Union BOE: Super search has not even started

UNION – The question of who will step into the shoes of former school superintendent Patrick Martin is still up in the air, but parents and educators are up in arms about the school board not going outside the district to look for a replacement.

When Martin resigned in early May parents and citizens were equally distressed. The former superintendent was beloved
by many for his innovative approach to education, the launching of the After School Academy and Saturday Academy, as well as an educational vision that focused primarily on encouraging students to enjoy learning.

Losing this educator hit hard and caused considerable bitterness and concern over the possibilities of who might fill this important role.
According to school board officials, although parents are anxious about getting a superintendent search started, Martin’s contract is not up until the end of June even though he left in Mid-May. Nevertheless, parents did not waste any time letting school board members know how they felt.
Those stepping to the podium to speak on this issue at the last school board meeting made it clear students, parents and educators expected someone with Martin’s vision and sensitivity to step into this position. Their main concern was that the board would skip a superintendent search entirely and appoint someone from in-house.

School Board President Ray Perkins, though, said at this school board meeting that because Martin was still officially the superintendent until the end of the month, they would be moving the process of finding a replacement along shortly.

The school board attorney echoed these same sentiments, explaining to LocalSource in an interview Monday how the process would unfold.
James Damato, who has held the position of board attorney since 1991, said he expects an interim superintendent will be named shortly.

“At the June board meeting I will be recommending this to the board,” said Damato, explaining this is how the school district did things last time and things should not be any different this time around. He also pointed out that an interim superintendent only needs a school administrator’s certificate to hold this position.

“The next step will be appointing a board search committee to oversee this process, which is in line with board by-laws,” the board attorney noted. He said Perkins has the power to compose this committee and also appoint an interim superintendent.

While Damato could not officially say who the school board would be appointing to fill this slot, he did mention the school board more than likely will not deviate from what they did in 2010 when the superintendent’s seat was unoccupied.

At the time Assistant Superintendent Gregory Tatum was appointed in January as interim superintendent, serving in that capacity until June of 2010 when Martin was hired.

“Mr. Tatum has been an assistant superintendent for 8 or 9 years and has handled the demands of this job temporarily before,” the board attorney explained, noting he expects Tatum to again be appointed by the board to fulfill this role.

He also pointed out that Tatum applied for the superintendent’s position and was one of the finalists during the selection and interview process.

This time around Damato said that although many parents would like to see a new superintendent in place by September, he felt that was a very tight timeline.

“That is an extremely aggressive schedule and I’m not sure we want to move this process along that quickly,”
he added, noting the full board of education will interview candidates, “as they did before when Dr. Martin was
selected.”

It is still not decided whether the board will approve using a search firm or not. Damato said prior to hiring Martin, it cost the district $18,000 for this service and another $6,000 to place an ad in a statewide newspaper.

Part of the concern parents and educators expressed is that they believe the board has already predetermined that Assistant Superintendent Noreen Lishak will be appointed to the vacated superintendent position, which pays approximately $178,000, despite claims that this is not the case.

According to a parent, who preferred their name not be used, Lishak was less than truthful on the resume she used seven years ago when she applied to the district for a director’s position.

Parents and educators said they could back up these claims with records and documents obtained using the Open Public Records Act. They said these documents clearly show Lishak misled the Union School District in multiple ways.

Among several of the inaccuracies cited was that Lishak’s resume indicated she previously held a position as interim principal of the Great Meadows Middle School district during the 2004-2005 school year. The resume also noted job duties and extent of the work performed by this educator from 2004 to 2005.

Documents provided to LocalSource included minutes of a school board meeting that show a stipend of $500 was paid to Lishak for five-days work as a substitute principal.

Other inaccuracies involved a discrepancy about the date the assistant superintendent obtained her doctorate.

According to her resume, used to apply for the position of Director of Curriculum and Special Services for the Union School District in 2008, she worked on her doctorate from Walden University in Maryland between June 2006 to December 2009. However, documents secured by parents and educators, show Lishak actually never received this degree until 2011.
In an interview with LocalSource Friday, Lishak said although her resume may appear to indicate deception, it can be explained.

For example, the assistant superintendent said while she held the position of Director of Curriculum in Great Meadows, the principle of her school resigned, leaving a vacancy. She was asked to fill in that capacity while also still performing her job as director of curriculum.
“They said in July you are going to have to take over as interim principal and I did that until November when the person hired started,” said Lishak.

She also explained the document showing she was only paid for five days as interim principal did not indicate she only served in that capacity for five days but was a stipend the board agreed to pay her for doing extra work.

As for confusion over when she received her doctorate, Lishak said when she applied to the Union School District for an administrative position, she used 2006 to 2009 to show she was working on her doctorate.

“I believe I put those dates down in anticipation of when I expected to get my doctorate, and since I applied in 2008, they would have said something about the time frame because it says right on my resume I completed it in 2009, which would be the year after I was hired,” said the assistant superintendent.

“I thought I would complete it by 2009 but did not,” she added, noting it took much longer than she thought it would.
Lishak said the fact she continued working towards her doctorate was always on the table with the school board and Martin, when he was hired in June 2010.

“When school started in September 2011, it was Dr. Martin who made the announcement to everyone that I had received my doctorate,” said Lishak, adding it was the superintendent who signed off on her tuition reimbursement.

“It was Dr. Martin who recommended me for the promotion to assistant superintendent,” she said, adding “my record speaks for itself.”