Norwalk school board dodges questions on hiring new superintendent

Cary Ashby • Aug 27, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Norwalk City Schools, citing the confidentiality of discussions during executive sessions, continues to decline to directly address the thought process behind hiring its interim superintendent.

The Reflector emailed board president John Lendrum several questions directly pertaining to the July 29 hiring of Huron resident Will Folger as the interim superintendent on a one-year contract.

Through interviews with board members, one of the candidates and Norwalk residents, the Reflector determined Lendrum told Assistant Superintendent Sue Goodsite the job was hers and Folger would be her assistant overseeing personnel, but Lendrum later informed Goodsite "there had been a change."

It remains unclear what caused that supposed change of circumstances.

The Cleveland law firm of Pepple and Waggoner released a statement bout the hiring of the interim superintendent.

"It was prepared for the board by the board's (legal) counsel," said Lendrum, who signed the two-paragraph statement.

"The board requested that prospective candidates for the position submit applications. After careful consideration of the applications received and interviews with candidates, the board met in executive session to consider the employment of a superintendent. Ohio's Open Meetings Act authorizes public bodies to enter into executive sessions to hold confidential discussions between its members for a few specific purposes. One of those specific purposes allows a board of education to adjourn into executive session to consider the appointment and employment of a public employee or official, which includes a superintendent," according to the statement.

"Ohio ethics laws prohibit school board members from disclosing information that is confidential. Therefore, it is not appropriate for further comment on discussions that occurred during executive sessions."

During a July 29 special board meeting, Lendrum and board members Kevin Cashen and Rob Ludwig supported hiring Folger.

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 he earlier decided to vote in favor of Goodsite getting the interim job and couldn't change his vote.

Immediately after the meeting, Lendrum was asked why Goodsite didn't get the job. The board president said it's not appropriate to comment on why certain candidates weren't hired, but he doesn't fault board members for voting their consciences.

The Reflector asked Lendrum the following questions via email:

• What specifically caused the change in direction in deciding to choose Folger over Goodsite?

• Did you tell Goodsite she had the job at one point?

• Did Folger balk and/or have any issues with being the assistant superintendent? If not, why didn't the board decide to go with Goodsite as the interim as Folger as her assistant?

Lendrum said he would be referring the questions to the board's attorney.

Goodsite is under contract through the 2014-2015 school year as the assistant superintendent overseeing curriculum and grants.

"This situation aside, I'm committed to working hard for this community. We have a school year to start. Mr. Folger and I have to work together to do what's best for the district," Goodsite told the Reflector.

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