Members of the Lake Placid school board.
Lake Placid school board member Gerald Blair, a former superintendent of the school system, spoke out during the public comment section of a school budget hearing May 1 at Whiteface Mountain’s base lodge.
Blair’s comments were the most extensive that a board member has offered at a public meeting in response to a long-running hail of public criticism from taxpayers.
The former superintendent addressed the outrage over the controversial actions of current school superintendent Randy Richards and the board’s apparent disinclination to remove him from his post.
“This is not something where I am against you, but I am sick and tired to hearing — week, after week, after week — about how terribly we are handling the situation. I’m telling you: The situations are being handled.”
“I’m in the business of education, only been there for 48 years,” Blair said in a characteristic aside.
“I’m speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for anyone else on the board. Maybe a few facts might be helpful.”
Blair addressed the comments of individual critics of the school board.
“Tim Kelley: ‘Current board members are consistently ignoring the desires of the taxpayers and the public, to continue to defend a superintendent who has cost the district untold dollars.’”
“I’m not exactly sure of the untold dollars,” Blair said. “I’m sure there must be millions that somebody knows about that I’m not familiar with.”
“Any cost that has been incurred in any Mulderig case, the insurance paid for the lawyer. I want to repeat that: Insurance paid for the lawyer,” said Blair.
Kelley responded in a letter to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
“Who pays for the insurance if not the district?” wrote Kelley. “Once an insurance company pays a claim it usually follows that the premium for the insured will then increase.”
Blair, again quoting Kelley, said, “Tim mentioned, ‘The board seems to almost be pleased, if not proud, to let an elementary position go.’”
“No, we weren’t pleased,” Blair responded. “It was a tough task, but you have to remember we were under a tax cap. We had to unload $246,000. That can’t come from basketballs and it can’t come from pencils. I feel bad when a teacher has to go, but we went to the position that had the least number of children.”
Blair also addressed Robert Schiller’s statement that decisions related to the school budget appear to based on cost and efficiency rather than value to the future of the students.
“Let me bring to your attention that we are adding a number of courses,” Blair said. “What we’re trying to do, desperately, is give kids the absolute best that we can.”
Addressing school board candidate Mary Dietrich, Blair said, “I want to compliment you on somebody finally saying that we may need to get the facts before we make a decision. I consider that to be a real step forward. I haven’t heard anyone, since we got the petition (advocating removing Richards from his job), mention anything about facts. ‘This is how I feel. This is what we want you to do!’”
“There are some facts involved here, folks. I’m working with the facts, and I’m also working with a couple of lawyers.”
“If you went to the doctor, and the doctor told you to take these two pills and you’ll get cured, you can say, ‘The hell with the doctor, I’m not doing anything,’ or you can take the two pills. That’s called common sense.”
“Two lawyers told us to keep our mouths shut, ‘because, if you (say anything) things can happen,’” Blair said.