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Norwalk Schools rehires Folger

Alissa Widman Neese • Aug 13, 2014 at 12:17 PM


Outraged Norwalk Schools stakeholders scolded a divisive school board Tuesday, alleging personal agendas, lies and miscommunication marred its recent superintendent search.

On July 29, a split school board voted 3-2 to hire Will Folger, of Huron, as its interim superintendent for one year.

Folger did not apply for the position, and Tuesday's meeting agenda indicated his background checks, as well as tuberculosis tests and other "appropriate paperwork" were still pending. 

One finalist — longtime Norwalk Schools administrator Sue Goodsite — alleges school board members offered her the position just days before Folger's surprise hire.

"I was told I was being offered the superintendent's job," Goodsite said earlier this month in an interview with the Norwalk Reflector.

The controversial move has shocked the Norwalk community.

Additionally, the legality of the decision has been scrutinized, as a public notice announcing the special July 29 meeting didn't indicate any hires would occur.

On Tuesday, board members agreed to rescind their July 29 vote because of "potential irregularities," and then recast an identical 3-2 vote.

Community members spoke out against the board majority — comprised of Kevin Cahsen, John Lendrum and Rob Ludwig — and their alleged unethical practices. 

Norwalk residents Bob Germond and Duane Moore were the most vocal of the bunch.

"You're not here for the children, you're here for your own personal agendas, and you've lost a lot of credibility and respect in this town," Germond said.

Lendrum, the board's president, refused to answer any of Germond's questions regarding the hire.

Board member Steve Linder, who voted against the hire, also spoke against the alleged mistreatment of Goodsite. The other dissenting vote was board member Ralph Ritzenthaler.

Outgoing superintendent Dennis Doughty simply handed board members Folger's resume, and Folger attended one closed-door interview on July 28, Linder said.

"The application process wasn't followed," Linder said. "I was under the impression we were going to hire (Goodsite), and Folger was coming in to be introduced as the new assistant superintendent. He had no references, no application, and I had no chance to do any research or prepare questions."

One community member demanded the three board members who voted in favor of Folger's hire resign immediately.

Germond questioned if the board's decision was fueled by gender discrimination.

Additionally, he noted the move could prevent the district from securing new levy funding in the future.

The only attendee Tuesday who spoke in favor of the school board's decision was Barb Widman, the superintendent's secretary.

"I can't sit idly by and listen to anyone break down this board," Widman said. "There is no one here more ethical than these three board members."

Widman said she "liked Goodsite," but noted Folger was clearly the more qualified candidate.

"I don't care if the process wasn't correct," she said. "The best person for the district, and for its students, is sitting in that chair now."

Goodsite did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

She retired in 2013 after working 35 years with Norwalk Schools in various positions.

Shortly after she retired, officials rehired Goodsite as assistant superintendent and curriculum and grants director, her title since 2011. 

Her contract is effective throughout the 2014-15 school year, and despite the recent controversy, she has said she intends to stay with the district for the remainder of the agreement.

Folger retired in December 2013 as superintendent of Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools after nine years. He has 40 years of experience in education.

He will replace Doughty, who retired July 31 after five years as Norwalk Schools superintendent. He is now president of Norwalk Catholic School.

The Register has submitted a public records request to the district for Folger's salary, as well as other public documents regarding his hire.

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