LAKE GEORGE — Parents and community members upset with the decision to eliminate the vice principal job at Lake George High School are forming a nonprofit and are not ruling out legal action over what they consider an improper action by the school board.
People upset that Cody Conley’s job was eliminated and an interim K-12 curriculum director was hired instead have coalesced into a group called Lake George United for Education.
The group grew out of the February board meeting, during which residents urged the board to reconsider. Cutting Conley would harm the social and emotional well-being of students, they argued.
The school board abruptly closed public comment and took no action on the matter.
“People were concerned that the message that we were trying to convey to them is not being taken into consideration,” said parent Katie Bruening.
Bruening said lawyer Greg Teresi is volunteering his services to investigate whether the board violated the Open Meetings Law by discussing the issue behind closed doors.
Teresi is also helping the group organize as a nonprofit. The group has not ruled out a lawsuit.
“Our goal is certainly not to have a lawsuit,” Bruening said.
The group wants a reversal of the decision and more involvement from the community before any decisions of this magnitude are made, according to Bruening.
“We also want the board and the district administration to provide parents and community members with verifiable data and objective information before they consider structural changes,” she said.
In an open letter to the board and school superintendent, the organization states that the school board met in executive session five times from Nov. 24 to Feb. 1 and four of those times were to discuss the employment history of a particular person.
“It now appears that, after going into executive session for the purported reason to discuss an employment history, the board also or instead discussed the plan to eliminate the assistant principal position. Two board members have since conceded those events,” the letter stated.
Members are asking residents who want to keep the vice principal’s position to attend a meeting at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Holiday Inn in Lake George. The group plans to speak out at the next school board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school library.
The group has the support of former school board member Clark Perkett, who said he objects to the board’s lack of transparency in making the decision. He disagrees with school officials’ stance that they had to keep quiet about a personnel matter.
“We are talking about a position. We’re not talking about a person,” he said.
Perkett believes it would be a mistake to cut Conley’s job.
“He helps so many students in the high school. To make that change is really going to have a negative impact,” he said.
Also supporting the effort is Patricia Dow of the Lake George Steamboat Company, who said eliminating the position is a “step in the wrong direction.”
“The assistant principal, working with the principal, has the authority to forge a workable solution for a troubled student,” she said in a news release. “The very real problems associated with school violence, opioid addiction and bullying should compel school districts to further protect and support the healthy school climate necessary for the transmission of knowledge to all students in the district.”
People who would like to join the organization are being asked to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superintendent Lynne Rutnik said Wednesday she had not heard of the group’s efforts.
“You think they would be working with the school district. I’d like to know more about the organization and who’s heading it up,” she said.
She wanted to see more information about the group before making further comment.
School board President Tim Collins said in an email that he was not aware of the group and it has not contacted him or the board to his knowledge. Collins said he needed time to review materials from the group provided to him by The Post-Star.
“As far as the decision to hire an interim curriculum position and eliminate the assistant principal position, the board and Superintendent Rutnik have been receiving and listening to feedback from many stakeholders in the last several weeks,” he said. “I anticipate that Superintendent Rutnik will review with the board the facts and data used to propose this administrative reorganization and that the board will consider all of this information in making a decision.”