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Residents seek removal of Lin-wood superintendent

Present petition with over 100 signatures

Art McGrath/The Littleton Courier Lincoln resident Jim Spanos presenting a petition to Lin-Wood School Board Chair Judy Boyle asking for the resignation or removal of Lin-Wood Superintendent Michael Cosgriff. (click for larger version)
December 01, 2010
LINCOLN– A large crowd gathered at the Lin-Wood School last Tuesday, Nov. 23, to present a petition demanding the resignation of Superintendent Michael Cosgriff and accountability for missing equipment from the industrial arts room.

The petition, with over 100 signatures, was presented by Lincoln resident James Spanos to School Board Chairman Judy Boyle at the end of a long and contentious meeting during which residents questioned the School Board's handling of the question of missing equipment and Cosgriff's handling of the district, including a proposal that he take on the additional duties of a retiring administrator for $30,000 more a year.

Though the latter proposal was withdrawn by Cosgriff himself as being too time consuming for him, many people at the meeting said it said much about Cosgriff, that he was looking ahead towards retirement and trying to increase his pay in advance of that date.

Woodstock resident Susan Young started out the discussion during public input by reading a prepared statement to the board about the state of education in the district and New Hampshire as a whole. She said that the district, once listed as an excellent school district, now rates far lower. She and her husband left for a time to live in Michigan and that things changed during their absence.

"In 1998 due to a corporate transfer, we moved to Michigan," Young said. "When we left in January of 1998 the Lin Wood school system was an award winning cooperative school district…The award winning middle school of Excellence for three years running when we left in 1998 had, by 2006 rankings, sunk to a position of 69 out of 108, the 36th percentile. That's from the bottom…. 64 percent of the middle schools in New Hampshire ranked above Lin-Wood Middle School."

Young said she learned that the Lin-Wood School was now listed as a School in Need of Improvement. She gave the board members the copy of a state report she said presented the state of the Lin-Wood School.

Cosgriff's previous suggestion to take over the duties of director of elementary education, a job currently held by soon to retire Assistant Principal Mike Weaver, was not received well by residents.

This would have netted him an additional $30,000 a year, putting him at around $130,000 annually, far more than superintendents of other comparable districts get paid, Christie Dovholuk said. She compared Cosgriff's pay, around $97,000 a year, with other districts around the state, including nearby towns such as Littleton, and noted that districts with larger populations and superintendents with more responsibilities pay no more than Lin-Wood.

She said that superintendent was already a fulltime job and that adding another position to his job description would mean that duties would fall through the cracks.

Holding up two imaginary glasses, she poured water from one to another.

"If you pour a full glass into another full glass, where will the spillage go?" Christie Dovholuk said.

While the issue of the director of elementary education was contentious, the issue of unaccounted gear from the industrial arts room drew the most heat.

The issue was first brought to the School Board's attention on Sept. 14, at which time the board and members of the administration said all equipment from the industrial arts room was accounted for. During last week's meeting a list of all the equipment was presented to the public by the board, including its description and location. Some equipment had left school property and was in the hands of private individuals throughout the district.

Boyle said the equipment had been distributed so it would be used and still be accessible but that this was done without any kind of procedure set in place for its distribution, including seeking bids. She apologized and said mistakes had been made but that there was no malicious intent in any of the actions. Boyle said the distribution of the equipment was made by members of the administration without board knowledge.

The board only discovered within the last few weeks that school equipment had been moved off campus and immediately took steps to get it back.

Resident John Ham was angry and said Cosgriff had lied to him and other members of the public.

"I got lied to, lied to, lied to, week after week. I've lost all trust in that man," Ham said, pointing at Cosgriff.

Boyle said that those responsible had apologized and taken responsibility. Because the issue was a personnel matter, any disciplinary action or discussion of the individuals involved would be discussed during a non-public session of the board later that night.

Legal counsel would be sought to discuss what if anything could be discussed with the public, board members said.

When Spanos presented the petition asking for the removal or resignation of Cosgriff, he said residents knew the petition carried no legal weight but hoped board members would keep the views of the public in mind.

This was not the first controversy surrounding Cosgriff. After he was first hired in 2005 it was discovered that he had lost his job as a superintendent in Northampton, Mass., in 2004 after being arrested after a domestic dispute during which he brought a gun to his girlfriend's house.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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