By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — LAKE PLACID — Working to rebuild the administrative team, Lake Placid Central School officials hired an incoming superintendent on Tuesday.
Dr. Roger Catania, a former High School guidance counselor here, will take the position on July 1, 2013.
He will fill the post currently held by Dr. Randy Richards, whose contract was not renewed by the School Board earlier this year.
Catania is well known to the school and local community.
A counselor here for more than 10 years, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in education in January.
School Board President Mary Dietrich said the position is an interim hire for one year.
The school has been through five superintendents and interim-superintendents in sequence through the past six years.
The board was under pressure to fill the top position, while also in the process of looking for principals for both the Middle School and High School programs.
“Because of how this process had to unfold, we couldn’t really involve the community at this juncture,” Dietrich said in an interview.
“Because of that, neither Roger nor the board were comfortable with committing to a three-year contract without input from the community. The interim one-year contract gives everybody a chance to work together and see how this is working out. There was also an unease of hiring in a three-year contract, given the past hiring history. It also gives everyone a chance to establish a working relationship with Roger.”
TIME OF STRIFE
The board’s decision against renewing Richards’s contract followed months of strife that began in early 2011, after he made a comment to then Lake Placid Middle School Principal Katherine Mulderig during a personnel discussion, saying he needed someone “bitchier” to manage the “bitchy” teachers at the elementary school.
Richards did acknowledge he made the statement and apologized.
But Mulderig brought a gender-discrimination complaint against him to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found merit in the complaint.
She left the school’s employ in April after the School Board inked a “settlement from employment and resolution of the disputed claims” with an unnamed employee.
Many called for Richards’s resignation, and a petition with some 600 signatures requested he be let go.
DUAL PRINCIPAL MODEL
The board agreed to pay Catania $115,000 for the 2013-14 school year.
“We are hopeful this will become a long-term relationship,” Dietrich said.
“One of the reasons we made this appointment now is because it allows him to be involved in the budget-building process, and it also allows him to help the community in establishing a good leadership team at the Middle/High School.”
The School Board has found real improvement at the Middle School thus far this year with a principal solely working with grades-six-to-eight students and teachers.
Current interim principal Greg Camelo is leaving after the holiday break; the former BOCES administrator had offered to take the Middle School post for the first half of this school year.
Dr. Rick Retrosi, a former Lake Placid Elementary School principal, came out of retirement to take the interim post at the High School.
“That (dual-principal) model has worked really, really well. We’ve seen discipline referral rates drop steadily,” Dietrich said.
“Each man was able to focus on a specific age group. And the two have worked really well together. What we have to look at is, is it the model? Or is it the personalities of the two men involved? Before we make the decision of which (administrative) model works best for us, we really have to study that and talk to the two people involved and to the stakeholders — students, teachers and to the community — and find out what worked so well.”
Dietrich is confident that Catania will help move the process forward with clarity.
The three hires are integrally connected, and having a leadership decision in place will help move the process along.
“By naming him (Catania) now, he has the opportunity to work with the community who will be making these decisions,” Dietrich said.
Catania is currently an assistant visiting professor of education at Alfred University.
He holds degrees from SUNY Binghamton, Manhattanville College, Oregon State University and the Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
A former teacher, he taught social studies for several years in Oregon and New York City before coming to Lake Placid, according to a news release from the School Board.
Catania could not immediately be reached early Wednesday but said in a prepared statement that he is pleased with the opportunity to serve the Lake Placid community.
He is looking forward to “working with the Board of Education, teachers and staff in creating an engaging, stable and dynamic-education environment for all students.”
Dietrich said the board plans to begin preparation for next year’s budget at its first organizational meeting, set for Jan. 2, with what will likely be a one-hour work session after the 7 p.m. regular board meeting.
Email Kim Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org