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Clifton-Fine Central School meeting could be packed

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STAR LAKE — The Clifton-Fine Central School community is divided over proposed administrative changes for the district.

Advocates of the school’s present administrative team — along with supporters of the school board — may turn out in force at the board’s 6 p.m. meeting Monday which is to include an update on the superintendent search.

“I think there will be a pretty nice crowd there,” said Jaime D. Simmons. “I know there’s a lot of people that are unhappy.”

Ms. Simmons, who has three children at the school, started an online petition at change.org addressed to board President Michelle L. Durham and member Richard W. Hitchman claiming that it was in the best interest of students to keep interim Superintendent Susan O. Shene, Principal Brian S. Buchanan and transportation coordinator Darren S. Bullard in place. As of Friday, the petition had 86 supporters.

Mrs. Durham was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

A second online petition started by Angie Hendricks, Newton Falls, supports Mrs. Durham and Mr. Hitchman and asks them to remain on the board fighting for the children. It had 55 supporters as of Friday afternoon.

“This is important not just to me but to people in our community,” Becky McCormick, Star Lake, wrote.

The school board and Mrs. Shene, who is on a leave of absence as principal, have not come to terms on a contract for her to remain superintendent.

The contract impasse has not been made public but Mrs. Shene has said it does not involve money. Mr. Buchanan also turned down the board’s offer to become superintendent and the board is looking at other candidates.

If Mrs. Shene were to return as principal, Mr. Buchanan would be out of a job. The board has also planned to combine Mr. Bullard’s job with that of the buildings and grounds supervisor so he also has the potential to lose a long-held position.

“I know a lot of teachers would like to speak out but they’re afraid for their jobs,” Ms. Simmons said.

Her petition includes a number of comments from signers who want the administrators to stay in place.

“I am in support for keeping all the CF staff/administration where they are. They all do their jobs well so why mess with it?” Kyle Backus, Star Lake, wrote. “Certain members of the board need to start focusing on what is good for the school and the community.”

Student Syrena Haen, Star Lake, wrote she had never had a better year.

“Susan Shene, Darren Bullard and Brian Buchanan have demonstrated multiple times over their time at the school how valuable they really are,” she wrote. “Mr. Buchanan is clearly qualified for the job because he would not have been hired in the first place if he wasn’t. His feedback over the past year has been amazing. He has received widespread support from the community and is loved by the students of all ages. Overall Mr. Buchanan has eased into his position very smoothly, especially since our community isn’t very open to newcomers.”

The consolidation of transportation and buildings and grounds did not make sense to some.

“Combining buildings, grounds and transportation was done once before years ago and the person in charge said it was too much responsibility for one person,” Hope M. Dolan, Star Lake, wrote. “You want to do this, but do not have a job description or a plan in place. As far as keeping Mrs. Shene and Mr. Buchanan, don’t our kids, as well as the staff, deserve some consistency? I ask ALL board members to think long and hard about your decisions. Are they your decisions, or are you just going along because it is easier?”

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