Board member quits to try for job

Shawn Gathen has resigned from the Board of Education to seek the recently created job of supervisor
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Shawn Gathen has resigned from the Board of Education to seek the recently created job of supervisor of buildings and grounds for the school district.

“I just felt it was a conflict of interest to be sitting on the board while I was applying for a position with the district,” Gathen said Monday.

Gathen’s resignation, which is expected to be accepted at Wednesday’s board meeting, was effective the day he submitted it on Jan. 23, according to board President F. Christian Spies.

How the board will fill Gathen’s seat probably won’t be decided for at least a few weeks, Spies said Monday.

If the board decides to appoint someone, interviews of candidates would likely be scheduled. “Speaking for myself, I’m not prepared to appoint anyone else at this point,” Spies said.

The board could call an election within 90 days, appoint a new member or let the BOCES superintendent appoint a member. An appointed member would still have to run for election to the remainder of Gathen’s three-year term in the regular May school district election.

“It looks like one way or another, the position would be filled by the May elections,” Spies said.

The job Gathen is seeking was created last month after the school board agreed to split up the transportation and buildings and grounds duties into two supervisor positions. George Wilber, who formerly handled the jobs, retired on Jan. 31 after 34 years as the district’s head custodian.

The new jobs have been advertised with an annual salary range of range of $40,000 to $52,000, said district Superintendent Brian Sherman. Interviews will start next week for the buildings and grounds position, Sherman said. Preliminary interviews have been completed for the transportation post, he said. Six applicants from an existing civil service list sought the transportation job.

A total of 21 applications for the buildings and grounds post were received by last Friday’s deadline, according to district Business Manager Robert Bonaker.

Whoever is hired would have to pass a civil service test.

Gathen was elected to the board in May 2006 to fill the remaining year of former board member Edward LaBadia, who resigned.

At the time, the district was embroiled in controversy over its budget. The board had to quickly revise a proposed $19 million budget it had already agreed to send to voters after learning that then-business administrator David Hodgkinson miscalculated tax impacts. Hodgkinson later resigned.

“That [budget] was one of the major reasons I got involved, mainly for that reason,” said Gathen, who manages the Oneonta branch of Blake Equipment, a distributor of well pumps.

Voters ended up defeating the budget that year, forcing the district into a contingency budget.

Neither Bonaker nor Sherman worked for the district when the 2006 budget snafu erupted. Three of the board’s seven seats were up for election when Gathen won his seat that year, after two other board members, Barbara Sharpe and James Goblet, did not run for re-election.

Gathen was re-elected in May 2007, with a full three-year term that began July 1.

“I think we’ve accomplished a lot over the last 18 months,” Gathen said. “We tried not to micromanage.”

Gathen said better retirement benefits, as well as reducing his commute to work from 90 miles to six, round-trip, were among the reasons he’s seeking the building and grounds position.

While the total pay for the two new jobs will exceed the approximately $89,000 per year paid Wilber as head custodian, the net impact on the district, if the new supervisors take full benefits, will be only about $13,000, according to Bonaker. State aid will reimburse 80 percent of the transportation supervisor’s pay, Bonaker said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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