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Splitting Norwalk school board

Alissa Widman Neese • Aug 23, 2014 at 8:14 PM


A career in education is full of targets, and longtime Norwalk Schools administrator Sue Goodsite is confident she's skilled enough to hit them all.

But no amount of training could've prepped her for an apparent bull's-eye on her back.

It appears a split Norwalk school board scrutinized Goodsite as she vied to become the district's superintendent, according to emails the Register obtained this week through a public records request.

Goodsite alleges board president John Lendrum offered her the job, and then retracted the offer to hire Will Folger, a hand-picked candidate who didn't apply, just days later.

She is the only finalist board members explicitly discussed in emails throughout the entire interview process.

Among the noteworthy conversations:

•On June 16, board member Kevin Cashen scolded Goodsite for emailing her application instead of submitting it to the educational service center assisting the district's search. He told Goodsite "it does matter where the application comes from" and "the process must be the same for all candidates," despite later agreeing to hire Folger, who didn't apply.

•On July 19, outgoing superintendent Dennis Doughty asked Lendrum how to reply to questions from board member Steve Linder about Goodsite's qualifications. Doughty eventually forwarded his response to Lendrum for approval.

•On July 23, Lendrum asked Linder if he gave Goodsite hints prior to her interview, because she answered a question so well.

•On July 29 — the day a split school board voted 3-2 to hire Folger — Lendrum emailed Doughty and Folger and said Goodsite "stated that if she was not selected as interim she would continue in her present contract and perform her duties to the best of her ability."

"It was a loaded question," Goodsite told the Register Friday. "I had already accepted the job two days prior, and we'd discussed it twice in detail."

On July 28, Folger attended his first and only meeting with the board. Linder also alleges deception and miscommunication.

"I was under the impression we were going to hire (Goodsite), and Folger was coming in to be introduced as the new assistant superintendent," Linder said earlier this month. "He had no references, no application, and I had no chance to do any research or prepare questions."

On July 29, Linder and board member Ralph Ritzenthaler voted against the hire, while Cashen, Lendrum and board member Rob Ludwig voted in for it.

"When I ran for the board of education, I had said that 'I believe in honesty, integrity, teamwork, accountability and open communication,'" Linder said Friday. "I am sorry that others do not share my beliefs."

The emails the Register obtained also indicate Lendrum withheld pertinent information about the district's superintendent search when the Register contacted him for updates July 18.

Two emails from Lendrum sent July 15 indicate two of the district's five superintendent candidates — Scott Will and Tim Winland — withdrew from the interview process. Lendrum never told the Register the two men were no longer contending for the position.

Lendrum did not return a message Friday seeking comment.

Goodsite retired from Norwalk Schools in 2013 after working 35 years with the district in various positions.

Shortly after, 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.

"I've given my heart and soul to this community," Goodsite said, "but if people ask me what happened, I'm telling them the truth."

A  document containing copies of all emails Norwalk Schools officials exchanged regarding the district's superintendent search is available below.

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