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Kathy Ryan

Principal’s case goes to court

By Kathy Daley
ELDRED — November 19, 2010 — It’s the second Eldred Board of Education decision in less than five months to attract parent concern and media attention, but the first to wind up before a judge.
A Nov. 23 state Supreme Court hearing in Monticello will begin the court case initiated by suspended Mackenzie Elementary School Principal Kathryn Ryan in an attempt to regain her post at the Glen Spey school.
In October, the Board of Education voted to relieve Ryan of her duties and “reassigned” her to work from home pending the results of an internal investigation. The move came after a parent, Tamica Pitre, said Ryan roughly grabbed her six-year-old son in the school playground on Sept. 21. Pitre has said Ryan grabbed her son’s arm and told him, “You get to your bus.”
According to Ryan’s attorney, Jennifer Carlson of the School Administrators Association of New York State, Pitre took issue with Ryan’s attempt “to stop the child from running through the crowded parking lot during dismissal.”
The Ryan episode is the second thorny matter for the Eldred school district this year. In June, the Board of Education fired Superintendent of Schools Berneice Brownell, a move that packed a board meeting with parents expressing concern and support for Brownell.
The school board went ahead and terminated the final two years of Brownell’s five-year contract and appointed Robert Dufour, who was director of Instructional Services at the time, as Interim Superintendent. Dufour continues in that post.
With regard to Ryan, the school board has hired a former state police investigator to look into 14 other complaints about the suspended principal, which parent Pitre unveiled in September.
Ryan, a Livingston Manor resident, is a former elementary school teacher with the Jeffersonville-Youngsville District, She was hired as Mackenzie School principal in 2001.
Attorney Carlson said Ryan’s record is “unblemished,” that the 14 incidents are “unrelated, frivolous and stale complaints” and that none involved the use of unnecessary force. Carlson said her office conducted an investigation into the 14 complaints and that almost all those parents interviewed asked to have their statements withdrawn. “They never thought those complaints would lead to someone losing her job,” Carlson said.
Carlson also noted that a written report and recommendation by the school district’s own attorney, delivered to the Board of Education on Oct. 14, exonerated Ryan from any wrongdoing in Pitre’s initial complaint.
At the Oct. 14 Board meeting, parents, teachers and community members turned up to voice their concerns in the Ryan issue and ask when the matter would be resolved.
Board President Doug Reiser said the investigation would “take time.” “Everyone has concerns and no one wants to have a reputation dragged through the mud,” he said at the meeting.
A later statement from the district said: “Members of the community have expressed concerns regarding the elementary principal. The district is beginning an inquiry regarding those concerns. Ms. Ryan has been administratively reassigned pending the outcome of the inquiry.”
The board will use the results of the district’s internal investigation to determine Ryan’s future at Mackenzie.
Spurred by the district’s failure to either bring Ryan up on charges or end her suspension in a timely manner — by law, the first board meeting after her Oct. 7 suspension — the principal filed the legal action with the court, seeking reinstatement to her Mackenzie post and “a name clearing,”
The district has appointed Harold Diamond as acting principal for Mackenzie.

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