On early February, we published an editorial entitled ‘Need to know’ about what was then the inevitable separation between the Onteora Central School District and its superintendent, Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill.
At that point the board indicated it would seek a new superintendent and shortly afterward McGill was using up her vacation and personal time and on paid leave.
Last week the divorce became official, with the board buying McGill out with a lump sum of $67,000 and making another $53,000 contribution to her 403(b) account. She remains on paid leave until June 30. She had one year left on a contract that called for her to be paid $150,000.
The only reasons given in the document for the separation state, “Whereas, the Parties have disagreed as to the best course of action to ensure the continued success of the District…”
In the agreement, both parties agree not to talk about the whys and wherefores of their ‘disagreements.’ We understand that this is a standard way to do business and that personnel matters are privileged.
But we cannot help but feel, still, that this is a disservice to the taxpayers of the district, or any district. This is an agreement that is costing the district at least $120,000, along with an extra monthly stipend for the Assistant Superintendent to see to the duties.
There may be many reasons for the separation, but they are not apparent, as they were back in 2010, when the board separated itself from then superintendent Leslie Ford, amid considerable acrimony over the configuration of the district.
Indeed, Onteora has been running well, achieving good notices by all accounts for its education, and has been fiscally restrained in its taxing authority (though it still has a far higher than average per-pupil expenditure rate.)
We will not find out what brought about the separation, nor caused the extra expenditures.
But we do hope, and expect a transparent, participatory process in choosing who will be the next superintendent for Onteora.
(Disclosure — The editorial writer’s wife works for the Onteora district.)