By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE November 23, 2001 In a statement obtained by the Democrat on Monday afternoon, former Sullivan West Board President Carol Nearing representing herself as well as fellow board members Jeff Nober, Jerry Triolo, Bill Erdman and Tim Lanese responded to an appeal filed with NYS Education Commissioner Richard Mills by board members Rick Lander, Rich Sandler, K.C. Garn and Donna Sauer-Jones.
The appeal asks the commissioner to annul the October 11 decision to name Jeffersonville High School Principal Margaret Margie Tenbus the new Lake Huntington high school principal, on the grounds that Superintendent Michael Johndrow should have had the authority to make that decision and that the board had never officially created a Lake Huntington principal position.
(The controversial decision split the board 5-4 along the same lines as mentioned above and caused Assistant Superintendent David Rowley to look for another job, as he and Johndrow recommended Narrowsburg Principal Rod McLaughlin instead of Tenbus. Head Guidance Counselor Regina Wagner, a nearly 30-year employee with the Jeff-Youngsville portion of the SW district, has already tendered her resignation because of this issue.)
In the response, prepared by school attorney David Shaw, Nearing stated that neither she nor the other defending board members received proper notice of the appeal by being personally served with it.
She also argued that the controversial decision regarding Tenbus was a transfer within the same tenure area of employment, did not increase or decrease the number of tenured positions in the district, and currently represents a de minimis portion of her professional work time, as she remains otherwise engaged in the duties of Principal 7-12 of the Jeffersonville campus.
Other arguments presented in the response include the boards legal ability to circumscribe the superintendents decisions through its bylaws, the law that states the superintendent has transfer authority only with teachers, and the lack of legal standing on the part of board members to argue about the superintendents powers (the response claimed that only Johndrow, being the superintendent, could properly bring that matter before the commissioner but Johndrow is listed only as a necessary party, not a plaintiff or a defendant).
Thus, said Nearing, the transfer of Tenbus was completely legal and should not be halted or annulled.
The allegation in the petition that irreparable harm will befall the school district if Ms. Tenbus remains in her current role is unfounded in the record presented by the petitioners and, in my opinion, is wholly without merit, she wrote.
Shaw said he expects an answer from the commissioner in approximately four months. The procedure, he added, will likely take place only on paper, as no public hearings should be required.