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Canton district plans to hire interim middle school principal

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CANTON — An interim principal for McKenney Middle School is expected to be hired to replace Jennifer W. Rurak.

Following the advice of Superintendent William A. Gregory, members of the Canton Central School District’s Board of Education voiced no objections Thursday evening to filling the job for next year.

Some residents and faculty members urged the board to consider other options, arguing numerous teaching jobs have been eliminated over the past few years and now it’s time for administrators to face a cutback.

Christopher Prue, a middle school special education teacher, said the district should consider hiring an interim dean of students for next year instead of filling the principal’s job.

He warned the board’s staffing decisions could jeopardize passage of next year’s school budget. Voters head to the polls May 21 to vote on the $24.3 million spending plan.

“I really feel an interim dean of students should be hired so the district can bring back funding to teaching and providing services for our students,” Mr. Prue said. “I feel the direction this board is taking with this budget places it in jeopardy of passing.”

Mr. Gregory said three options were considered by administrators. One includes hiring a permanent tenure-track middle school principal, which would allow the district to maintain its three schools.

“Given the district’s uncertain fiscal situation going forward and our inability to guarantee the longevity of the position to prospective candidates, this option was determined not to be practicable in the short term,” he told board members.

The second option would involve eliminating the middle school by grouping students into the elementary and high school, with each building housing roughly 650 students. That choice involves hiring an assistant principal or a dean of students. The district would save $10,000 to $20,000 a year in salary, which is “in our view, not nearly enough to merit making this dramatic shift,” Mr. Gregory told board members.

The third option would be to hire an interim principal.

“This option would enable us to maintain reasonable administrator-to-teacher-and-student ratios, meet all of the other day-to-day challenges associated with running a school and provide us with the best opportunity to continue our successful implementation of the Regents reform agenda. This option also allows us to achieve the cost savings associated with the other two options,” Mr. Gregory said.

Mrs. Rurak has started her new part-time job while continuing to work for the Canton district. She is working for American Education Group, a company that operates a network of private schools.

Mr. Gregory said the district is not paying Mrs. Rurak for days she is not working for the district.

The board agreed to hire retired former Potsdam administrator Michael Valley to handle supervisory duties at the middle school when Mrs. Rurak is not there. He will be paid $400 per day.

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