By Greg Klein
---- — The Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School’s Board of Education officially approved an interim Superintendent at its April 18 meeting and also dismissed a missing member.
Richard Rose, who retired as the Superintendent of the Canajoharie School System in December of 2011 after 25 years in the position, was approved by the CV-S BOE by a unanimous 5-0 vote under a consent agreement that approved several resolutions.
The board approved two contracts with Rose. One contract appoints him to serve as Deputy Superintendent from April 23 through May 10. The other appoints him as interim Superintendent effective May 11.
Current Superintendent Robert Miller’s last day at CV-S is May 10. He will take over as superintendent of the Herkimer Central School District the following week.
Rose will serve until a new superintendent is hired. The search is being done by the Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES and has been posted with a target hire date between Sept. 1 and the beginning of 2014, according to several board members. ONC BOCES also conducted the search for an interim superintendent.
Rose will be paid $500 a day, both as deputy superintendent and as interim superintendent.
The board also voted 4-1 to declare vacant the seat held by Corey Webster because of his frequent unexplained absences.
Webster missed his third consecutive regular meeting -- fifth consecutive meeting counting special meetings -- on Thursday. He was elected in 2008 and his term was going to expire next month. The board is required to appoint an interim member or call a special election within 90 days of the vacancy; however with the election scheduled for May 21, the consensus of the board was that they will take no steps to fill the position before then.
Board president Robert Tabor and members Kevin Lennebacker, Hilary Lusk and Jeffrey Wait voted to declare the position vacant. Kathleen Taylor voted against it. Frank McGrath was not present.
“It feels punitive,” Taylor said. “If it was September and he had just been elected in June, then I would feel differently. But his position is open next month.
“I worry about the precident we are setting. This is a really big deal to vacate a seat,” she continued. “It is a power we have, but not a power we must yield. It is a choice we are making.”
The other board members disagreed with Taylor.
“The law says the seat is vacant,” Wait said. “We are just affirming what the law is already saying.”
According to statistics presented by Wait, Webster had missed three consecutive meetings at least once before, had 23 absences during his five-year term and was absent or not available for full meetings 47 percent of the time.
Reached by phone on Friday, Webster disputed Wait’s statistics and said that his position being declared vacant was news to him.
“The mandatory board meetings are the ones you are required to attend, not the ones they keep calling every week,” he said. “I work for a living. I have a moderately successful dairy farm. I have six employees. I have a lot of responsibility.
“I made it clear to them that I could not attend every special meeting,” he continued. “I think the people who voted for me would be the first ones to understand that.”
Webster said that he was probably not going to run for reelection adding that he had become disenchanted with the board this winter over a personnel issue. He admitted that he understands the feeling was mutual.
“There were about four members of the board who hated my guts. I guess you can figure out who they are,” he said. “If that is the action they have taken, then fine. I can go about my business with a lot less stress in my life. But I can tell you that there are a lot of problems with this board, in my opinion.”
The Cooperstown Crier reported on March 22, 2012 that a member of the community had spoken up at the board’s monthly meeting to request that Webster’s seat be declared vacant in compliance with Education Law 2109. The board did not take any action at that time. The New York law states that a BOE seat is considered vacant if a member misses three consecutive meetings without explanation.
Webster disputed that his absences were unexplained saying that he has been very clear with his fellow members in the past about his attendance issues.
“I had two surgeries in that time; my wife had a surgery; we had a baby,” he said. “I have a very demanding job. You would think that the board would understand that given that another board member has a (family member) who also runs a dairy farm, but there is not a lot of understanding on this board.”
At the Thursday meeting, some of the other board members expressed frustration at Webster’s absences.
“We all have jobs and children and very busy lives,” Lusk said. “You talk about having a baby. I gave birth, and I was back at the next board meeting. I work very hard to attend meetings, and I feel like the rest of us do too.”