Members of the public who attended the Eldred Central School (ECS) Board of Education meeting on December 8 were surprised to learn that George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School principal Kathryn Ryan has requested early retirement effective December 31.
Following an executive session, the board voted unanimously to grant that request and authorized ECS superintendent Robert Dufour to sign a memorandum of agreement with Ryan paying her a retirement incentive in the amount of $40,000.
News of the retirement brought gasps from members of the public. “Mrs. Ryan’s retiring? Did I hear that correctly?” asked one woman.
ECS board president Douglas Reiser confirmed the announcement. “I want to stress that this was brought to us,” he said. “We were asked by Ms. Ryan for the retirement incentive.”
When asked what prompted her sudden decision to retire, Ryan said, “I recently had a milestone birthday. Two of my dearest friends took me to see ‘Follies,’ a play about aging Broadway performers who reflect on their lives and regrets. My biggest regret is not having finished my doctorate. My mom will be 90 years old and she so wants to call me ‘Dr. Ryan.’ I only have to finish the dissertation.” In addition, she added, “Schools are changing. Some of the changes are good and others are not so good.”
After more than a decade as principal, Ryan doesn’t have any definite plans for the future yet, other than completing that dissertation. She said she will really miss the children and that she hopes to spend more time with her own grandchildren. “It was a tough decision to make, but it just seemed right,” she concluded.
Reiser said the district will recognize a cost savings over the next couple of years. “When you replace a veteran person with a newer person, there’s a savings in the salary difference and benefits,” he said.
Dufour added, “I reiterate that this request was rather unexpected. But the incentive is covered in this year’s budget by cuts already made during the 2011-12 school year.
Haste is being made to identify an interim principal to assume the post following Ryan’s departure. A screening process to recruit, interview and hire a permanent replacement will be determined. “Our goal is to do it as quickly as possible,” said Dufour. “If we can get a qualified candidate that is immediately available, we’ll hire them immediately. If not, we’ll continue the process until we find that individual.”
In other matters, the board also heard the results of the Transportation Efficiency Study they had commissioned. Chris Andrews of Transportation Advisory Services reviewed a list of recommendations for the board to consider.
Reiser said the study was commissioned because it is the board’s duty to “look at every segment of what we do and be sure that we’re doing it the best way we can.” He added, “It’s great to hear that we’re doing things well.”
Dufour announced that on December 13 at 6:30 p.m., at Fallsburg High School, the Sullivan County School Boards Association would host NYS Department of Education Commissioner Dr. John King for a brief presentation, followed by a question and answer period. The public is invited.
Reiser reported that the board has asked for a comprehensive approach to cutting the budget and that he and Dufour have begun conversations with school labor unions. “There’s nothing to report yet, but we will sit down again,” he said.
ECS business administrator William Thornton has been working on a draft budget reflecting all cuts discussed to date. “I’ve instructed him to cut any area not previously cut in one of our presentations by a minimum of 10%,” said Dufour. Budget workshops will begin in February. The public is encouraged to attend.