Mattituck-Cutchogue School District assistant superintendent Anne Smith is poised to replace outgoing Superintendent James McKenna when he retires this summer.
Following a heated debated among school board members during Thursday night’s regular meeting, a walk-on resolution to enter into contact negotiations with Ms. Smith passed by a 4-3 vote. School board president Jerry Diffley, vice president Charlie Anderson, and members Doug Cooper and Sarah Hassildine voted in favor.
Ms. Smith, who is the district’s only assistant superintendent and also serves as the elementary school principal, was absent from the meeting.
Mr. Cooper made the original motion to not only enter into negotiations, but to also “appoint” Ms. Smith to the post. Mr. Anderson then seconded the motion — with the understanding that the resolution was to only enter into contract negotiations.
“We’re not appointing anybody,” Mr. Anderson said.
The district clerk later confirmed with The Suffolk Times that the approved resolution states: “A motion to offer position and enter into negotiations with Dr. Ann Smith for the position of Superintendent of Schools effective July 1, 2014.”
Prior to the vote, school board members Bill Gatz, Jeff Smith and Laura Jens-Smith expressed strong opposition with the superintendent selection process.
Mr. Gatz and Mr. Smith requested that the resolution be tabled because they wanted to interview the assistant superintendent before promoting her. Ms. Jens-Smith also made a motion for the district to enter into an agreement with BOCES to conduct a superintendent search, which is the most common protocol for school districts.
Mr. Smith said he believes a search is needed in order for the district to have an opportunity to make the best superintendent choice.
“I’m not saying Dr. Smith isn’t an appropriate candidate, but I think we owe it to this community to go see what else is out there,” he said.
Both attempts to table Mr. Cooper’s resolution and to conduct a superintendent search failed by a 3-4 vote, with Mr. Diffley, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Hassildine casting dissenting votes.
Following the approval of negotiating with Ms. Smith, Mr. Gatz had some harsh words for Mr. Cooper.
“I’d like to thank Mr. Cooper for taking away the opportunity for Mr. Smith and I to at least pick a candidate,” he said.
“I agree with you Bill,” Mr. Smith said.
After the meeting, Mr. Cooper said Ms. Smith’s interview, which did not include the entire board, took place Monday and no other candidate had been interviewed.
“The fact that she’s our assistant superintendent and following the promotion track,” he said when asked by a reporter why he picked Ms. Smith. “She was excellent in the interview we had.”
The school board later entered into executive session to discuss the following items: special education state complaint; a Mattituck-Cutchogue Teachers Association (MTCA) grievance; a personnel issue; four contractual issues; negotiation updates with administrators and the MCTA; and a discussion of legal issues, in which the school board invited the district’s attorney to talk with.
In other district news, the school board agreed to let students and residents pick the track’s color.
Last month, district business administrator Michael Engelhardt had said the track color choices include black, green, red and blue. He cautioned against the blue choice because he believed the shade looked more like a baby blue color.
But at Thursday night’s meeting, he provided green, red and a darker shade of blue samples.
Most school board members said they hoped the end result will be a blue track with gold stripes, which are the school’s colors.
District officials are expected post on the school’s website the instructions on how to vote on the track color.
Voters approved a $925,000 bond in October to replace the defunct cinder track with a new facility suitable for the team to host meets. The track is expected to be completed by the end of August.