The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York


April 22, 2011

New choice for district chief could prove controversial


The Katonah-Lewisboro board of education announced Tuesday that it expects to appoint Paul Kreutzer the next Katonah-Lewisboro Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Kreutzer is currently the superintendent of the school district of New Berlin, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee with a population of almost 40,000. The board expects to make Dr. Kreutzer’s appointment official during its Tuesday, April 26, public meeting.

Dr. Kreutzer is being offered $245,000 per year, according to Mark Lipton, vice president of the Katonah-Lewisboro school board.

Even before his appointment, the designation of Dr. Kreutzer as Katonah-Lewisboro superintendent is not sitting well with some staff at the district, including teachers union representative Sandy Grebinar. 

“I am concerned about his ethical moral compass,” Ms. Grebinar said. “I am concerned about his scruples and his grit.”

Ms. Grebinar is concerned about “grit” because Dr. Kreutzer stood with Governor Scott Walker during the recent public union collective bargaining controversy in Wisconsin, which drew national headlines. “Is he so moldable that he can mold to any form?” Ms. Grebinar asked. “Where does his ethical compass point?”

According to Ms. Grebinar, much of the concern about Dr. Kreutzer comes from his association with Gov. Walker, as the governor challenged the unions’ right to engage in collective bargaining and negotiation.

“He was the only superintendent in the entire state who stood with the governor,” said Ms. Grebinar.

A teacher in the New Berlin School District, Diane Lazewski, issued a statement to her membership after the governor’s rally. “You can imagine the kick in the gut we felt when our superintendent and school board held a press conference with Walker supporting his stripping of our bargaining rights,” she said.

Steven Cupery, representative for the teachers union in New Berlin, Wis., said that Mr. Kreutzer had impinged on rights of teachers in his district. “We are concerned about the status of the law that Kreutzer supports that would lift just cause protection and due process protections,” he said. “We’re not talking tenure; we are talking due process. We are talking about ordinary protections that most Americans would want on the job.”

According to Mr. Cupery, Dr. Kreutzer volunteered to join the governor at his anti-union rally. Mr. Cupery said that Dr. Kreutzer freely offered to publicly express “that he was excited about putting the tools in place to suppress unions.”

According to a March broadcast from Wisconsin Public Radio, Gov. Walker’s plans include reducing state aid to schools by nearly $900 million and allowing districts to reduce teacher benefits and decide who stays and who goes.

According to the March public radio report, Gov. Walker singled out Dr. Kreutzer and said, “We’ve got a superintendent here who says, ‘Yeah, I’ll stand up and talk about it because we like what we see.’”

According to the report, Dr. Kreutzer says “taking power away from teachers unions and giving more to the administration will enable it to rebuild the community’s schools from the ground up.”

Directed by the New Berlin board of ed?

Katonah-Lewisboro school board vice president Mark Lipton said that superintendents work for boards of education. They are hired to carry out the policies of the board and are licensed by the state to carry out duties.

“The superintendent functions as an agent of the board,” Mr. Lipton said. “He comes from a different state with a different set of political realities.”

Mr. Lipton said that it was “inappropriate” to judge Mr. Kreutzer by the performance of his duties in New Berlin, and “to consider that these constitute a political philosophy that would be carried over to his new position here.”

Mr. Lipton said that Dr. Kreutzer was hired because of his educational philosophy. “As far as any political agenda he might have, he would work for the board of education here, and what we know about Katonah-Lewisboro and New York State is that public employees enjoy collective bargaining rights,” said Mr. Lipton.

In addition to concerns about the propriety of Dr. Kreutzer’s attendance at Gov. Walker’s rally, Mr. Cupery cited a lawsuit against the New Berlin School District and Dr. Kreutzer for transferring $7.1 million from a medical benefit fund to the district’s general fund, an act Mr. Cupery says is illegal.

In addition, a blog written by Linda Richter, a former New Berlin school board member who chronicles school activities, stated that an incident occurred at New Berlin West High School in March that created a stir.

“It seems superintendent Paul Kreutzer spotted a male student who had his head down on the desk during first-hour study hall in the cafeteria,” Ms. Richter wrote on her blog. “Displeased, Dr. Kreutzer confronted the boy and asked for his ID.”

She wrote that the study hall supervisor, a 10-year employee, was confronted and reportedly reduced to tears, as was the student.

According to Ms. Richter’s blog, two academically high-achieving senior girls brought this matter to the general public’s attention at a New Berlin school board meeting. The students expressed dismay and concerns about what had happened. One girl referred to the reprimanded student as having “learning disabilities.”

Ms. Richter spoke with one of those girls and her parent. According to Ms. Richter’s blog, both clearly believed Dr. Kreutzer’s conduct had been inappropriate. 

Board describes ‘exhaustive process’

Mr. Lipton, vice president of the Katonah-Lewisboro School board of education, said that the search for a superintendent was extensive, and if any irregularities existed in Dr. Kreutzer’s history, they would have been uncovered.

“The process to find a superintendent is exhaustive,” he said. “It starts with 60 or so candidates, and the search consultants narrow it down to six or seven.”
All during the process, the consultants and others do background checks and interviews with school staff, parents and others.

“Nothing along the lines of bringing a staff member to tears or berating a student ever came up anywhere,” Mr. Lipton said. “I can’t comment on rumors, but I can tell you we did thorough, complete and exhaustive search, and I stand behind the decision that we made.”

According to Mr. Lipton, the Katonah-Lewisboro board supports the right to collectively bargain. “We are comfortable that he shares our perspective,” he said.

When asked about the transfer of $7.1 million from the benefit fund to the general fund alleged by Mr. Cupery, Mr. Lipton said that he would have no comment. However, Mr. Lipton suggested that a transfer of that nature does not happen because of a superintendent alone, but could happen only after a meeting among lawyers and accountants and the board.

Mr. Lipton said that Dr. Kreutzer would bring strong educational skills to the district. “He was the youngest superintendent in Wisconsin, and we believe he was the youngest superintendent for a reason,” said Mr. Lipton. “I am going to leave it to him to share his educational philosophy with the public. It is not up to us, the school board, to do that.”

He said that the school board believes that the work the board is doing now fits in with Dr. Kreutzer’s philosophy and strengths. “I think the community is going to be very impressed with the quality of work this guy does educationally, and ultimately, what we are hiring is an education leader,” Mr. Lipton said.

Mr. Lipton said that there was no shortage of people willing to testify to Dr. Kreutzer’s educational philosophy and effective leadership.

Each of the seven members of the New Berlin school board was called individually by The Record-Review. Not one member returned a call.

Dr. Kreutzer’s office was called twice without response.

Dr. Kreutzer currently earns $166,000 per year in New Berlin. He will be replacing interim superintendent Robert Roelle. Michael Jumper currently is serving in that role.

A special meeting on the appointment of Dr. Kreutzer will take place Tuesday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m., at the John Jay High School Library. It is expected that the board will approve the hiring of Dr. Kreutzer at the meeting.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


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