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Lin-Wood hires interim Superintendent but controversy follows

July 13, 2011
LINCOLN It took just six minutes and very little discussion for the Lin-Wood Cooperative School Board to unanimously approve the hiring of Judith McGann, of Strafford, as the Interim Superintendent. "We have very high hopes," said Board Chair Judy Boyle at the meeting, "She'll be a good fit; strong in areas that we need."

But McGann is controversial.

In 2008, while serving as the Superintendent of SAU 44, that oversees the schools in Northwood, Nottingham and Strafford, McGann was fired for misusing federal funds.

Her attorney argued that that she was not allowed to contest her firing because she was denied important financial information essential to her defense. The State Board of Education agreed with McGann, but the school board appealed it to the state Supreme Court. In late May of this year, the court sided with the school board and upheld her firing.

The school board chose not to reveal any of this when they approved McGann. Later, when questioned about the circumstances surrounding McGann's firing, Boyle issued a written response praising, defending and then suggesting that McGann will be under the watchful eye of their able business administrator. Boyle said, "McGann came highly recommended by her former colleagues. Her most recent position has been that of Special Education Administrator in the Exeter School System." Boyle ignored the Supreme Court decision and rather focused on the Department of Education's earlier ruling in favor of McGann.

McGann's firing at SAU 44 was very controversial and unusual. Typically, school board-Superintendent disputes get settled outside of court and far from the public's eye. Many of the school board's complaints against McGann related to her failure to inform the board of stipend payments and financial information, but the Department of Education responded that there were no local policies to govern such actions and that her actions "were not inconsistent with Department practice."

The Supreme Court's focus was tailored to McGann's allegations that her due process was violated and that she didn't get a fair hearing, not the particular merits of the accusations against her. Beth Catenza, an attorney for the school board, said in a Concord Monitor article written by Karen Langley on May 28, 2011, the decision is significant for all New Hampshire school districts because it indicates hearings before a school board do not require the informational exchange of the formal discovery process. "It explicitly determined that school boards are not going to have to be dragged through arduous and expensive discovery in order to terminate a superintendent," Catenza said.

The court returned the case back to the Department of Education and this will be taken up at the state School Board's July 13--today. The purpose of this meeting has nothing to do with McGann's license or her ability to carry out her duties at the local school district.

McGann started work on July 11 and will be paid be paid $500 per day and will work three days a week.

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