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Hammond school board says superintendent’s firing is not final

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HAMMOND — About two dozen residents came to a Board of Education meeting Thursday, demanding an explanation for the board’s decision not to renew Superintendent Douglas H. McQueer’s contract.

Board members refused to comment on their decision, but announced after a closed-door meeting that they will reconsider it.

Mr. McQueer was fired July 10 by the Hammond Central School District board just days before his contract was expected to be renewed. Board President Timothy W. Pitcher said previously that the firing was the result of an “ongoing issue of job performance,” poor evaluation scores and the board’s desire to move in a new direction.

At Thursday’s meeting, school board members listened as several residents criticized the decision and praised Mr. McQueer, but board members repeatedly said they could not discuss the personnel matter.

However, after an executive session to discuss the appointment of an interim superintendent, the board released a statement saying it will reconsider the firing of Mr. McQueer.

“It’s an open contract,” Mr. Pitcher said. “We will take this time to talk to Mr. McQueer. The action the board took on July 9 is not final, since a resolution has not been drawn up.”

Mr. McQueer, whose contract will expire July 31, said he was never given a reason why his contract would not be renewed.

“I was not informed,” Mr. McQueer said Thursday. “They did not make me aware of any issues that would have made me think my contract renewal was in jeopardy.”

Under his direction, Mr. McQueer said, the district’s general fund has increased by $1.5 million and the school has been able to hire three new staff members during a time when many districts are cutting because of a lack of state aid.

“We’ve been working on a plan to hire a math consultant to introduce math teachers to the Common Core, which is necessary to the new state assessments,” Mr. McQueer said.

Many residents applauded Mr. McQueer’s success.

“What we have here now is a school that is in good fiscal condition,” James R. Tague said. “He has gotten the school in the best fiscal condition that it’s ever, ever been. You put the statement out there that the school is looking to go in a different direction — then you need to tell us what that is.”

But Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Thomas R. Burns said Thursday that the board is not required to state the reasons for Mr. McQueer’s firing.

“You have a right to make a public comment, but they don’t have to respond,” Mr. Burns said.

Town Council member Douglas E. Delosh, who also served as dean of students under Mr. McQueer, says he wants to see Mr. McQueer reinstated.

“If you have problems, sit down, discuss them and get things changed, but think about the community, think about the kids,” Mr. Delosh said. “This school is the most important part of this community, and Doug has done the job that’s been asked of him.”

Many residents questioned the timeliness of the decision. Mr. McQueer was reappointed at the July 9 board meeting, but after a 15-minute executive session, board members voted not to renew his contract. The president and vice president of the board fired Mr. McQueer the next day.

“How can a person be good enough to get appointed one day and the next lose his job?” resident Thomas L. Chapman said. “People ask me if I am embarrassed by this board, and I say I am.”

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