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School board reviewing EEOC decision, community petition

February 24, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer (cmorris@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - A petition seeking removal of Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Randy Richards is being reviewed by the board of education.

Meanwhile, the board is weighing its response to an administrative determination by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Richards engaged in gender discrimination and retaliation and created a hostile work environment.

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EEOC determination

"The school board and our attorney just recently received the notice in the mail," said school board President Phil Baumbach.

"The determination involves a personnel matter; it's an administrative determination from an office in New Jersey, not a judge's ruling," he added. "We believe it failed to adequately look at all of the facts. Beyond that, because it is litigation, I can't comment any further."

The EEOC determination follows a complaint filed last year by middle-high school Principal Katherine Mulderig. Chief. Among her complaints was that Richards used offensive language in reference to Mulderig and female employees at the Lake Placid Elementary School.

Baumbach said the district will need to come to some kind of agreement with the EEOC administrator. Mulderig is being represented by Phillip Steck of the Albany-based law firm Cooper Erving & Savage. Jacqueline Kelleher, of Stafford, Piller, Murnane, Plimpton, Kelleher & Trombley PLLC in Plattsburgh, is representing the school district.

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Petition

At Tuesday's school board meeting, former middle-high school Principal Robert Schiller handed a petition bearing nearly 600 signatures to Baumbach. The petition seeks Richards' removal as superintendent.

"We respect the community's input on the superintendent's position," Baumbach said. "We'll take Tuesday night's comments under advisement. We all understand this is a very difficult situation for members of the school district. We'll continue to work on it with our attorneys."

Baumbach said that because the petition "borders on a personnel issue," the district must limit its response.

The board held an executive session following Tuesday's meeting, during which members addressed the evaluations of two administrators.

Asked if those administrators were Mulderig and Richards, Baumbach said, "I can say that they were administrators."

Schiller told the Enterprise Thursday that members of the Community Alliance for Responsible Excellence in Education, a group formed to provide feedback to the school board, began discussing a petition earlier this year. Then, close to four weeks ago, Schiller volunteered to help circulate it.

The petition has at least 590 signatures, Schiller said.

"There are no students on it, as far as I know, and it had to be someone who resides within the school district: Wilmington, Lake Placid and North Elba," he said. "Very few people that work at the school or have anything to do with the school would sign it for reasons probably of concern about their future there, which is unfortunate. But that's the prevailing atmosphere there."

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Legal fees

Baumbach opened this week's meeting with a statement about the district's legal expenses. He said attorney fees are included within the district's $16.5 million budget.

Members of the community have been asking district officials how much it is spending on legal fees related to the Mulderig-Richards case. Baumbach did not answer that question.

Baumbach said the legal budget is used to address things like constitutional questions, collective bargaining, Freedom of Information Law requests and labor issues. He said there have been more requests for information this year than others.

 
 

 

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