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SRC board VP resigns after coach flap

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FORT COVINGTON - Salmon River Central School Board of Education Vice President Greg Cunningham resigned Tuesday, effective immediately, following recent controversy in the district and increased pressure on the board.

Several controversial issues have come to this years’ school board, including the failed tenure of former high school principal Alison Benedict and the proposed amendment of former hockey coach Bill Plante’s debarment from all school coaching positions. According to board president Chris Nye, many members have been feeling pressure from the community, not least of all Cunningham.

“People in the community had threatened to never talk to him [Cunningham] again if he didn’t vote one way or another,” said Mr. Nye about the Plante issue. “I can understand why Greg would be intimidated.”

More than 50 people came to the board meeting on Monday to show their support or disapproval for amending the portion of a 2008 resolution that bars Plante from all future coaching positions. The room, and the board, were evenly split on the issue. Many spoke passionately.

Mr. Nye said that a particular speech by former tribal chief Jim Ransom in the public meeting may have been the final provocation for Mr. Cunningham’s resignation. Mr. Ransom was horrified by the proposal, calling the consideration “mind-boggling”.

“If you pass that resolution tonight as board members you’re individually responsible for that decision and your seat on this board will not protect you,” Mr. Ransom said in Monday’s meeting. “You need to do what’s right for this district and leave that resolution alone.”

Mr. Nye interpreted the statement as a thinly veiled threat to individually sue each board member.

“That’s not how you’re supposed to conduct yourself at a public meeting,” said Mr. Nye. “It’s not just intimidating but coercive.”

Mr. Cunningham’s term on the board was not set to expire until June 2015. He joined members Linda Durant, Sheila Marshall and Matt Mainville Monday night in voting against Mr. Plante.

The next morning, District Clerk Natascha Jock received his resignation via e-mail, effective immediately. Mr. Cunningham expressed a wish not to be contacted on the matter, and refused to comment when called.

Mr. Ransom also did not respond to a request for comment.

The board will discuss filling Mr. Cunningham’s seat either through appointment or special election at their next meeting Sept. 30.

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