By DARLA M. YOUNGS
The road ahead continues to be rocky for Schenevus Central School District, as documents requested via the New York State Freedom of Information Law reveal former superintendent Theresa Carlin had filed a complaint through the state’s Division of Human Rights against the district. According to its website, the New York State Division of Human Rights “is dedicated to eliminating discrimination, remedying injustice, and promoting equal opportunity, access, and dignity through enforcement of the Human Rights Law.”
According to the “Release and Resignation Agreement” secured through a FOIL request by Schenevus Central School taxpayer Nicole Miskell to the district, “It is expressly understood and agreed that Ms. Carlin withdraws the complaint filed by Ms. Carlin through the State Division of Human Rights under Case No.: 10218738.”
The agreement also states, “It is understood and agreed that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims and is not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of any persons named herein, including the Schenevus Central School District, its officers, Board Members, employees, agents.
“The agreement is not to be considered or construed as an admission of a liability on the part of the above-named persons, nor is it an admission that the District, its officers, Board Members, employees, or agents took any unlawful act or that its conduct in any way violated any State, Federal or Local Law, Rule, or Regulation.”
In a missive delivered to the Schenevus Board of Education and released as part of the FOIL request, Carlin wrote, “I am resigning from my position as Superintendent of Schools effective December 31, 2022 contingent upon the signed and adopted separation agreement dated December 27, 2022. I am resigning from my position with regret as I have enjoyed working with the students and staff of Schenevus for the past 4-1/2 years but take with me a great deal of knowledge and experience from my time at Schenevus.”
According to the agreement, the district will pay Carlin the salary of $137,000.00 through December 31, 2023 on a biweekly schedule and will compensate Carlin for 30 unused vacation days and 30 unused sick days, “on or before January 15, 2023, at the rate of 1/240th of Ms. Carlin’s salary.” Other stipulations of the agreement focus on the terms of health, dental and vision insurance, and retiree coverage.
“In exchange for the agreement contained herein and the promises and covenants contained herein,” the document reads, “Theresa Carlin, on behalf of herself and her family, agents, executors, administrators, heirs and assigns, shall fully release and forever discharges the Schenevus Central School District, the Board of Education thereof, and all officers, employees, and agents of the District, as well as its predecessors, successors and assigns, from any and all claims, complaints, causes of action, whatsoever exist as of the date of this agreement.”
The agreement reached between Carlin and the Board of Education regards the release and resignation as confidential and a privileged communication between the parties. Neither party is allowed to disseminate or release information regarding the agreement except to “Ms. Carlin’s immediate family, her attorneys or her accountants provided that this confidentiality provision shall not be construed to prohibit a disclosure required by law.”
Carlin may, however, discuss and respond to questions regarding the agreement with a potential employer and/or search consultant, so long as she makes no statement disparaging of the district, the Board of Education or employees of the district.
Finally, point 13 of the agreement reads, “It is understood and agreed that Theresa Carlin waives and releases any and all claims which she had, may have, or have at the present time, up to the date of this agreement for any claim related to age discrimination or discrimination in violation of … the ADEA [Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967].
Miskell had requested this and other documents as per Freedom of Information Law, to determine why the district had hired a second law firm.
“My interest was sparked initially back in April or May of 2022. It was brought up at a board meeting that a special counsel had been hired by the Board of Education, and I wanted to know what that was about. If taxpayers are paying for a special counsel, we deserve to know why,” Miskell recalled.
Then rumors about a lawsuit begin to circulate.
“I’ve had to FOIL constantly to get information being withheld from the taxpayers. First I received vague information on the board paying over $10,000 on special counsel. After reviewing Theresa Carlin’s agreement with the board, it’s now clear the two were related,” Miskell continued.
“I FOIL documents once a month now, because it is the only way to get information. If I ask questions, I don’t get answers,” Miskell said.
Miskell also researched the process of petitioning for a revote on the Schenevus/Worcester school district merger originally rejected by Schenevus residents on December 1, 2021 by a vote of 509-254. She submitted a petition calling for a revote on December 2.
According to the Schenevus Central School website: “The district has received an order, signed by Commissioner Rosa, setting the date of the merger annexation revote. The revote will take place on February 15, 2023. Please continue to check the website for updates concerning this revote. Also check the Voting Information page on what needs to be done to obtain [an] absentee ballot.”
Carlin’s term at Schenevus was riddled with problems. Stepping into the role of superintendent in 2018, she inherited a financial crisis—the district was facing a deficit of $750,000.00, with no money in savings or reserves. This ultimately prompted the grant-funded study which recommended that Schenevus and Worcester should merge, followed by a contentious lead-up to the Schenevus vote.
In a recent interview, Carlin said the Schenevus Central School District’s annual operating budget is $9 million and confirmed that the $2 million in reserves secured during her administration would not make a difference if the school were to find itself in financial trouble again.
“I was seen as pro-merger,” Carlin explained, “but I simply promoted what the data showed me to be a good idea.”
None of the members of the Schenevus Board of Education, or Theresa Carlin, had responded to inquiries as of press time.
Editor’s Note: Theresa Carlin reached out to our office on Wednesday morning, January 18. She had not seen the original message inviting her to comment. This is what Carlin had to say: “I’d love to give a comment and share the story, but am not able due to the NDA, but want to stress how much I miss the students and staff.”