O’brien questions use of funds to mentor high school principal

Resident Pam O’Brien questioned the Granville Board of Education’s fiscal responsibility during an appearance at the Nov. 24 meeting for choosing to use grant money to hire a consultant.

O’Brien questioned the use of what she said was $9,000 to pay consulting fees to return former Granville Elementary interim principal Richard England to the district for mentoring new high school principal Dan Poucher.

Board members clarified that the funds, paid for by a federal grant, had been set to pay the daily consulting fee for as many as 18 days at $500 per day, should all of the time be deemed necessary.

The grant, a federal Title 2A grant, is designated for use only on professional development of teachers or administrators, business manager Kathy Somich said Monday.

As far as buying books with those dollars, “Not with this grant,” Somich said.

At this point in the year Somich said about half of the maximum number of allotted days had been used.

Board vice president Tamme Taran said the measure hiring England was approved after Poucher was hired as principal in early August.

O’Brien addressed the board during the public comments portion of the meeting.

“I would like to ask the board if they think that is being fiscally responsible spending $9,000 to mentor a man the board knew had no experience when they hired him,” O’Brien said. “I have a problem with that.”

Acting as board president in the absence of Kathy Nelson, board vice president Tamme Taran said the board decided to spend the funds to help ensure Poucher’s success in the new position by providing him with an experienced individual to learn from to help him do his job well.

“That’s all rhetoric to me,” O’Brien said. O’Brien added that she could not understand why the board would pay anyone $500 a day to do anything.

Taran said the board was not thrilled with the rate either, but it is what consultants receive as a fee.

O’Brien said she thought the salary being paid to Poucher was too much in light of his known lack of experience as a principal and repeated that she questioned why another $9,000 needed to be spent on top of the salary.

“I’m not here to attack Dan (Poucher),” O’Brien said

Board member Pam Tatko remarked that the board spends significant amounts of money ensuring the teachers in the district can be successful and had done the same with Poucher.

Tatko added that Superintendent Dan Teplesky has experience as a principal and could have been tasked with mentoring Poucher.

To avoid accusations he was exerting undue influence over Poucher, Tatko said the board chose to look outside of the district.

“If you think we’re happy about paying that (consulting fee) you’re wrong,” she said. Board members echoed Tatko in her sentiment about the funds.

“I think it is an investment and money well spent,” she added.

Tatko said the board made a conscious decision in hiring Poucher to go with someone with ties to the community who would be around for the long haul.

“We took a chance on someone who we knew to be honest and hard-working,” she said. “Dan is doing a wonderful job and we see examples of that every single week.”

As far as the consulting fee paid to England, Tatko said the fee was the going rate paid to consultants who come into the district.

O’Brien said she wanted to know the opinions of the other board members.

Board member Eric Scribner said one of the reasons Poucher was chosen was for his ties to the community – the board knew he would not be leaving the area for more money.

“The kids need stability in the building,” Scribner said.

Ron Daigle said he agreed that the money was well spent.

“We need stability, there’s been too much turnover,” he said.

O’Brien questioned why the school had seen so much turn over.

Teplesky said the district used to see as many as 24 to 30 new positions being filled each year and said that number had been coming down considerably each year since his arrival.

He said the chief reasons workers cited for leaving the district were higher pay and a desire to be closer to home.

Teplesky said recently departed high school principal Steve Leunig, for example, left the school to be closer to the Albany area and also received a pay raise with his new position at Hoosick Falls High School.

When asked for a response to the information the grant money was restricted to use on professional development and could not be used in other areas, O’Brien said, “I don’t believe that.”

“I know that that money could have been used for something else at that school,” O’Brien said.

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