Saul Yanofsky never intended to stay with the School District another four years. When he indicated this to the Board of Education last April and explored a short-term contract, the School Board said “They didn’t want to do that,” according to Yanofsky. Yanofsky, is however, open to staying on, if the Board wants him back, according to a White Plains Watch report on their website.
Yanofsky:”No specific discussion about the length of the contract.”
Yanofsky clarified to WPCNR Friday saying:” I never mentioned my age in discussions with the Board. There are things I want to do while I can. I was not looking for a job. I felt the timing was right for a lot of things. I said I felt it was a good time for the Board to consider when would be the best time for a transition in leadership. I did not make a request for a certain extension. We never talked about a specific number.”
White Plains Watch interview confirms this.
On the White Plains Watch website Monday, Susan Chang confirmed that Yanofsky said he would take another job when he left White Plains and preferred to stay with White Plains “another few years.”
Saul Leaves Door Open.
Ms. Chang quotes Dr. Yanofsky, as indicating he would continue as Superintendent, if the Board of Education wanted him:
“There is a lot of water under the bridge but I would not preclude any options,” he is quoted as saying on the Watch website. He also supports what he told WPCNR last week: “I had never wanted a full extension of my contract but I didn’t feel that this year was a good time for change given the number of new administrators and the prospects of others leaving. I would have felt guilty leaving the district this year because of that.”
Board Denies Him.
According to what WPCNR has pieced together, a short-term extension of any duration was rejected by the Board, and no four-year extension was offered. Yanofsky denied flatly that he had requested a one-year extension (from June 2002 to June 2003) in his letter to the Board declaring his intentions last Spring.
WPCNR has been told by a close friend of Dr. Yanofsky that Yanofsky had told him the Board of Education refused to grant him a one-year contract extension, which he had wanted. (This had been learned by WPCNR one week ago, but Dr. Yanofsky denied to us that he had asked for a one-year extenstion). WPCNR asked the Superintendent what the Board reaction was to his plans, implying a short-term contract extension request, he said,
“I was told they weren’t going to do it.”
WPCNR asked if the Board told him why:“No reason. They said it was a good time for me and them to move on.”
Yanofsky asked to resign.
We asked the Superintendent what happened next:“We agreed that April was not a good time to announce this and that the fall was a more appropriate time.”
WPCNR asked him one last question, what he made of Ms. McLaughlin’s statement about having “vigorously encouraged” him to “communicate his departure.” He said,“They asked me to resign.”
WPCNR learned last week the hard decision the Board of Education wrestled with last April.
27 Words Indicate Board Pressed Yanofsky to Announce His Plans. Could Not Wait.
“We vigorously encouraged Saul to pursue other options for communicating his departure from the district. . It was his decision that we pursue the one that we did.”
So said Donna McLaughlin, President of the Board of Education in her Monday night statement to the concerned, critical audience at Education House, there to hear about curriculum. The audience gave Dr. Saul Yanofsky a standing ovation as he entered the room that lasted for several minutes.
In light of what WPCNR has learned, McLaughlin’s statement becomes very significant. The 27 words we quote indicate the Board felt their hand was forced into making the announcement they released by letter last week.
They needed to begin the search for a new superintendent. The words indicate they appeared irritated that the Superintendent had not officially resigned yet. They did not believe the announcement letter they issued, would be perceived the way the public perceived it, and are aghast at the reaction of the community.
Reading Ms. McLaughlin’s entire statement against Dr. Yanofsky’s statements to us Wednesday, the dilemma the Board faced is apparent. They faced the prospect of a potentially volatile negotiation confronting Yanofsky’s successor in his or her first months on the job ( approximately July 2003), if they granted Yanofsky a one-year extension, which Yanofsky denies he asked for.
Let us look at the entire text of Ms. McLaughlin’s statement presented to district administrators and teachers at the beginning of the Monday evening work session this week. (Document was released to WPCNR by Michelle Schoenfeld of the School District, at the request of Board Member Larry Geiger):
REMARKS BY BOARD PRESIDENT DONNA McLAUGHLIN BEFORE 10/22/01 BOARD MEETING
Thank you for coming tonight. While the primary purpose of tonight’s long-scheduled meeting is for the Board to receive a Curriculum presentation from our new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, JoAnna Maccario, we recognize that most of you are here to express your reaction to the announcement last week that the Board is initiating a search for a new superintendent.
Accordingly, we will reorganize our schedule and accept public comments, but in fairness to the administrators and others, who have prepared for and come for the curriculum presentation, we will keep the floor open only until 9 o’clock.
We understand that the decision to seek a new superintendent was, and is, a surprise to the community. Like you, the Board is proud of the district and proud of our staff. We have been fortunate that Dr. Yanofsky has been our Superintendent for the past 12 years. We recognize his many fine qualities as an educator and administrator and appreciate the many initiatives which have been implemented under his leadership. That’s why he was selected in 1990 and why the Board has extended his contract on three occasions.
Please be assured that the Board continues to support cornerstones of the district that have been instituted while Saul has been superintendent, such as the Controlled Parents’ Choice Program, the multi-year technology plan and our many enrichment programs.
So, you may ask, if things are so good, why rock the boat? Why move to change leadership now when things are quote, “fine,” and life in America has suddenly become so unsettled? First, I want to make one thing perfectly clear – there have been no improprieties on the Superintendent’s part, nor any single event which precipitated this decision.
The Board has a responsibility for planning and evaluation. Choosing a superintendent is one of our foremost responsibilities. The decision not to extend Saul’s contract was made after months of deliberation, and some of the issues that contributed to the decision have been discussed with the Superintendent for years. While clearly the easiest course of action for us would have been to make no change, we believe that it is in the long-term interest of our schools to seek a new superintendent who can take a fresh look at the district.
Just so everyone will understand the timing, we were required by contract to notify Saul of our intention to extend his contract by the end of April of this year. So he has known since April that we would not be extending his contract. We vigorously encouraged Saul to pursue other options for communicating his departure from the district. It was his decision that we pursue the one that we did.
The announcement was made at this time to provide us with sufficient time to conduct a comprehensive and thorough superintendent search, casting a broad net to attract the best candidates possible. And the short letter we distributed was written in conjunction with the Superintendent and reflects his input.
We hope and expect that this year will continue to run smoothly and efficiently, with all programs continuing. Saul remains our superintendent, with the full scope and authority of that position…and he has our full support. We look forward to engaging the school community in the search for a new superintendent who will join us next July.
While we understand that many people would like a detailed explanation, the Board and Saul have agreed not to discuss “the significant differences” we have. The Board is committed to maintaining that agreement. We believe that it would serve no purpose to do so. We are all interested in looking ahead, not back.
Thanks for your patience. Now we’re ready for comments. Please state your name and address. And, in the interest of time, please limit your remarks to no more than five minutes so many different speakers have a chance to be heard.
“Apres-Moi, le deluge.”
When Ms. McLoughlin finished reading, she and the six other members of the Board, were met with a passionate barrage of criticism from administrators, educators, and parents from a crowd reported to be fifty persons. This attendance, WPCNR can assure you, is astounding for a Board of Education Work Session.
One instructor, passionately advocating for Yanofsky, stood out from among others. She said she had served in good superintendent districts and poor superintendent districts, and she knew the difference. She questioned how persons who were not educators could possibly not involve educators on deciding that a new superintendent was needed.
Another parent, blushingly indignant, trembling with anger, said, “I am outraged,” prefacing her comments, focusing on the board not consulting parents or PTAs on the decision.
One night a standing “O,” the next, quiet acceptance by the district’s teachers.
Despite the passion for Dr. Yanofsky on Monday night, it was not lasting. On Tuesday afternoon twenty representatives from all the White Plains Schools, the leadership of the White Plains Teachers Association met.
They discussed the matter, and issued an unexpectedly neutral and supportive statement to WPCNR: They wish Yanofsky well, and accept the Board of Education decision.
This appears to be a WPTA attempt at healing the ugly rift caused by the community perception of the school board effort to communicate the departure.
Statement by Teachers Issued to WPCNR
Jerry Gorski, President of the White Plains Teachers Association read the somber statement over the telephone to WPCNR Tuesday at 6:40 PM:
“The White Plains Teachers Association has had a good working relationship with Dr. Saul Yanofsky over the past twelve years. We are sad to see this relationship come to an end. We wish him success and happiness.
The White Plains Teachers Association is committed to assuring the current quality of education offered in White Plains is maintained in the future. To that end we will continue to work with children, their parents, the community and the Board of Education.”
Gorski said the WPTA group of twenty made several drafts of the statement and approved it. In answers to WPCNR questions, he said the group understood from Monday evening that “The Board of Education made this decision, and they’re sticking to that decision.”
Board of Education Dilemma?Contract negotiations start in Spring, 2003
WPCNR in the course of interviewing Mr. Gorski learned that the teachers union plans to open negotiations on their next contract with the school district in February, 2003.
This date, WPCNR believes, is significant in the decision not to give Dr. Yanofsky a short-term deal. According to insights into Board of Education thinking told under deep background, the practical Board of Education thinking went like this:
Did Board agonize over their icon’s fate?
If the Board of Education extended Dr. Yanofsky for two years (June 2004 when he would be 63), they would have to have him conduct negotiations. Negotiations conducted under the Yanofsky perception. The teachers union would be negotiating with a “lame duck.” The union could even have extra bargaining pressure on their side, developing clout the closer they got to Yanofsky’s departure. Did the Board fear chaos?
Whatever new directions the Board wanted to address would be handled by Yanofsky. Was this what they were trying to avoid?
If they extended Yanofsky for one year, (ending June 2003), they could not realistically start the search for a new Superintendent until next year at this time.
After all, topflight administrators rarely search for a job two years in the future.
Did the Board Not Want to Get a New Superintendent Off to a Rocky Start?
However, the one-year extension (reportedly requested or most considered by the Board) of Dr. Saul to June 2003, creates another problem: If Yanofsky failed to complete negotiations when his contract expired in June, 2003, you have a brand-new superintendent walking into an acrimonious labor negotiation when they have not even had time to analyze the situation.
More to the point, the Superintendent starts off in an adversary situation with his or her teachers.
Could the Board take a chance that negotiations would bog down into acrimony, thus creating the worst possible way to start a superintendent’s tenure? (Remember when John Lindsay, Mayor of New York, started his term with a New York City Subway strike? It ruined the potential for Lindsay’s entire term.)
Yanofsky: negotiations not a factor in decision not to short-track him.
We asked Yanofsky about this “spin.” He downplayed the role the superintendent plays in negotiations, saying the Board has its representative, and a paid negotiator, as well as the superintendent. “That never came up,” he said.
Gorski: Board did not ask teachers about rescheduling 2003 negotiations.
Just curious as to whether the Board explored rescheduling talks, WPCNR asked Mr. Gorski several innocent questions:
WPCNR: “Did the Board ever contact you about moving negotiations forward into the fall of 2002 or deeper into 2003?” (Enabling Yanofsky more time to negotiate)
WPCNR: Did the Board ever ask the teachers about a one-year extension of their current contract, an interim contract, (to bridge a new superintendent on board in late 2003)?
WPCNR: Did the Board seek any accommodations from the teachers at all to reschedule negotiations?
This suggests to WPCNR, if they were afraid of making it rough for a new superintendent, that the Board never explored with the teachers how they could eliminate negotiation pressure.
On the surface, it appears the Board never seriously considered Yanofsky’s request for a short-term contract and its feasibility. They appear to have determined to end the Yanofsky era long in advance of April, 2002.
Speculation on reasons for dismissal:
We have heard relayed to us, various comments from parents that they wanted more “honors” programs for high achieving students. Others were unhappy with test scores (which just came out today and Middle School scores are not good). The handling of the Highlands violence incident last year was mentioned as another negative.
However, thousands of parents were very happy with District response in the face of the World Trade Center disaster, and communicated this. Dissatisfactions expressed have been overwhelmingly countermanded by the shockwave that has gripped parents and teachers at his dismissal news one week ago.