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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 7, 2008
BKW super fills in for principal on medical leave
By Tyler Schuling
BERNE As Berne-Knox-Westerlos high school principal, Mary Petrilli, is on medical leave, the schools superintendent is now acting as interim principal.
Petrilli, the high schools principal since January of 2000, has been on medical leave since October of last year. Superintendent Steven Schrade, now acting as the interim high school principal, had been BKWs principal from September of 1990 to December of 1999 before he was hired as the schools superintendent. Petrilli, who earns $74,000 annually, is using her accumulated sick leave.
On Monday, Schrade was uncertain when Petrilli will return.
"At this time, it’s still undetermined. She has not requested an additional long-term medical leave of absence, so, right now, it’s sort of a day-to-day, day-by-day situation," Schrade said. "I keep in touch with her," he said. Those who wish to send a message along to Ms. Petrilli, he said, can do so through his office.
In October, Petrilli requested and the board granted a long-term leave of absence for medical reasons, said Schrade. Shortly after, BKW hired Ralph Lyons as its interim high school principal. Lyons, Schrade said, had been a middle-school principal at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk schools and, before, was a high school principal at the Duanesburg Central School District.
Lyons acted as BKWs interim high school principal from October through Dec. 21. He was paid $400 each day.
"The board has not hired another interim principal because, currently, Ms. Petrilli is not on an approved, extended leave of absence as she was prior to Christmas," Schrade said.
He differentiated between hiring a substitute teacher and an interim principal.
"It’s not like hiring a substitute teacher for a day who works from the lesson plans provided by the regular teacher who is out ill," he said. "In the case of a high school principal’s position, an interim can only practically be hired for a long term. He or she cannot work from lesson plans."
An interim, Schrade said, cannot be on call day to day and do an effective job, as there has to be some long-term continuity and vision for the school.
Schrade is not receiving any additional salary for the interim position.
He said of returning to a job he formerly held, "I enjoy it very, very much. At least half the staff is still working there as when I was principal so that makes it very comfortable."
And, of course, all the new teachers he had interviewed and hired, he said, are there as well so it is very easy working with the staff.
"And I enjoy being around the students," Schrade said. "That’s where the action is, and I enjoy the atmosphere, as busy as it is."
Fred Marcil is BKW’s full-time assistant principal, Schrade said, so he is almost always in the building. Coriellen Travis, BKW’s summer school principal, helps out "as needed," he said, and administrative intern, Michele Diamond, likewise, "can deal with some of the smaller issues" if he is at the district office.
BKW voters recently approved a plan to renovate the schools and BKW hired a new business administrator. The school board will soon begin drafting the budget for the upcoming school year.
Asked if he feels overworked, Schrade said, "Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and unable to accomplish all I wish to accomplish in either position." He added that Kimberly LaBelle, BKW’s assistant superintendent for elementary and special education, has taken on some additional tasks coordinating testing and conducting classroom observations, which he hasn’t had time to do.
"And she, too, is available to help with issues if I’m either at a meeting out of the district or occupied with something else," he said.
"Everybody’s pitching in to cover the situation," Schrade said. "I would say that it’s not an ideal situation, and we really can’t continue far into the future this way without there being some negative impact."
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