SINCLAIRVILLE - Public comment over the hiring of the daughter of a board member at a recent Cassadaga Valley Central School Board meeting became heated.
It wasn't the first time Lily Dale resident Robert Reuther had spoken up about what he sees as problems with the sports programs at Cassadaga Valley Central. In December, he advocated putting together a first-class athletic program, saying that athletes in the district aren't reaching their full potential.
At a recent board meeting, he questioned the hiring practices for coaching staff, addressing board president David Christy. Reuther specifically asked why a position for a modified softball coach was not advertised in the school district's official newspapers.
William Carlson voted in favor of hiring his daughter to coach.
"You have artificially restricted the pool of candidates," Reuther said. "It is a misuse of taxpayer funds not to be able to bring in the best coach available."
According to Christy, in the district it has been "past practice" to advertise for the job internally. If there are no "qualified" candidates internally, then the district looks outside.
Reuther said that he goes to other districts where there are state champions while CVCS "made the sectionals twice in 40 years."
Christy defended the coaching staff. He said, "We never appointed an unqualified person to coach. Yes, paid staff is given a preference. ... In my tenure on the board there has never been an unqualified person coaching."
He also said that one of the problems is when parents criticize the coaches, the students pick up on the attitude, and blame the coach instead of looking at themselves. Describing his own experience as a student-athlete at Dunkirk High School, he said his team called extra practices.
Reuther asked the board members if they felt there was a conflict of interest since the coach is the daughter of board of education member William Carlson. Carlson affirmed that he did vote for the appointment, and after more questions, told Reuther his actions were legal. In a level voice, he also invited Reuther to take the matter further if he believed there was a problem.
Reuther asked all the other board members - Christy, Jeanne Oag, and S. Carl Perry - if they saw anything wrong with the vote and each answered he/she did not.
Reuther left the board meeting shortly thereafter.
Jay Worona, general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association, said by telephone it is legal for a school board member to vote to approve employment of a spouse or relative. However, when a relative is hired, the school board must agree by a two-thirds (or super) majority. He also said that staff at a school receive first consideration.
The other unscheduled visitor to the board was Herb Best, a Gerry resident who said he saw the first graduation ceremony at the school when it consolidated and served for many years in the Gerry Fire Department. He read a couple articles concerning gun laws and violence in schools.
"We are sitting ducks," he said. He believed that principals should carry concealed weapons to use if necessary to save lives. The board made no comment, but thanked him for speaking.
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