UPDATED 4PM FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014
By Kevin Kelley
It’s coming down to the wire regarding who will lead the Fairview Park City Schools starting Aug. 1.
The board of education met in executive session for several hours Monday night. Citing legal issues, board President Joe Shucofsky said he could not say if that meeting, or other executive session meetings held July 21 and 22, included interviews with potential interim superintendents.
Official district notices of the executive session meetings indicated they were to discuss “the employment of a District official and to consult with legal counsel on pending or imminent litigation.”
The board will likely schedule its next meeting July 30, Shucofsky said.
The board has scheduled a special meeting, not an executive session meeting, for 5:30 p.m. July 31, at the district offices, 21620 Mastick Road. According to the meeting notice, the purpose is “to take action on personnel and other business related items.”
Prior to Monday night’s meeting, Shucofsky told West Life the board still intends to have an interim superintendent in place by Aug. 1.
“We’re making good progress, but we have not yet gotten to the point where we’ve selected an interim superintendent,” Shucofsky told West Life. “But we anticipate selecting one very soon.”
An interim superintendent would lead the district in place of Geoffrey Andrews, the board’s first choice to replace retiring Superintendent Brion Deitsch, whose contract ends July 31. Deitsch’s last day on the job was June 27, as he has been taking unused vacation days since then.
In April, the school board signed a three-year contract with Andrews, with his starting salary set at $159,375. At a June 16 school board meeting, Shucofsky said Andrews will not be the district’s next superintendent. Evidence had emerged that Andrews was not forthcoming on his employment history at the Western Academy of Beijing, Shucofsky said. Andrews indicated on his application he was still under contract as director there. But a notice on the school’s website stated he was not longer director as of August 2013.
Andrews has declined to comment on the controversy for now.
Residents’ frustration with the situation and expectation of a resolution was evident at the July 15 school board meeting. Dozens of attendees peppered Shucofsky with questions on the fiasco. Among those expressing their discontent was Fairview High sophomore Molly Tarase, who called the situation an embarrassment to students who take pride in their schools.
“You’ve had a month,” said one woman, who further inquired why nothing more had been done on naming an interim superintendent.
Shucofsky, who indicated he had just returned from a vacation in Maine, said attorneys representing the district and Andrews have been in discussions concerning a settlement of the situation. The contract with Andrews and the ongoing legal discussion regarding the contract have prevented the board from hiring an interim superintendent, the board president said.
“You can’t have more than one superintendent at a time,” Shucofsky said.
Shucofksy said the board has received inquiries and referrals regarding the interim position.
“We’re investigating an option where we might have some negotiated agreement,” Shucofsky said. “If that’s not possible, we have other options available to us. Those options are going to have to occur by Aug. 1.”
So who’s in charge now? Shucofsky said Deitsch is available to be contacted. Fairview High School Principal Brady Sheets said he would feel comfortable making decisions related to his building.
Former school board President Dennis Rehor’s question on whether the district had set aside any money in reserve for any potential settlement with Andrews led to a sharp exchange with Shucofsky. Shucofsky, an attorney, said the district had not set any money aside for a possible settlement. Rehor said it would be unfortunate if funds from the district’s Garnett and Coffinberry properties, created as marketable assets under the Gemini Project, had to be used in a settlement. Shucofsky agreed, but told Rehor he was on the board when former Fairview High School Principal Kevin Liptrap was caught embezzling money. Rehor, also an attorney, said insurance covered the Liptrap case but would not cover the Andrews contract.
“We’re trying to resolve this in the best possible way, for the community, for the children of this community,” Shucofsky said. “What we need is a little bit of time to make that happen. And we’re going to do the very best that we can.”
With regard to his recent vacation, Shucofsky later told West Life he had scheduled it in February, well before the Andrews controversy, for a time when the board’s agenda was expected to be the lightest. “I also made myself available by phone to other board members and district administrators during my absence,” Shucofsky said.