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Leni Santoro | Democrat

FORMER SCHOOL BOARD member Jeanne Shaver had words of support for Debra Lynker at Monday's meeting.

Lynker's removal raises questions

By Leni Santoro
LIVINGSTON MANOR — May 16, 2008 — The Livingston Manor Board of Education held a public hearing Monday night to discuss the 2008-09 budget, but the public had more than budget numbers on its mind.
Voters are dealing with a sense of confusion, anger and loss arising from the expulsion of district superintendent, Dr. Debra Lynker, alumna of LMCS, former teacher and high school principal, and until recently, district superintendent.
Lynker, who intended to retire this year and whose contract would have expired on June 30 was asked to leave the school just days after sending out the annual LMCS Proposed School Budget newsletter.
The newsletter did not contain the third 2008-09 proposition, a spending proposal to add buses in order to pick up students as close as a quarter-mile from the school (see related story on the county school budgets on this page).
Board members were reportedly upset with Lynker’s omission, which the district is legally required to put up as a proposition.
Hoping to get a word or two said about the Lynker situation as well as the proposed changes to the school busing policy, the seats were filled with community members, parents, teachers and former LMCS school board members.
While the budget and the additional propositions were on everyone’s mind who attended, so was Lynker and what could possibly have caused the school board to remove her from her position.
Those who attended the LMCS budget hearing on May 12 were frustrated in their attempts to ascertain why a woman whose life had been dedicated to the district would be asked to leave just seven short weeks before her retirement.
LMCS school board president Bob Johaneman stood and took questions from the audience, stating that the school board considered this a personnel issue and would be unable to comment pending possible litigation arising from Lynker’s expulsion. But that did not stop those determined to question the validity of the school board’s decision.
When presented with Johaneman’s reasoning that among other issues the evening’s meeting was a budget hearing and not a school board meeting per se, one audience member asked that the budget meeting then be closed and a school board meeting opened so that there could be discussion on the Lynker issue.
“I want you to understand the board’s position,” began Wendy DeWitt, lawyer for the district. “We are in the process of undergoing an investigation with respect to the inaccuracies you all pointed out, quite rightly, in the budget brochure that was mailed home. That is part of why the superintendent is not presently [employed]. Beyond that however, due to the superintendent’s right to confidentiality we are not in the position to discuss anything beyond the fact that there is an ongoing investigation into concerns that will be made shortly and how to proceed. On behalf of the board I ask you to hold onto those questions and when a final determination has been made that will be a more appropriate venue.”
Former school board member James Powell then rose to ask a question, “I read in a newspaper that Mrs. Lynker was escorted off the grounds by the police; is that a yes or a no?”
“No,” was the response from Johaneman.
Interspersed among the questions posed to the board was a call for the resignation of the school board, such was the degree of frustration among several of those in attendance.
According to BOCES Superintendent Martin Handler, before an employee can be fired charges must be filed and a hearing held to ascertain the validity of those charges. At this point Roberta Rehwaldt, as the operating officer for the LMCS district, has been named interim superintendent by the school board.
“You can only have one superintendent,” said Handler. “To remove [Lynker] involves due process. If they were going to remove her there would have to be charges filed, a hearing, the usual due process.”
To the best of his knowledge this has not happened. She is, whether in the building or not, the superintendent until the end of June. Handler refused to speculate on the legality of the situation at present.
“I can’t speculate [on the legality]. I do know we will be cooperating with Lynker and Rehwaldt for the good of the students,” he said.
As the meeting broke up, Carol Shaver, who previously sat on the auditing committee, had this to say about a woman she has nothing but the greatest admiration for, “Dr. Lynker has given so much to this district, for example the year of the flood FEMA approved money for a re-build of the wall. [When the money did not seem forthcoming] Dr. Lynker took it upon herself to drive to NYC to speak to the senator’s office and was able to get $182,000. Well done Dr. Lynker.”

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