Employee placed on leave wants to know why
Finance director says district has not renewed her contract
GREENVILLE — Some residents are calling for answers after learning from Mascenic School District Director of Financial Services Jenifer Krook — who has been on paid administrative leave since November — that her contract has not been renewed for the next school year.
Meanwhile, the district has allocated more than $130,000 for contracted employees to fill Krook’s position, as well as an IT services job, and to conduct on-site audits.
In November, the district released an internal controls audit, which detailed alleged misuse of district and grant funds, issues of overlapping duties within the SAU offices, and excessive line-item transfers within the district budget. District officials have declined to comment on whether any action has been taken in the SAU office as a result of the audit. Shortly following the audit’s release, Krook was placed on paid administrative leave.
Also absent from the office has been IT Director Ben Kilar. The district has hired outside contractors to fill the IT support and business administrator positions, but has declined to confirm Kilar or Krook’s employment status, other than that both are currently employed by the district. Supt. Ruthann Goguen also declined to comment on whether Kilar or Krook’s employment have been renewed for the coming year. However, a petition has been circulated among voters of the district on behalf of Krook. The petition states that Krook’s contract has not been renewed for the coming year.
According to Krook’s husband, Mark Krook, Krook was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 7, 2013, and was walked out of her office by School Board members Jeff Salmonson and Earl Somero. The reason for this leave was to conclude an investigation into a personnel issue. According to Mark Krook, his wife has not been contacted about any resolution of the investigation, but she recently received notice that her employment had not been renewed.
The Krooks then began circulating a petition, signed by voters in New Ipswich and Greenville, seeking a special meeting of the school district to determine the basis for the decision not to renew Krook’s contract as the director of financial services. The petition also asks for a procedural due process for Krook in regards to the ending of her contract, including the right to question Goguen about the non-renewal of the contract. It also requested that the School Board conduct a hearing to investigate Krook’s and other administrator’s non-renewals, and the expense involved in contracting employees to both cover administrative positions while Krook and Kilar have been on leave and to conduct an administrative investigation, to make sure they are in the district’s best interests. This petition was sent to the School District, and received on April 22.
In a letter addressed to Mark Krook and the petitioners who signed the petition, School Board Chair Richard Wallace addressed the petition. In the letter, Wallace stated that the petition contained 67 signatures of possible registered voters of the district. However, he noted, it lacked the required signatures necessary to petition a special meeting of the district under RSA 195:13, which governs petitions for cooperative school district meetings. Under that RSA, the petitioners would be required to obtain at least 5 percent of the registered voters in the district.
“Additionally, it is the position of the School Board that employment and personnel matters involving school district employees, and the SAU personnel in particular, i.e., the business administrator, are not proper subjects for a school district meeting. RSA 194-C:5, III expressly delegates to the SAU Board the authority to hire, pay and remove central office administrators. While the School Board understands the basis for the request, employment matters are not within the scope of the business of the legislative body of the Mascenic Regional School District,” Wallace wrote. “As the school district lacks jurisdiction over this matter, even with the requisite signatures, the School Board may deem it necessary to decline the request for a Special School District Meeting.”
Krook declined to comment on the matter in an interview, on recommendation of her legal counsel. Kilar did not return messages requesting comment by press time Wednesday.
During Monday’s School Board meeting, New Ipswich resident Linda Kivela spoke about the petition. Kivela noted that she was “bothered terribly” about the rumors she had been hearing about the district, and the lack of communication between the district and the public. “This is a serious matter,” she said. “Myself and many others would like some answers.”
Wallace replied that he would take Kivela’s comments under advisement, but could not address them, as they involved personnel matters that, under law, he was not able to speak to.
“Somehow I knew you were going to say that,” Kivela said.
Mark Krook, who attended Monday’s meeting, also spoke on the issue, saying that in the past comments he had made were taken under advisement by the board, including suggestions to tape School Board meetings, reinstate a student representative to the board, and include public comments in the minutes, but have not been acted upon. Krook said he had both stated his requests verbally during past meetings and submitted written requests. He also agreed with Kivela that the board had not been upfront with the public, noting that two of the board members from New Ipswich campaigned on platforms of transparency. “You said, ‘We want people to know what’s going on.’ This door being shut in our face is ridiculous,” he said, referring to nonpublic sessions held by the board, including a nonpublic session before the open meeting Monday. “There’s no feedback, no comment, no transparency.”
According to School Board minutes for April 14, the district is currently contracting employees from Municipal Resources Inc. for both the IT and business manager positions. During the April meeting, the board agreed to expend $52,395 to continue services from Municipal Resources for IT support, business support and on-site audits through June 30. Including that expenditure, the district will spend a total of $134,999.45 from November through June 30 for Municipal Resources contracted employees, according to the minutes.
During Monday’s board meeting, the board discussed whether there might be a need for more comprehensive services from the Municipal Resources employees through the end of June. According to the April 14 board minutes, the employees are working between six and seven hours a week, when a work week of between 22 and 30 hours is recommended. On Monday, the School Board discussed whether to approve an additional $27,500 for the additional work, but did not make a decision.