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Cosgriff to leave Lin-Wood at end of year

Asks school board not to renew his contract

January 15, 2011
LINCOLN—Michael Cosgriff, the embattled superintendent of SAU 68, the Lin-Wood Public School District, announced last week he was asking the school board not to renew his contract.

On Monday, Cosgriff said it wasn't a resignation but noted it had the same effect. His contract expires in June.

Cosgriff, 61, who has served as superintendent since 2005, has been the subject of a number of heated and well attended school board meetings, during which angry residents posed questions concerning the fate of equipment from the former industrial arts room, as well as his handling of their questions. A petition was submitted to the school board signed by over 100 residents asking the school board to ask for his resignation or to not renew his contract.

It was hard to continue working in such an environment, Cosgriff said. He said it was time to move on, that the remaining rewards of staying in the job were far outweighed by being away from his partner, who lives in Southampton, Mass., and by the increasingly bitter rhetoric directed at him.

"It's tough living apart from my partner, especially when a significant portion of the population doesn't want me here," Cosgriff said. "The upsetedness started turning the scales."

The questions started at a meeting in September when residents asked what had happened to heavy equipment from the former industrial arts room. They had discovered that equipment had been given to individuals in Lincoln and Woodstock without any kind of procedure or bid process being followed.

At the time, board members told residents the equipment was all accounted for and remained on school property. At a Nov. 23 meeting they conceded it was not, that board policy had been violated and that a member of the school administration had allowed property to be taken. They said the equipment was being recovered. Board members never said which member of the school administration was responsible, though residents pointed the finger at Cosgriff, with several saying they had lost all faith in him.

Such pressure made it difficult to do his job, Cosgriff said. With his impending departure, he said he hopes that some of the rhetoric can be toned down and that for his remaining months he can help the school prepare for responding to bills in the Legislature that might affect school funding.

The controversy that has swirled around him for the last few months took him by surprise, Cosgriff said.

"I feel like the proverbial deer in the headlight or a one-term Democratic Congressman defeated by a Tea Party candidate who suddenly doesn't know what he will be doing," Cosgriff said.

The statement wasn't entirely rhetorical, as Cosgriff said he is not sure what he will do at the end of year. He said he will be "pursuing other options," which may include returning to the classroom as a science teacher. He said he is almost to retirement age and that it is time to start concentrating on what is most important, including "going home every night to be with the one I love."

Serving in Lin-Wood was not all bad for him, however.

"I am very, very happy to have served here…there are some really spectacular people here," Cosgriff said.

Some people said they were glad to hear Cosgriff was leaving.

"I'm really pleased and think it's a smart move for him professionally," said John Ham, of Lincoln, one of two people who first brought up the issue of the missing industrial arts equipment back in September. "I haven't heard any negative feedback from anyone."

Judy Boyle, chairman of the Lin-Wood School board, agreed Monday the board would have to do a search for a superintendent but noted there has been no meeting since Cosgriff's withdrawal of his request to have his contract renewed, and thus could not comment on it.

The board was scheduled to meet last night but the matter was not on the agenda.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord & Osman
Alton School
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