LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid Middle-High School Principal Katherine Mulderig won't be in her office when students return from spring break on Monday, or perhaps ever again. Her office is all packed up.
District Superintendent Randy Richards said in an email Friday that Mulderig "is on Personal Leave" and didn't say anything else. But a district employee says Mulderig told him/her that she has accepted a settlement offer from the district and won't return at all.
The employee spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of losing their job.
"She had all these boxes packed (in her office), so I asked her what she was doing," the employee said. "That's when we got into the conversation that she was leaving. She had had enough."
Several other sources have confirmed that the office is empty, but they, too, declined to give their names due to the sensitivity of the situation.
The school was locked Thursday. Next door at the district office, neither Office Manager Karen Angelopoulos nor Business Manager Leonard Sauers would confirm or deny that Mulderig had left.
Several phone and email messages were left for Mulderig and her attorney, Phillip Steck of the Albany-based law firm Cooper Erving & Savage, on Friday. Those messages had been unreturned as of this afternoon.
School board President Phil Baumbach refused to confirm or deny that Mulderig left.
"I have to handle this as a personnel issue and as pending litigation," Baumbach said Friday.
Mulderig filed a complaint against Richards with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year. She said he told her the community wouldn't accept a woman as principal of the middle-high school and that he might switch her to elementary principal so he could have someone "bitchier" oversee the "bitchy" female teachers there. Richards has since admitted to, and apologized for, using offensive language in a private conversation with Mulderig but not to gender discrimination.
Earlier this year, however, the EEOC determined that Richards did engage in gender discrimination and retaliation, and created a hostile work environment for Mulderig. She told the News at the time she might file a lawsuit if the situation wasn't remedied. She also indicated that her case went well beyond the "bitchy" remarks.
Richards and the district's Board of Education have repeatedly declined to comment on the matter, citing personnel issues and potential litigation.
The anonymous employee said that Mulderig has been emotionally "beat up pretty bad" over the last several months. According to the individual, Mulderig said the district had made her several offers that she had turned down, and that the final offer was the one she accepted, which means she will not return to the district as principal of the middle-high school.
Students in third through eighth grades take state-administered English language arts tests this week from Monday to Friday.
School officials have not announced the news that Mulderig left to teachers and parents. One parent, Linda Wallace, said that she was disappointed about the lack of communication about the principal's employment status.
"As a parent, I would expect that if the principal is on leave for some period of time, there would be a communication from the school indicating who is filling in for her," she said.