The Lake Placid Central School District has found itself in a messy situation with the accusation by middle-high school Principal Katherine Mulderig that she was
discriminated against because of her gender by Superintendent Randy Richards.
The Lake Placid News and its sister paper the Adirondack Daily Enterprise had been hearing rumors of the situation since the spring and it took until now for some of the facts to be made public.
Where we stand now is Richards took a step in the right direction last week by apologizing, in a letter sent to all
district staff members, for using an offensive slur for women to describe the female faculty of Lake Placid Elementary School. It's a good step, and despite the need to move
forward in a positive direction, there are still some
unanswered questions that must be answered, mainly by Richards and the school district, but also to Mulderig.
But let's start with Richards' offensive remarks. He
admitted he called the women at the elementary school "bitches" and said he was surprised they'd be offended by it. He was way out of line. Richards also wrote in an evaluation of Mulderig that she was "under a microscope" and had to be extra "cautious" because she was the middle-high school's first female principal.
The moment Mulderig "officially" made it an issue by
filing a gender-discrimination complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he should have come clean and apologized rather than hoping the matter would simply disappear.
Richards must be asked what was he thinking and explain why he allowed to situation to become more volatile with each passing day. He's not off the hook with just an apology.
The school board must explain why they did nothing when they learned of the situation in February when Mulderig first reported Mr. Richards' treatment of her to his overseer, the school board - namely, board President Phil Baumbach. Protocol dictated that Mulderig should have made a complaint to her supervisor, but could not since her supervisor was the same individual she was complaining against in Richards.
The school board should have taken action by insisting Richards make an apology or resign. But they too tried to make the incident disappear by sweeping it under the carpet.
Also, who is footing the bill for all this? Mulderig has said she has been paying out of pocket. What about Richards?
And finally, Mulderig must answer about the timing of her claims, which were made shortly after parents in the district formed and circulated not one, but TWO consecutive
petitions seeking her removal from the post of middle-high school principal. She quickly shifted from being on the defense to the offense. This is not a defense for Richards or his actions, or the inaction of the school board - they should have still took her claims seriously. But perhaps the board viewed Mulerig's claims as retaliatory and a way to take the heat off of herself.
No matter how one cuts it, this is not a good situation for the school district or the superintendent. His actions are
inexcusable as is the board's lack of action.
The question is: where does the school district go from here?
All of the aforementioned questions - and the questions of the taxpayers plus those from the media - must be answered. Then the school should take appropriate actions to move forward in a positive direction. It may mean asking both Richards and Mulderig to step down from their
respective posts - and leave this sorry mess behind.