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Unknown Reasons
Prompt SW Controversy

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — October 16, 2001 – Capping off a contentious meeting on Thursday, the Sullivan West board voted to make Jeffersonville High School Principal Margaret “Margie” Tenbus the new high school principal for the coming 9-12 high school in Lake Huntington, which is scheduled to be open in the fall of 2003.
That decision has had grave impacts, splitting the board nearly in half and causing the coming resignation of the school’s assistant superintendent, with more upper-level resignations rumored to be in the school’s future.
But why make this decision now, instead of closer to the opening date? According to Superintendent Michael Johndrow, class schedules, the merging of Delaware Valley with the already merged Narrowsburg and Jeff high-schoolers, and numerous administrative matters must be handled by the principal far in advance of the beginning of the 2003-04 school year.
“We felt we needed to identify that person now,” he explained.
But that didn’t happen Thursday night without serious difficulties – enough difficulties, in fact, to divide the board over who would be named the new high school principal. According to an anonymous source, the two candidates were Tenbus and Narrowsburg Principal Rod McLaughlin.
In a 5-4 vote, board members Carol Nearing, Jeff Nober, Jerry Triolo, Bill Erdman and Tim Lanese approved transferring Tenbus from her current principalship to the new one, while members Donna Sauer-Jones, Rick Lander, Rich Sandler and K.C. Garn did not.
Although it could not be learned why the vote was split, Johndrow did acknowledge that the board’s decision was against his recommendation and that of Assistant Superintendent David Rowley – both of whom had thought there would be a formal search process, he said.
“The board is not obligated to take the superintendent’s recommendation on this because it’s a transfer,” as opposed to the hiring of a new staff member, explained Johndrow. “The board made this appointment. There was another candidate we would have preferred.”
He declined to elaborate further, citing the issue a private personnel matter.
Evidently, the administration’s objections to Tenbus’ fitness for the position were strenuous enough to cause Rowley to search for a new job.
“I’m actively seeking other employment,” he said yesterday, adding that he has not yet tendered a formal resignation. “I gave my professional opinion based on over 20 years in education. My professional opinion was rejected.”
Rowley said that the board’s decision to ignore his recommendation amounted to “a vote of no confidence” in his abilities.
Board President Carol Nearing, on the other hand, said the board – while pleased with McLaughlin – picked “the right person for the job,” a view that was echoed by fellow board member Jerry Triolo.
“We feel she [Tenbus] is qualified enough,” he stated yesterday.
Triolo said his decision was in part based on his feelings that the administration failed to come through with the promised 95 percent aid to the school district’s building/renovations project, was unable to anticipate high bids on the same project, and picked the wrong people for prior openings in the district.
“You pay them for information,” he said, explaining that he felt administrators had erred on all the above counts and thus could be doing so again in their arguments against Tenbus.
As for Rowley’s future departure, Triolo urged him to do so as soon as possible, as he felt Rowley threatened the board with the resignation when it became clear they were leaning toward Tenbus.
“If he’s a man of his word . . . he should tender his resignation immediately,” said Triolo, adding that like-minded individuals employed by the district should do the same. “It may be a minor setback, but we’ll come back stronger than ever.”
No one, however, would comment on the reason for such rancor within the board and administration.
When contacted yesterday, Tenbus, a 17-year educator, declined to speak on the matter, saying only that she had not yet decided whether or not to take the $79,776/year job.

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