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LHS AD Post to Be Reviewed

Linda Preston during an interview on June 10, 2009. (Valley News - Jakob M. Berr)

Linda Preston during an interview on June 10, 2009. (Valley News - Jakob M. Berr) Purchase photo reprints »

Lebanon — A subcommittee of the School Board will review the required qualifications for the high school’s director of athletics and co-curricular activities and also propose a new rule for hiring committees for administrative positions.

The committee’s work comes on the heels of a contentious, and ultimately unsuccessful, process this summer to hire an athletic director.

Kathleen Berger, the chairwoman of the School Board’s Personnel and Negotiations subcommittee, said on Thursday that the failed search had revealed what board members felt was a flaw in the hiring process for key jobs in the district.

“We learned from this, and looking at it, we realized that no one on the board had interviewed or talked to the candidates,” Berger said. “I think that threw us for a loop when we went in and interviewed the person they had brought forward.”

That person was Barrett Williams, the principal at Sharon Elementary, who was chosen by a search committee but withdrew his name from consideration last month after the School Board deadlocked on his nomination. One of the sticking points was the requirement that the athletic director hold a principal’s license.

On Wednesday, the board voted to hire Linda Preston, the part-time athletic director at Lebanon Middle School, to work part-time at the high school as well.

School Board Chairman Jeff Peavey said on Thursday he issued two directives this week to the subcommittee: to review the qualifications for the athletic director’s post at the high school, and to develop a guideline that would mandate at least one School Board member be appointed to search committees for any administrative post.

Berger said she has previously represented the School Board on hiring committees, including about a decade ago when a principal was hired at Mount Lebanon. She said the subcommittee will look to implement that approach for all administrators.

“I think more of a mix makes for different people looking at the same thing and coming up with some kind of different perception,” Berger said. “I think we would like that to happen.”

The changes to the athletic director’s job qualifications likely would include dropping the requirement for a principal’s certificate, which some board members have contended was putting off qualified applicants.

Berger, for her part, said there is no evidence to support that claim, but she still said it was worth examining the requirement to make sure it fits the job’s responsibilities.

Berger stressed it wouldn’t be as simple as just removing the certificate requirement, because other employees could be affected.

“If that requirement changes, we have to look at the domino effect,” Berger said. “Whose shoulders does that fall on? Does that adversely affect someone else, and if it does, what do we want to accomplish with it? It’s a multi-layered, peeling-the-onion-back situation.”

Superintendent Gail Paludi said the authority to change the job requirement rests with the School Board and that the union that represents the district’s administrators does not need to be consulted. She added that she supports taking another look at the athletic director job requirements.

“Because we’ve had so many questions, it’s good for us to be reviewing the job description,” Paludi said.

The director of athletics and co-curricular activities’ job description was last updated and approved by the School Board in December 2011, but it’s unclear when the principal certificate requirement was put in place. Paludi said she is still looking for the answer.

“It’s my understanding that it was a requirement before 2010, but I am still researching that because I have not yet found clear documentation one way or another,” Paludi said. “I’ve actually been doing a lot of research about it, but do not have an answer at this point.”

Lyme School District Superintendent Mike Harris, who was the Lebanon superintendent before Paludi, said he doesn’t remember the principal’s certification being a requirement for the high school athletic director.

“If it was, it was never a big deal,” Harris said in an interview. “It was never a formal part of the process.”

Paludi said she is still looking for a candidate to replace Preston, someone who could serve as interim athletic director on a full-time basis until the end of the school year.

She said that Preston will be able to work up to 30 hours a week between the middle school and the high school.

A search for a permanent athletic director is on hold until the School Board finishes its review of the position’s requirements and the policy for hiring committees. Berger said the subcommitee would meet at the former Seminary Hill School on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

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

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

For the first time since the Lebanon High athletic director search went haywire last month, sanity returned to the process. If for only a few moments. And we have Linda Preston to thank for that respite. Preston, the longtime Lebanon Junior High athletic director, was approved to take over as temporary athletic director at the high school on Wednesday night …