Randy Richards should step down immediately as superintendent of the Lake Placid Central School District or be fired by the board of education. It's sad to say that, but really, any doubt about the necessary course of action should have been dashed by the confluence of two turning points this week:
1. It was revealed that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled against Mr. Richards in a complaint filed by middle-high school Principal Katherine Mulderig. Mulderig's lawyer confirmed to the Enterprise Wednesday that the EEOC ruled Richards engaged in gender discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment.
So that's done, and essentially, Mr. Richards was found guilty - not of a crime, but of conduct unbecoming of a school superintendent.
Randy Richards, superintendent, Lake Placid Central School District
(Enterprise file photo)
2. Robert Schiller, a former principal of Lake Placid Middle-High School, handed a petition with nearly 600 signatures to the board at its meeting Tuesday night. The petition calls on Mr. Richards to resign.
Six hundred people. Granted, the Enterprise hasn't yet gotten a copy of the petition to verify Mr. Schiller's description of it, but if it's true, as we expect it is, that's almost as many people as voted in the last school election. It's almost as many students as attend Lake Placid schools. In a small town like this, when that many people say to do something, you'd better do it.
That number makes it pretty hard to claim that the chorus calling for the superintendent to step down is a noisy minority.
This is not going to blow over. The people of this community need to move on - without Mr. Richards.
He should recognize the nature of the situation and resign. If he doesn't do so very soon, the board must fire him.
In defending its superintendent, the board has been driving against the wind of public opinion and has lost the trust of many - perhaps most - parents, taxpayers, employees and students. Awful staff morale is just one of many shadows cast by this dark cloud, our sources tell us.
Nevertheless, up to this point, board members could logically defend themselves with the argument that they were presuming innocence until guilt was proven - which was generous of them, since Mr. Richards admitted he used unacceptable language with Ms. Mulderig to denigrate her and the female faculty of Lake Placid Elementary School. Board members could also reasonably stand by their (unpopular) opinion that Mr. Richards had done much good for the district, which they said outweighed his mistakes, which they saw as minor.
But this week's two developments change the scenario and make it abundantly clear that the board needs to change course. Its members are, after all, the elected servants of the public, and the public has spoken clearly.
If the board does as the petitioners ask, we think the people of Lake Placid and Wilmington would welcome it back into their trust. Despite their emotion, even the most passionate protestors have shown great community spirit in pleading with the board to listen to them.
But if, after all this, the board continues to defend Mr. Richards, it may isolate itself beyond recovery. As bad as things are now, they would get worse. It's when people give up all hope in their public servants that democratic societies get truly ugly.