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Stephen Sules and Larry Geiger of the School Board confirmed to WPCNR Thursday Dr. Saul Yanofsky consistently disagreed with the School Board on issues they refused to identify, forcing the Board decision not to renew his contract. They depicted Dr. Yanofsky as committed to his vision for the School District mission, citing the need for "a fresh look," "new leadership."
WPCNR also learned from Mr. Sules and Mrs. Donna McLaughlin, School Board President that the decision to remove Dr. Yanofsky effective at the end of his contract was made "by consensus" in executive session last April. No vote was taken.
Time for a New Leader, Trippett says.
Lewis Trippett, Board Member at the time of the change, commenting Thursday evening said the board acted because they felt "it was the appropriate time for a change in leadership of the School District."
Trippett added that the parents in the White Plains school district would be involved "extensively" in the search process for a new superintendent. He said the search firm had not been engaged yet, that the school board would be providing a profile of the kind of superintendent they were seeking to the firm.
What's wrong with the school district? No answer
Asked repeatedly why Dr. Yanofsky suddenly no longer possessed those qualities, Trippett would not comment, repeating the mantra that Mrs. McLaughlin, Dorothy Schere, Larry Geiger and Mr. Sules advised WPCNR:
Tthey were looking for a fresh look, a new direction for the district, without articulating what that direction was.
Geiger most candid.
Lawrence Geiger praised Dr. Yanofsky's contributions to the district, pointing out the district had renewed Yanofsky's contract four times since 1989,
"As to why he's been let go, we realized it would be better for the kids with new leadership. We felt a new person would take a fresh look at many of the issues we're facing. It's really a personnel matter. We made a judgement call that's between the board and him. We need to maintain the strength and the direction the district should go."
Asked if this meant the Board was dissatisfied with district performance, Geiger would not comment, but mentioned, "there's always room for improvement."
Geiger made the strongest statement yet that what we saw at the docile Board of Education meetings on the first Monday of the month, was not a true picture of the Board relationship with Dr.Yanofsky. saying,
"There were a number of differences that could not be resolved. I think it's the best way not to go into specifics."
Board deliberated long, Sules reports.>
"This decision was not reached quickly, " Sules said, reached at his home Thursday night. "It took quite awhile. There were some differences of opinion (between Yanofsky and the Board) that he delivered. We felt we needed a fresh look at the challenges of the District. We need someone very forward looking at this time. The Board believes this is the time to search for a new leader who would provide a fresh look."
Board Member Michelle Tratoros declined comment and referred WPCNR to Ms. McLoughlin. Richard Bernstein, reached at his New York office, referred us to Mr. Sules and Ms. McLoughlin. New Board member Susan Kirkpatrick, did not return our call.
Can you Keep a Secret? The School Board Can.
Asked why the board kept this secret for six months, Mr. Trippett objected, saying it was not kept secret.
Trippett said, "We just didn't publicize it."
However, neither the CO-President of the White Plains PTA Council, numerous teachers, and key members of the City School District contacted by WPCNR knew their leadership was changing for six months until Wednesday of this week.
The Saul Man On the Job Through June. Geiger feels no problem in filling slot.
Yanofsky will fulfill his contract through June of 2002. Mr. Geiger said he felt confident they would have a successor to Yanofsky by Spring, 2002,
"When we hired Saul in 1989-90, we advertised the opening in the fall of 1989 and had Saul on board in March, 1990," Geiger recalled. However, last year according to Rosemary Williams of the Middle School PTA, there were 11 Superintendent's jobs unfilled in Westchester County.
Parents, key teachers dumbfounded.
Three key personalities in the school district were shocked by the news. They could not make sense of the Board's decision, and could not shed any light on any particular policy difference Yanofsky had with the board that would explain his being dismissed.
One White Plains teacher said it felt to her "like a death in the family."
Yanofsky's accomplishments in 12 years:
Dr. Saul Yanofsky was eulogized while still living today by every district worker we talked to. WPCNR, on short notice, credits him as having brought balanced schools to White Plains painlessly, computer-networked the School District in a way that is the envy of every other Westchester School District, met the challenge of the New York State standardized tests, raised the test scores of ESOL (English Spanish Other Language) students, initiated pre-K and all-day kindergarten programs, and consistently fought eloquently for his students.
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