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Lebanon Board OKs Interim AD; School Official’s Sister Hired To Work Part Time at H.S.

Lebanon High principal Nan Parsons walks the field hockey sideline during the Raiders' defeat of visiting Bow on Sept. 10, 2013. Parsons, a former high school and college field hockey goaltender, sometimes oversees athletic events on campus because her school currently does not have an athletic director. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Lebanon High principal Nan Parsons walks the field hockey sideline during the Raiders' defeat of visiting Bow on Sept. 10, 2013. Parsons, a former high school and college field hockey goaltender, sometimes oversees athletic events on campus because her school currently does not have an athletic director. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

Lebanon — The School Board has approved middle school athletic director Linda Preston as interim director of athletics and co-curricular activities at the high school, providing at least a temporary resolution to a months-long conflict over the position between board members and district administrators.

Shortly before the 7-0 vote in favor of Preston’s nomination Wednesday night, board member Hank Tenney, a veteran youth sports coach, gave a glowing recommendation for a woman he said the community would “rally around.”

“I’m really proud of this board if we do hire her for this position, because it’s really a big plus for the community and a big plus for the school,” Tenney said.

Preston is the sister of School Board member Doug Preston, who along with Chairman Jeff Peavey, recused himself from the vote.

Preston, whose Lebanon Middle School position is part time, will work only 14 hours a week at the high school, Superintendent Gail Paludi said.

After the vote went through, School Board member Bob McCarthy emphasized that the move is temporary and Preston will give way to a full-time athletic director as soon as administrators and the board agree on who that person should be. Paludi said the search for a permanent athletic director in under way.

One man who would like to assume the position of athletic director was at the meeting last night.

Kieth Matte, a coach and teacher at the high school who was one of two finalists for the position along with the administrations’ choice: Sharon Elementary School Principal Barrett Williams. But only Williams’ name was brought forward for a vote. On Wednesday night, Matte asked the board for an up-or-down vote on his nomination in the public comment section, but Tenney answered that the board could only vote on names that were brought forward by Paludi.

After the public comment session, Tenney vented frustrations of his own, which centered mostly on what he described as the board’s inability to inform the public of what was happening in the nonpublic sessions leading up to the vote.

“We’ve got to do a better job,” Tenney said. “We’ve got to explain to the public why we can’t answer the questions that are being asked.”

Tenney went on to say that the nomination would “put a little respectability back to the School Board because we’ve been beaten to death on this, and it isn’t our responsibility.

“We can only act on what is given to us,” Tenney said.

After the nomination, Matte said he was upset about a lack of accountability from school officials.

“The School Board says they can’t talk about it and then direct people who are supposed to do the answering to not talk about it,” Matte said. “It’s a closed-door situation here.”

In early June, Kelly Carey resigned from the athletic director position, which in Lebanon requires a state principal’s certificate, a higher standard than most other communities.

In August, a report in the Valley News identifying a search committee’s choice for the position sparked frustration on the part of School Board members who felt that they were left out of the process. There was not a board representative on the search committee led by High School Principal Nan Parsons.

At a regular meeting in mid-August, the School Board deadlocked 4-4 on a vote to nominate Williams to the position, with Tenney, Preston, Suzan Louzier and McCarthy voting against the administration’s choice of Williams. Richard Milius, Christina Haidari, Lori Hibner and Jeff Peavey backed the nomination. Kathleen Berger was not present at that meeting.

Two weeks later, following a 90-minute, nonpublic session, the board directed Paludi to “explore all options for a temporary replacement for the position of athletic director at Lebanon High School.” The board also discussed the matter of the appointment in private during a two-hour nonpublic session a month ago .

Board members have taken issue not only with not having a representative involved with the search process but also with the principal’s certificate requirement, which is part of the job description for the director of athletics and co-curricular activities. The job description was last updated and approved by the School Board in December 2011, but Paludi, who jointed the district in 2010, said “it is my understanding that it was a requirement before (2010) but I do not have a date.”

“The former (athletic director) was a certified principal,” she added.

McCarthy — who sits on the policy committee — said before the meeting on Wednesday that he and at least some other board members do not support the requirement and would like to see it dropped, but the language can only be nixed with the approval of the Lebanon School District Administrative Group labor union.

The Sharon Elementary School Board released a statement Wednesday in response to the “buzz that has floated through town” over the possible appointment of Williams to the Lebanon post.

“Principal Williams informed us that he was a finalist for a position in the Lebanon school district as their high school athletic director and that he was seriously considering taking this position if offered to him. After speaking privately with Barrett about this matter we as a school board unanimously and regretfully supported him in his decision to pursue this job opportunity,” the statement read. “The process was delayed in SAU #88 for a variety of reasons and Principal Williams withdrew his candidacy for the position. The Sharon School Board is happy to be moving forward under the continued leadership of Mr. Williams.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CORRECTION

This story has been amended to correct an earlier error. Part-time Lebanon Athletic Director Linda Preston is the sister of Lebanon School Board member Doug Preston. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described their relationship.