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December 14, 2011

 

Homer BOE: Can’t talk about resignation

School board responds to concern over special ed director’s departure with brief statement

By STEVE HUGHES
Staff Reporter
shughes@cortlandstandardnews.net

HOMER — After several board members received calls from concerned parents and residents, the Board of Education issued a statement Tuesday supporting Superintendent of Schools Nancy Ruscio and explaining the district’s handling of an administrator’s resignation.
Richard Passigli resigned as director of special education this month after being placed on administrative leave by Ruscio.
Board President Kimberly Sharpe read the statement at the beginning of the board’s regular meeting.
Sharpe said the board believes in community relations and is prohibited by law from commenting on personnel issues. The board also thoroughly discusses personnel issues, Sharpe said.
“Superintendent Ruscio has kept the board aware of all such matters and concerns in a timely fashion; she has honored every request for additional information or clarification by board members without hesitation,” she said, reading the statement. “The superintendent has the unequivocal support of the Board of Education.”
The board is trying to balance communicating with the public and following the law, Sharpe said.
“We pride ourselves on communication,” she said after the meeting. “We’re trying to communicate with the public as much as possible without violating the law and risking a lawsuit.”
Ruscio also read a prepared statement after Sharpe was finished.
“I too understand how difficult these decisions are and how hard it is for the public to understand these personnel matters,” she said. “Please know that I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interests of our students and the district.”
Passigli is on personal leave until Nov. 1, 2012.
He was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 10 and signed a separation agreement with the district Dec. 1. The district has not said why Passigli was placed on leave or why he suddenly decided to retire.
The agreement effectively bans him from further employment in the district.
In return for his resignation, the district will pay Passigli’s salary of $98,546.17 through Nov. 1, 2012, pay 90 percent of his health insurance premiums, and give him a $32,072 lump sum payment. The salary is a prorated portion of his $112,900 annual salary.
The health insurance payments will cost the district $11,480.
His substitute, Robert Harris, replaced him Nov. 29. Harris is the retired director of special education for the Baldwinsville Central School District. He is paid $400 a day.
Harris will also serve as special education director for McGraw Central School, as Passigli did.
Later in the meeting Homer resident Stephen Blay read a letter to the board questioning its decision and asking whether it was following the law or hiding behind it.
“I just wanted to give you a voice from the street that you might not hear,” he said. “This board is shrouded in secrecy and has a disregard for communication. During the budget process you always tell us it’s about the kids, well I want you to know, this decision will not go unnoticed when budget time comes. I am much more furious than this letter conveys.”
Afterward, Blay said he and his wife, Marcia, wrote the letter because they were concerned whether the board made the right decision.
“They did the same thing with Delair, it made a few ripples and the storm passed,” he said. “This looks much more egregious. I didn’t expect an answer from them.”
The district’s former business director, Michael Delair, resigned in May, after it was revealed that he had shared internal Homer documents with Paula VanMinos, the Jordan-Elbridge school district’s former head of operations with whom he had a relationship.

 

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