School Board votes to terminate 2 principals

Tuxedo. Students and other community members sought answers as board members voted to terminate Roy Reese and Dolores Terlecky.

| 23 Jun 2023 | 10:58

A packed crowd of students and community members showed up at the June 21 Tuxedo Union Free School District (TUFSD) board meeting in support of Roy Reese, former principal of George F. Baker High School, and Dolores Terlecky, former principal of George Grant Mason Elementary School.

A letter sent out to the district on June 12 said that Reese and Terlecky were “no longer active” within the school district. The letter included information about John Xanthis and Michael Cogliano, the interim principals appointed to fill Reese and Terlecky’s roles respectively for the remainder of the school year.

Reese had served for 18 years as principal at Goshen High School and superintendent at both Goshen and Washingtonville for 10 years. He retired in 2019 but came out of retirement in 2021 to serve as both high school principal and assistant superintendent for the TUFSD.

Like Reese, Terlecky was a well-known school administrator, having served as the principal of Central Valley Elementary School and assistant principal for North Main Elementary School. She also came out of retirement to fill her role in the TUFSD.

Appointment controversy

Xanthis was previously the Valley Central School District superintendent. He abruptly retired in June 2022, following controversy over a decision to let students attend school while violent threats that were not yet dismissed by the local police department were circulating – a decision that faced community backlash.

“We understand that the [Central Valley] school district sent notice this morning, June 6, 2022, regarding this incident, stating the threat was unfounded,” Village of Montgomery Police Department said in a statement last year concerning the event under Xanthis’ administration (according to a statement released on social media by Chief W. R. Herlihy). “However, our investigation was still ongoing at that time.”

Public eager to comment

Students and community members waited over two hours to speak at the school board meeting as the executive session stretched from 6 p.m. to close to 9 p.m. Public comments lasted for over an hour as people demanded answers and discussed safety concerns about the departure of the principals and their replacements.

Multiple students reported feeling “silenced” and had “no say” in terminating two seemingly impactful leaders.

Senior Chima Oparaji started a petition for the return of Reese and Terlecky and collected over 600 signatures from Tuxedo Park, Monroe, Goshen and Chester residents.

“I want [the board] to think about how much Mr. Reese and Ms. Terlecky did for our district. Both came out of retirement to come back and be with our school district,” Oparaji said.

Voting tally

Following emotional speeches and pleas to not approve the terminations, the board voted 5-2, confirming Reese and Terleckey’s departure. School board members Daniel Castricone and Gary Heavner opposed the terminations.

“I do not authorize [Superintendent Joseph White] to spend over a thousand dollars a day for people we don’t need, who the kids don’t know, and who I have never met,” Heavner said.

“I was certainly very proud of the students and the community and how they came out and expressed their appreciation and affection for Mr. Reese and Mrs. Terleckey,” Castricone said. “While I can’t speak on behalf of the board, I am very grateful for the contributions Mr. Reese and Ms. Terleckey made to the district, and I voted to retain them at the school.”

The vote to approve Xanthis and Cogliano’s appointments was four to three, as school board member William Givens opposed along with Castricone and Heavner.

There was also a motion approved to ban Reese and Terleckey from attending the June 22 graduation.

Although the reason behind the terminations is still unclear, some people have suggested that the outgoing administrators were being paid too much, or that one of the incoming administrators is friends with a board member.

“The district’s policy is to not comment on the specifics of personnel matters. We thank Mr. Reese and Ms. Terklecky for their contributions and wish them well in the future,” White said in response to a request for comment.