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Community members optimistic about shared superintendent at Lyme Central School

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CHAUMONT — About 15 community members at the Lyme Central School Board of Education meeting said they support a shared superintendent with General Brown Central for the trial period of one year as long as both schools preserve individual identities.

Jennifer L. Scott, a mother with two children at Lyme Central, said she was glad the two districts are working together, not only to save money but to grant the Lyme Board of Education the time it needs to search for a qualified candidate to replace retiring Superintendent Karen M. Donahue.

“I know some worry about a possible merger, but I think it’s just a cost-savings mechanism for both school districts and allows Lyme to really do some research for a viable candidate for a new superintendent, which we really need,” Mrs. Scott said. “Mrs. Donahue did a great job as superintendent, but it’s time to move on from her and find new leadership that could lead Lyme in the right direction.”

The Lyme and General Brown districts announced July 21 they were contemplating sharing General Brown Superintendent Cammy J. Morrison as Lyme searches for a new superintendent. The proposal will save money and give the districts a way to test whether sharing a chief administrator could work well for the rural districts. The one-year shared service could save each of the two districts $60,000.

Mrs. Donahue announced in June that she will retire Aug. 26. The Lyme board is searching for its next permanent superintendent.

Lyme board President Gary P. Nicholson said before the General Brown Board presented the idea of sharing Mrs. Morrison’s services, the Lyme board explored finding an interim superintendent. He said the limited pool of qualified interim superintendents influenced the board’s decision.

“Typically an interim superintendent costs the district $400 to $800 a day,” Mr. Nicholson said. He said having Mrs. Morrison, who has worked for years only miles from the front door of Lyme, available to work with the board over the past few months has been comforting.

“Having a seated superintendent from only seven miles away has made us very comfortable,” Mr. Nicholson said.

Mrs. Donahue said she hopes the community chooses to have Mrs. Morrison take on the task of being a joint superintendent.

“I think it will be a good opportunity for both communities,” Mrs. Donahue said.

Mrs. Morrison said she has made a schedule that would work for both districts, including meetings twice a month with officials of each school to talk about concerns and questions. She said community members can attend the regular board meetings to voice concerns.

The arrangement will allow each district to maintain its identity while testing the feasibility of such an agreement without having to fire an employee.

Mrs. Scott said as a graduate of Lyme who chose to bring her two children into this school district, the identity of the district is important. She said it is also important in these economic times to save money, especially for General Brown, which has undergone numerous funding cuts as a result of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the lack of foundation aid.

“Anything we can do to help them as well, I’m all for it. You’ve got to be a team player, and it’s not just for your own school district. You can be an Indian or a Lion; you’ve got to help each other out,” Mrs. Scott said.

If the two boards decide not to share a superintendent, an interim will be selected to serve in Lyme until next summer. Mr. Todd said an interim superintendent is typically a retired superintendent.

Another public session about the sharing arrangement was held at General Brown Central School on Aug. 7. About five parents and community members attended the meeting and asked Mrs. Morrison if she felt she was prepared to take on the extra responsibility.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little nervous, because I don’t want to let either district down. But I think in this day and age, in this financial situation that all rural schools find themselves in, this really is a responsible decision right now and what everyone needs to remember is this is an interim position,” Mrs. Morrison said at the earlier meeting.

The Lyme and General Brown board members will hold a joint meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Watertown to discuss the possible shared superintendent.

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