A five-year contract extension for Superintendent Seth Turner is on the agenda for the June 9 School Board meeting.
While contract extensions and renewals are standard business for the Board of Education, this one stands out because Turner’s contract is not expiring any time soon. He previously received a five-year extension in June 2013. The new contract wouldn’t be up for renewal until 2020.
Tomorrow’s meeting is also the last before the three trustees elected last month — Mike Maclary, Jim Mooney and Bob Thomann — are sworn in July 7.
Thomann called the proposed new contract a “cause for concern.” According to him, the issues are lack of time for public comment and the fiscal ramifications of approving a new contract that includes a potential four-percent raise every year.
Trustee Angie Minew said the board was informed that the contract extension would be included in the agenda on Friday, June 5. It was posted to the district’s website Sunday, June 7. She opposes it.
“I do not feel that extending Mr. Turner’s contract any additional time at this point is necessary since two years ago he was provided with a five-year contract. General practice in most all districts is to review a contract in the final year. My opinion is in no way a reflection of his performance.”
She also stated that renewing the contract at this time would not be “fiscally responsible” because future state aid is uncertain, citing the district’s failure to achieve a 95 percent participation rate in April’s standardized tests. (Of course, Saugerties is not alone in that — most local districts also saw their opt-out rates sore this year.)
When asked why the board would be considering the contract extension when Turner’s contract isn’t set to expire for another three years, Board President George Heidcamp said he was not at liberty to discuss the matter because it was set for executive session.
The contract extension is on the regular agenda and also mentioned as a topic for a proposed executive session.
Clues may be found in letters to the editor authored by Heidcamp and another trustee in the run-up to the election, which state repeatedly that opposition candidates were being supported by people in the community who want to remove the superintendent, who has enjoyed strong support from the board since being hired in 2009.
In one, dated April 30, Heidcamp and Trustee Florence Hyatt wrote that a special-interest group supporting Maclary, Mooney and Thomann were hoping to “oust our board president, superintendent and, most likely, other administrators along with them.”
In a May 7 letter, Heidcamp wrote, “I … truly believe this election is more about [ousting] the board president and superintendent than anything else by certain members of this special-interest group… There’s no doubt they will deny this, however, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. You be the judge.”
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 9 in the High School media center.
-Additional reporting by Will Dendis