Midd-West ousts acting superintendent

MIDDLEBURG – It was a familiar scene as two seats again remained vacant as the Midd-West School Board of Directors gathered Monday evening at Middleburg Elementary School.

More than 100 people were present at the meeting where the board unanimously approved a motion to oust interim Superintendent Daphne Snook. Snook had been the district’s acting superintendent since former Superintendent Wesley Knapp’s resignation in a similar scene this past fall.

The action followed a vote to suspend employee No. 1-2014 for a breach in email security, which board president Victor Abate said was discovered accidentally. It was unclear whether the votes were related.

In a second motion and 5-3 vote, the board accepted the resignation of former school board director Scott Norman.

A wave of public opposition followed the votes, as more than 10 members of the audience rose to encourage transparency and communication within the district. Many of the individuals who spoke referenced a caustic email penned by school board director Ronald Wilson to district staff and alleged charges against Wesley Knapp that were leaked to a local newspaper.

“I can’t say I trust this board anymore,” said Judy Buranich, who has been working within the district since 1978.

Buranich said she has been through the ups and downs with multiple school boards throughout the years. The email Wilson sent, she said, bothered her more than anything. Buranich said she has never had such a feeling of “utter contempt” and said it’s something the board needs to fix.

“Just because I retire doesn’t mean I’m going to go away,” she urged, explaining that she will be retiring at the end of the year. “I am a very eloquent writer … and I am not afraid to use that ability.”

Another individual ensured the board that the community would not be bullied into silence. Others praised district teachers and staff, but said the district can’t successfully serve its students without cohesive administration.

Nichole Stauffer, who served as Snook’s administrative assistant for several years, said Snook had a gentle heart and concern for students. She expressed concern for the job security of other administrative professionals in the district and warned that she heard of a “hit list” of staff the board intended to remove.

Solicitor Orris Knepp said district administration has a right to confidentiality. He said he does not know who leaked the charges against Knapp to the press, but called it “highly improper” and an “ongoing issue” that the board is handling.

“You don’t have a right to know what’s going on,” he said, explaining that the charges against Knapp and Snook are confidential and no information will be disclosed at this time.

“I know where your frustrations lie, not knowing,” said school board director Sherryl Wagner.

She ensured the public that the board has a reason for moving in the direction its going.

“We’re trying,” she said, explaining that fault does not lie in the board’s decisions, but in the actions of certain individuals.

Several board members, including Corey Smith, Wagner and Abate said Wilson’s email does not reflect the general opinion of the board.

“Please don’t hold the rest of us on that level,” Smith said. “We’re honestly trying to do what’s best.”

In the meantime, Norman’s resignation leaves a vacant chair on the board. Knepp said prior practice has been to allow interested individuals to come forward and the board will ultimately make a decision regarding the vacancy.