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Plattsburgh School Board Approves Superintendent Contract Extension Despite Calls To Delay

The Plattsburgh City School Board held a special meeting Tuesday night to decide whether to renew the district superintendent’s contract.  Many district residents were upset that the board called the meeting days before new members will join the panel.
The special meeting of the Plattsburgh City School Board had three items on the agenda: naming a newly rebuilt footbridge that spans the Saranac River between the high school and south end of the city; extending the employment agreement between the district and superintendent Jay Lebrun for five years until 2026, and approving a revised contract for the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
The board began the session by immediately entering executive session.  When it returned it took public comment. Several of the more 30 people who attended stepped up to criticize the timing of the superintendent’s contract vote. City resident Karen Larkin told the board it should be tabled.  “The newly elected board will ultimately be given the task of oversight just nine days from now. I do not believe any decisions are so critical that any vote on these policies should be taken by what amounts to largely a lame duck board.”  

“My name is Michael Clausen. Lack of engagement and transparency has been common for this board. It’s eroded our trust and this is why district residents, many of whom had never voted in a school board election, turned out to elect four new members. So the action proposed today will only further erode this trust.”

A motion was made to postpone the vote until the first meeting in July when the new board members are seated. Several members disagreed on the merits of delaying the vote. Board member Amelia Goerlitz, who lost her re-election bid, said they are fulfilling their obligation as a board.  “This board and this negotiating team has researched and worked for months to develop an equitable and fair contract. I don’t think that the new board members have the background or the information that we’ve gathered and I don’t think they are prepared.”  
Board member Derek Rosenbaum countered:  “We already have a meeting set for July 1st that we can take care of this. Yes some of the current board members are going out that have helped negotiate this but we’ve still got plenty of seasoned veterans who are going to stay with us. So I think as far as just transparency and with thinking about how the public has voted there’s no reason not to wait.”

The motion to table failed on a 6-3 vote.  Rosenbaum then read into the record the superintendent’s negotiated salary under the new contract.  “The current contract is $158,035. A five percent increase for this coming year ’21 – ’22 will bring it up to $165, 937 also with a onetime $10,000 pay out for services.”

The board approved the new contract for Superintendent Lebrun by the same margin.

City resident Kate Gardner called the vote very disappointing but not unexpected.  “I was wanting them to postpone the vote because I think that the people in the city of Plattsburgh have given a very clear mandate. And I think the issue of trust was raised and I think the beginning of forging a new relationship and bridging that gap, to send that gesture of yes we hear you and let’s all start over together, I think that would have been a really strong positive message.”

Audio of the full school board debate is here:

Full Plattsburgh City School Board debate regarding whether to delay vote on superintendent's contract.