts.
Mum’s the word on why the board chose inaction at this time. School Board President Tony Fletcher, who was Vice President at the time, would not specifically comment except to write via email, “The Board of Education is satisfied with the progress being made within the Onteora Central School District, and looks forward to continuing to work with the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill.” He later added “per state law, we cannot comment on personnel issues.”
The board president at the time the board declined to act was Ann McGillicuddy, who had no comment, instead turning the statement over to Fletcher.
McGill also refused comment except to say, via email, “I look forward to the upcoming school year.”
McGill was hired in 2011 after a tumultuous relationship between the Board of Education and previous Superintendent Dr. Leslie Goldring-Ford. With one-year left on Fords’ contract, in 2010 the board chose not to renew or extend, and in doing so, signaled an end to her term. She was bought out of her last year in July 2010.
During a board meeting in 2010, Trustee Rita Vanacore said, “When you go to school board training sessions, and they talk about hiring Superintendents and negotiating contracts, the precedent is that each year a contract should be reviewed and possibly extended. Usually the board will try to keep the contract at the three-to-five year level. This Board (in 2010) chose, when they got elected, not to do what they were taught to do, they chose to ignore the precedent. They made her (Ford) ineffective and impotent in the last years.”
Marino D’Orazio, a past trustee, also said in 2010, “The way I would read it as a past school board member, is this kind of inaction sends a message of no confidence.”
Unlike Ford, McGill has two years left on her contract and though it may not meet the typical precedent as recommended by New York State, it is not illegal.
McGill’s annual salary was initially contracted for $160,000, but was reduced to $150,000, July 1, 2012 when the district was experiencing budget shortfalls. In return, McGill received a four-year contract at the time. According to contract disclosures through the website SeeThroughNY, area school contacts for Superintendents with doctorates typically begin around $160,000, with a yearly pay increase of 2-or-3 percent. McGill has had no pay increase in her contract and current salary disclosures through the New York State Education Website indicate that McGill is among the lowest paid Superintendents in the area. The highest paid is New Paltz Superintendent Maria Rice at a current salary of $201,000. Other area district Superintendents include Highland School District Deborah Haab at a salary of $155,000; Seth Turner of Saugerties at $167,700; Paul Padalino of Kingston School district currently at $179,500; Paul Finch of Red Hook is $177,000; and Rosario Agostaro of Rondout is at $181,000.