Residents say Goodsite situation is sad, 'absolute debacle'

Cary Ashby • Aug 11, 2014 at 11:55 PM

Norwalk resident Melissa James calls the situation in which the Norwalk City Schools assistant superintendent was turned down for the interim school chief's job she was offered "an absolute debacle."

"Sue (Goodsite) was offered the job. It was agreed upon by the (school) board that she would be offered the job," James said.

James said she has requested an explanation from the board members, "but three of them have not responded."

On July 29 during a special board meeting, John Lendrum, Kevin Cashen and Rob Ludwig supported hiring Huron resident Will Folger as the interim superintendent. Folger, who has 40 years of experience in education, retired Dec. 31 as the superintendent of Sheffield-Sheffield Lake City Schools after nine years on the job.

Board members Steve Linder and Ralph Ritzenthaler voted against hiring Folger. Linder has said his "no" vote was against the way the hiring situation happened. On the other hand, Ritzenthaler said Friday he already had decided to vote in favor of Goodsite getting the interim job and couldn't change his vote.

"Both of them have said, 'I don't know what happened' and I want to talk to the other board members, but they don't seem to be responding," James said. "They should have followed through with what the intent of the board was -- and that was to hire her (Goodsite)."

James, the executive director of the Huron County Chamber of Commerce, knows Goodsite through her job, but said in her interview with the Reflector she only was speaking as a member of the Norwalk community.

"I know Sue through her work on the education committee," James said. "I always felt she was dedicated, thought outside of the box and went that extra 2 miles -- not just 1 mile."

Linder and Ralph Ritzenthaler separately have confirmed Goodsite's assertion to the Reflector that the board originally intended to hire her as the interim superintendent and Folger as her assistant overseeing personnel. Goodsite has said she told Lendrum, the board president, she "had no problem whatsoever with that" situation.

"I was told I was being offered the superintendent's job," Goodsite said about her conversation with Lendrum, who made it "crystal clear" the job was an interim position. "Mr. Lendrum told me, 'Remember we are just looking at just one year.'"

Until the morning of the July 29 meeting, Goodsite said she was under the impression she had the interim job and then during a phone conversation with Lendrum, he told her "there had been a change." It's unclear what caused that supposed change of circumstances.

Lendrum has said it's not appropriate to comment on why certain candidates didn't get the job.

"I can't fault anyone for voting their conscience," he said after last week's 3-2 vote.

Scott Ford, former longtime president of the Norwalk Teachers Association, said he doesn't understand how the communication among board members broke down.

"That's sad; it really is," Ford said. "I feel bad for Mr. Folger. He's coming into it kinda blind. I just think the communication could have been and should have been better.

"Sue would be a great superintendent," added Ford, who is a retired teacher.

Dr. Dave Heidelberg, a Norwalk dentist in practice for 28 years, is just as outraged as James and Ford are about the situation. Heidelberg's three children graduated from Norwalk High School.

Heidelberg said he considers it "very sad" for part of the board to turn its back on Goodsite. He praised her talent, "caliber," dedication to Norwalk schools and earning her doctorate.

"She worked her way through the system," the dentist said. "This shows kids you can have a success in a small town like Norwalk."

In 2013, Goodsite retired from the school district after 35 years of service. A teacher for 11 years and an assistant principal for four, she was the Pleasant Elementary principal from 1993 through 2006.

In August 2013, Goodsite was re-hired as the assistant superintendent and curriculum and grants director -- a position she's held since 2011. She is under contract through the 2014-2015 school year.

"I think the school board turned its back on her and I think it sends a terrible message to the kids," Heidelberg said.

"I'm very disappointed with the board members who voted against her," added the dentist, who believes Goodsite was "the next logical person" to become superintendent.

James asserts that Goodsite has a potential gender discrimination case she could file.

"This is the most blatant display of discrimination I have ever seen," James said.

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