Former Lake Placid Middle/High School Principal Robert Schiller hands Lake Placid Central School Board President Phil Baumbach a petition of almost 600 names of people who are demanding that School Superintendent Randy Richards resign during the Feb. 21 meeting. Richards, seen at the far right, had admitted to and apologized for using inappropriate language when referring to female employees.
Photo by Andy Flynn.
continued With almost 600 names on the petition, Schiller said that number is significant, as it represents the number of voters who typically pass a school budget. In actuality, 746 people voted on the 2011-12 school budget May 17, 2011. Voters also elected Herbert Stoerr to the board with 501 votes and re-elected Baumbach with 476.
“It’s important that the school board listen to the voice of the constituents,” Schiller said. “The teachers, the students, the parents and the people of Lake Placid deserve better.”
Schiller’s speech was followed by half a minute of applause and two more speakers, including Tricia Garrett, a mother of three and longtime substitute teacher.
“I can’t believe it’s come to this,” Garrett said, adding that she has spoken to a number of teachers, students, parents and community members about the School Board and the superintendent. “Sadly, none of them seem happy with the status of our district ... The Lake Placid Central School District needs an intervention, and we need it now.”
Garrett said she has seen the morale of the school community go up and down over the tenure of five school superintendents, “But it has never been remotely this bad. We do not just have a hostile working environment; we have a toxic working environment, where fear prevails and bullying and intimidation are motivating factors. This is unacceptable. We need to restore respect and a positive working environment right now so that our students learn from a positive model.”
The School Board immediately went into executive session for a “tenure discussion” after more than 60 chairs in the Elementary School cafeteria were folded and put away.
Baumbach has said in previous media reports that the School Board is standing behind Richards and that discussing personnel matters in public would be “inappropriate and non-productive.”
In March 2011, Lake Placid Middle/High School Principal Katherine Mulderig filed a complaint of discrimination for gender bias, sex discrimination and harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charging Richards with making inappropriate comments to her when proposing a job change. The EEOC made a decision on the complaint Feb. 10 and ruled against Richards, Mulderig's attorney, Phillip Steck of Cooper Erving & Savage in Albany, said in a phone interview with the Valley News Feb. 22. He would not comment on the ruling.
Richards did not return a phone message or email.