OCS buys out superintendent’s contract

By Jay Braman Jr.
Onteora School District Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford abruptly left that position last Friday following a less than glowing endorsement from the district’s board of education, which one week prior decided against renewing Dr. Ford’s contract.Dr. Leslie FordDr. Leslie Ford

Ford’s contract was effective through June 2011. At press time the details of the arrangements made between the district and Ford are unclear, but under such circumstances a school district is required to “buy out” a superintendent’s contract. Ford’s annual salary, including benefits, is just over $200,000.

Just last month Ford was concerned about her employment with the district. She said at the time that contract talks should have begun by then, but the decision of when to have the talks was one for the school board, which includes members who have publicly voiced their disappointment with Ford. Despite the turmoil, Ford had been given a favorable review of her performance at her annual evaluation months earlier.

Ford said she would like to continue as superintendent at Onteora but noted that the choice is not hers.

“Ultimately it’s a board decision,” she said.

Also last month, Board President Laurie Osmond said that Ford’s contract requires discussion before the end of the month.

“The board is required to meet about it before June 30 and we will do so,” she said.
With only days left before that deadline, the school board met and took no action on Ford’s contract. The move was interpreted as a vote of no confidence.

On Monday District Clerk Fern Amster distributed a prepared statement on the matter. “The Board of Education of the Onteora Central School District and Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Leslie G. Ford, have agreed that Dr. Ford will be leaving her employment with the District as of July 9, 2010,” Amster wrote.

“Both parties also recognize that with the many challenges yet to come, the district may be best served by a change in the administrative leadership. While both parties recognize that a change in administrative leadership is desired, the school board is also cognizant that many improvements have been made during Dr. Ford’s tenure as superintendent.

“Dr. Ford sees the conclusion of her service with the Onteora school district as an opportunity for personal change and looks forward to new challenges. The school board believes that Dr. Ford has many fine qualities that will serve her well in future undertakings, and wishes her success in her future activities.”

Neither Ford nor school board members would elaborate beyond the prepared statement this week.
Later this week the board is expected to appoint an acting superintendent and begin a search for Ford’s replacement.