DEEMSTON – Bethlehem-Center School District is seeking an elementary school principal to fill a vacancy created by a Jan. 7 resignation that came on the heels of the district’s superintendent taking a health leave and a board member abruptly resigning from office.
The board unanimously voted Monday to advertise for a new principal to replace Tara Cochrane, whose last day at Beth-Center is Thursday. Meanwhile, the board that night hired retired Beth-Center principal Madeleine Rieger as acting elementary principal.
Cochrane resigned a month after director Richard Martin abruptly resigned during a Dec. 4 board meeting. His seat will be filled by appointment of Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery because the school board couldn’t agree on his replacement by Jan. 4.
Beallsville Council President Vincent Bloom on Monday pressed the school board for answers about the fate of the superintendent’s job. He later said taxpayers grew concerned because Superintendent James Stockdale II took a leave from office, and then the principal resigned so soon afterwards.
“Our concern is we are paying someone who’s not here and an acting superintendent per diem,” Bloom said.
“The situation is such we can’t answer that. It’s a personnel issue. We are working on getting there,” board President Karen Drill responded after Bloom asked whether the board planned to search for a permanent superintendent.
District solicitor Lane Turturice said Stockdale, who was hired in 2010, told the board in a letter he had “medical issues,” and the district cannot replace Stockdale “until his sick leave is resolved.”
Turturice also said Emery has set a Jan. 31 deadline for qualified Centerville residents to petition the court to be appointed to the vacant board seat. He said former director Thomas Bair is the only person to date who has sought the appointment.
A motion to hire an acting superintendent brought to the table by Director Wade Smith died in a 2-6 vote, with Smith and Mary Mazeppa casting the only yes votes.
The board elected to keep the district’s business manager, Jody Nepa, as acting superintendent through April 30, pending the approval of the state Department of Education. He is being paid $200 a day for taking on Stockdale’s duties.