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EK high school principal not working, district officials won’t explain

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RUSSELL — The high school principal at Edwards-Knox Central School District is not working, but district officials are refusing to disclose her employment status.

High school Principal Michelle J. Varian has not reported to work since mid-December, but hasn’t been terminated from her job as 7-12 grade principal, School Superintendent Suzanne L. Kelly said Wednesday.

“According to legal advice, I am to say ‘no comment’ until the issue is totally resolved,” Ms. Kelly said. “Because it’s a personnel issue, I cannot share details.”

Although Ms. Varian is not working, the superintendent would not confirm or deny that she’s been placed on administrative leave.

Nor would she would discuss whether Mrs. Varian is still collecting her $81,291 annual salary.

“No board resolutions have been voted on. No action has been taken,” Ms. Kelly said.

The district’s attorney is Andrew W. Silver, Canton.

Mrs. Varian, a Trout Lake resident, has held the EK’s principal’s job since July 2010 when she came to the district from Rocky Mount Preparatory School, North Carolina. She grew up in Central New York and taught physical eduction in Tompkins County for 20 years.

Mrs. Varian did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

The superintendent said she sent an email Tuesday evening to faculty and staff members to inform them she is not allowed to explain why Mrs. Varian was not working.

Ms. Kelly told staff she recognized the situation was “tough on morale.”

School Board President Theresa Hogle would not discuss Mrs. Varian’s situation.

“I really can’t comment in any way, on or off the record,” Mrs. Hogle said. “There’s always a lot of questions, but I really can’t give any answers. I’m not allowed to discuss any personnel.”

During Mrs. Varian’s absence, high school science teacher Amy L. Sykes has been assigned to handle disciplinary issues. Mrs. Sykes has been working with Mrs. Varian as an administrative intern since September.

Issues related to academics and faculty will be handled by Ms. Kelly and Elementary Principal Amy Lamitie.

The school board is scheduled to meet 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14.

Chalaine M. Archer, a community member, is trying to rally district residents who support Mrs. Varian to attend the meeting.

“She has been a breath of fresh air for the district,” Mrs. Archer said. “She is a good disciplinarian and I feel letting her go would be a poor decision.”

Stacia A. Kroniser, head of EK Watch, a citizens group, said the lack of information from district officials has fueled numerous rumors in the community.

“There’s a lot of confusion. If they terminated her, why don’t they just come clean?” Mrs. Kroniser said.

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