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Game of Thrones ...

Note: The following is another in a series of columns on subjects of a philosophical, ethical or practical nature by a Schuyler County resident who prefers to go by the nom de plume of A. Moralis -- a reference to what the writer sees as the lack of a moral compass in the world during this rapidly changing Age of the Internet.

By A. Moralis

WATKINS GLEN, June 20, 2013 -- Assume, if you will, that each principal in the Watkins Glen School District is a figure in an ongoing drama, each principalship a throne -- a well-paid seat of power overseeing a small realm, a possible springboard to something even greater -- the throne of the superintendency.

We have too many such seats now in Schuyler County. We have (counting Bradford) three school districts with a total of three superintendencies, three high school principalities, and assorted other middle or elementary school governorships.

Now, for reasons that on the face of it defy understanding, another administrator -- another principal -- has been christened by a lame duck School Board on a night in which two of its members, two supporters of the superintendent, served the public for the last time as its overseers of thrones before yielding their seats to newcomers.

Superintendent Tom Phillips asked for, and received, permission to add an administrator to the mix in his realm -- to help, he said, in the transition of the district to a single campus. Speculation is that the administrator will be Adam Rundell, who has been serving an administrative internship at the district's elementary school.

When the publisher of this website asked Phillips if Rundell is the man taking the administrative post, Phillips said there were a couple of other people who might want it. (The job would be for 10 months in the coming school year, Phillips said at the School Board meeting Monday night -- which would evidently fit with the schedule of Rundell, who reportedly will earn his administrative certification in August.)

Amid all of this is a game of musical thrones, with Middle School Principal Kristine Somerville sliding over to the Elementary School while the principal there for the past several years, Rod Weeden, moves to the post of Athletic Director (AD), along with assuming other administrative "duties." Dave Warren will continue as High School principal, while the recipient of the new administrative throne will rule at the Middle School.

Bottom line is this, at least on one level: The district, which used to pay Craig Cheplick a $10,000 stipend to run the Field House and Athletic Field activities -- and run them very well -- will be paying Weeden his usual salary, which with perks is reportedly well above the $100,000 mark. This seems to be an upward trend: $10K for Chep, then something like $57,000 plus perks for his successor, then $70,000 or so for her successor (who was on the payroll and moved into the AD's role a couple of years ago). And now $100,000.

And this comes at a time of teacher layoffs -- a good many of them over the past few years.


Granted, I'm just an outside observer, but it strikes me as very possible that when the transition to a single realm is completed in 2014, the Middle School principal will stay among the administrative ranks as AD, with Weeden moving back to the Elementary School and Somerville moving to the High School as Warren follows through with his long-rumored retirement.

That could be a lot of false assuming, I know. I could have it all wrong. (One alternative scenario floated by a teacher has Rundell moving into the high school principal's job when Warren departs.) But whether one or the other, the district, in essence, will once again have an administrator running the athletics at an enhanced cost -- a factor that supposedly led to the last full-time AD's departure.

That having been said, I don't have any great issue with a full-time AD, as long as the salary is reasonable. I do, however, question the wisdom of a "transitional" administrative post. I don't see its need in a time when district leaders constantly bemoan their fiscal plight, and do not hesitate to raise taxes year after year.

It is likely that the teachers, minus a good many colleagues and friends who have faced the axe -- which is very Game of Thrones-ish -- can do little other than watch this latest administrative move, this addition ... and wait for the next figurative staff bloodletting.


The situation is cast in an even harsher light, I think, by the plight faced by the highly productive, highly valued After-School program, which has lost its federal-grant funding.

Its director, Erica Murray, has run a great program that has benefitted many kids over the past five years, including more than 100 in the school year just ending. It is probably the best program of any kind in the district, benefitting kids and parents alike -- something of great value for roughly the same price as that new, transitional administrative post.

I wonder if the newly constituted School Board might give some thought to reversing the vote that created the new post, and direct those funds instead to keeping the After-School Program afloat for another year while its leaders seek a path to program longevity. Despite the superintendent's suggestion at the last Board meeting that somehow a community-based after-school program can be shaped in conjunction with the O-M district and Catholic Charities, the reality is that any past hopes for a community-based movement involving the two districts has yielded little but lip service. To put the future of after-school programming in the hands of a big "maybe" seems to be begging its end.

A reversal of the vote on the administrator would be a bold stroke, perhaps, but one showing that the realm of the superintendent has, in fact, an overlord in the collective person of the School Board -- hopefully one interested in the welfare of 100 kids over the existence of yet another principality.

District leaders often say that their actions are "for the kids, for the kids, for the kids."

Well, now's their chance to prove it.


Previous A. Moralis columns:

The first one is here.
The second one is here.
The third one is here.
The fourth one is here.
The fifth one is here.
The sixth one is here.
The seventh one is here.
The eighth one is here.
The ninth one is here.
The 10th one is here.
The 11th one is here.
The 12th one is here.
The 13th one is here.
The 14th one is here.
The 15th one is here.


© The Odessa File 2013
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869