Also this week, a Freedom of Information request (FOIL) response outlined twelve pages of details in relation to the financial and legal agreement between the Onteora school district Board of Education and Dr. Leslie Ford. The agreement states that a sum of $75,893.37 will be paid effectively upon her resignation as Superintendent of the district. Ford submitted a letter of resignation July 9, 2010. Of that amount, $59,393.37 will be in the form of a lump sum and $16,500 will go into an IRC Tax Sheltered Annuity. Ford will receive an additional $6,668.40 in ten unused vacation days and $1,207.50 will go toward paying 50 percent on her term life policy, disability, dental and optical benefits. Her total immediate financial package equals $83,769.27. This sum will be paid out of the salary line in the budget. Additionally, Ford will receive full family health insurance coverage until the end of her initial contract June 30, 2011 or upon obtaining other employment. Ford’s yearly health insurance totals $40,023 according to the 2010/2011 proposed budget report. The reason for Ford’s early departure is explained in the agreement as “irreconcilable differences,” but no specifics were given.
Within the agreement, School Board President Laurie Osmond acknowledged Ford’s resignation and “wishes her well in her future endeavors.”
Ford relinquishes all rights to bring lawsuits against the school district unless the contract is breeched. The board of education and Ford agreed not to discuss details with the public or make any derogatory statements aimed at each other. In June, the board chose not to renew Ford’s contract that had one year left and a salary of $160,040. A previous school board hired Ford in February 2007.
Shortly following Ford’s resignation, Victoria McLaren was appointed as acting Superintendent at no cost to the district. The board met Tuesday July 20 in the central offices and unanimously chose Gregory as the district's interim. “We are thrilled that she is going to be with us,” Osmond said as she introduced Gregory. “She has 34 years of experience, 20 of which were as a permanent superintendent at three different schools and the other 14 years at schools almost too numerous to count.” This includes neighboring Saugerties Central School district where she was acting superintendent for one year between 2000 and 2001. Gregory retired in 1997 from Bath Central School district in New York where she was superintendent for eleven years. Following her retirement, similar to other superintendents, she has been working as a temporary employee in other school districts. She resides in Bath and is originally from Binghamton. Early in her career she moved around during her tenure as an English teacher including Hawaii and Iowa. Osmond said she was found through a recommendation from the district’s lawyer John Donahue.
Overall four people were contacted through various recommendations. Osmond said Gregory had the most experience out of the four. Gregory is a proponent of small and rural schools, serving on various State and National committees throughout her career. During the summer Gregory will work part time changing over to full time once school begins. Gregory said, “I am pleased to have the opportunity to help in any way that I can, whatever the board’s interest is, we can get together and we will work on it.”
The first order of board interest is to begin the search for Gregory’s full time successor. Osmond said board members plan to meet with Martin Ruglis, BOCES Superintendent on August 12 for the purpose of “defining the parameters,” on the Superintendent search. BOCES will be used as the search service offered free of charge, except for newspaper ad space.
Board trustees tossed around ideas on creating a shared decision making committee that would be made up of different stake holder groups including teachers, administrators, parents and students. Concerns were expressed that this may not be the right path to take noting that too many people may be involved with too many hours spent in committee. Gregory made a suggestion. “You may want to have two parallels going…the board operating in its role and the various committees are in their role and you are constantly reaching over and getting the information from the committees.” She said the committee generally consists of 12 to 15 representatives from different stakeholder groups. “When Marty (Ruglis) comes in, he’ll have an organized process that you can pick and choose, a smorgasbord of kinds of things that you’d like to put together. But basically what the BOCES Superintendents try to do is get it organized so that representative groups, either the leader or designee, are part of the process.” Gregory added that it was important input came from all stake holder groups, but ultimately the board chooses a superintendent based upon how well that person interacts with district employees. “We really welcome input from the outside and what people think, so they’re advisory tools,” she said. “But the reality is don’t be offended when the board hires a candidate that thinks it will be the best fit for the district, because they’re the one that will have to work with these people all the time.” Ford was hired on the heels of much protest stemming from the teaching and non-teaching union.
During the past two Superintendent searches, the school board of that time used an employment search service for $18,000.++