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St. Lawrence Central grad named interim superintendent at Hammond

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HAMMOND – The Hammond Central School Board approved Randy C. Richards as interim superintendent Tuesday to replace Douglas H. McQueer after the school board declined to renew Mr. McQueer’s contract in July.

Mr. McQueer was fired July 10 by the Hammond Central School District board just days before his contract was expected to be renewed and one day after he was reappointed by school board members.

Both the school board and Mr. McQueer have said they cannot comment on why Mr. McQueer’s contract was not renewed for an eighth year as part of the separation agreement. But school board President Timothy W. Pitcher has previously cited “ongoing issues of job performance, poor evaluation scores and the board’s desire to move in a new direction” as the reasons for Mr. McQueer’s dismissal.

The selection of the new interim was down to two candidates recommended by Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Thomas R. Burns, who acted as consultant in the hiring process.

After an interview with both candidates Tuesday, the school board unanimously voted to move ahead with hiring Mr. Richards.

He will be officially appointed by Hammond Central School’s Board of Education at its Oct. 8 meeting but begin work on Oct. 1. Mr. McQueer’s last day is Oct. 30.

“We anticipate that it will be a smooth transition,” Mr. Pitcher said.

Mr. Richards was chosen for his background in education, Mr. Pitcher said.

“The board was very impressed,” Mr. Pitcher said. “We had excellent candidates to choose from. He’s been superintendent at several different schools over the years and is very well experienced.”

Mr. Richards previous served as a principal in Oswego, Stockbridge Valley, and Utica, and as an assistant principal at Camden High School.

“He’s held about every administrative position that you can think of,” Mr. Burns said.

Previously, Mr. Richards served the Lake Placid Central School district beginning in 2010. He left the Lake Placid School board in the spring when the board declined to renew his contract. Mr. Richards was at the center of several controversies in the district.

Mr. Richards was investigated by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 for gender discrimination against middle-high school Principal Katherine Mulderig when he told her the high school principal he needed someone “bitchier” to manage the “bitchy” teachers at the Lake Placid Elementary school, according to articles published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise Newspaper.

The EEOC later validated those complaints and Mr. Richards apologized for the incident. Ms. Mulderig has since accepted a settlement agreement and left her job.

Mr. Richards was also the target of an appeal filed with the commissioner of the state Education Department by Lake Placid resident Linda Wallace on April 30. The appeal seeked Richards’ removal as superintendent and accuses him of “derogation of responsibility, neglect of duty and deliberate indifference,” according to an article written by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, a newspaper in Lake Placid.

Ms. Wallace said Mr. Richards mismanaged the budget process by providing “misleading, inaccurate and inflated figures” to voters in a press release distributed before the school budget vote. But the charge was determined to be unfounded.

Mr. Burns and Mr. Pitcher said the school board is aware of the controversies, but that it did not affect Mr. Richard’s appointment.

“It’s a non-issue. There were charges filed but those charges were dismissed. Pretty forthcoming we have explored all that,” Mr. Burns said. “We have done the reference checking.”

“He has proven to have had great success at other schools districts, especially when it comes to raising schools up to higher standards,” Mr. Pitcher said. “He was upfront about his past experiences and told us about the incidents at Lake Placid.”

Mr. Burns said choosing school superintendents has become challenging in the last few years.

“There is definitely a decrease in superintendent pool,” Mr. Burns said. “Superintendents have to make difficult decisions cutting budgets and eliminating positions – all the while, the state is expecting you to raise standards and student achievements. We’re seeing a myriad constituency groups rising up to see students are getting the education they should receive, and we’re seeing more board member turn over. These are all signs of the times.”

Mr. Richards will finish out the year as full-time superintendent until a permanent school board leader is selected, according to school board officials.

The process for choosing a permanent superintendent will begin mid-October. The permanent superintendent will begin his or her post July 2014, according to a draft timeline developed by Mr. Burns.

“The school board is also taking this time to discuss a number of qualifications we would like to see in our candidate and issues we want to see get taken care of - policies we want to reinforce, we got a construction project that we would like to see progress on, and better communication.”

Mr. Richards could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The north country native is a 1976 graduate of St. Lawrence Central and before entering education served as Massena’s youth director.

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