Clarkstown School Superintendent announced Tuesday afternoon that she accepted a new position and was resigning from the district effective June 30. Dr. Keller-Cogan, who led the district for six years, notified parents and staff by email. She met later in the afternoon with school principals.
Keller-Cogan will be the new head of school for the Elmwood Franklin School in the City of Buffalo. The prekindergarten through eighth grade independent school is not part of the New York State School system. The school’s enrollment numbers 343 students.
“I’m thrilled with the opportunity to work more closely with children and their families,” said Keller-Cogan.
Long-running friction between Keller-Cogan and the board of education moved into the spotlight when a majority of the board voted in August to hire a search consultant firm to find a new superintendent.
Rhea Vogel, who served previously as a school board trustee, said the superintendent did some impressive things for the Clarkstown schools despite the differences of opinion with the board.
“It’s a sad day in Clarkstown that we’re losing a superintendent of excellent quality that has had a beleaguered administration,” noted Vogel.
“I had a tremendous amount of respect for her. I would have liked Meg Keller-Cogan to work in the district another seven, 10 years,” said Vogel, who is the president of the Clarkstown North High School PTSA.
Board Trustee Joe Malgieri described Keller-Cogan as a true professional.
“I’m sad to see her leave,” he said. “I’m glad that she will be appreciated.”
District parents voiced their thoughts about the superintendent and the school board.
"I feel that it was time for her to resign, “ said April Forman, who has a son at Clarkstown North and another child who graduated from North. “The community on the whole is extremely divided on her, but personally I was ready for her to leave."
"It was the way she ran the district that I didn't like,” said Forman. “My kids play sports, and it never really seemed like she supported the sports programs."
Forman said she was unhappy with the administration’s decisions about the new bleachers at the North football field.
Other parents supported the embattled superintendent.
"I think it's a very big mistake,” said Dr. Jay Levine, who has two teens attending high school. “The school board was wrong to want her to go and to let her leave. She was an excellent superintendent."
Levine said the board should have been forthcoming with its reasons for wanting to replace Keller-Cogan.
"If they had issues with her, we didn't know them,” he said. “There's no transparency. I'm not even sure if the board members who wanted her gone told each other why they didn't want her back. We in the public certainly didn't know.”
Levine went on to criticize the board for not treating the superintendent and the residents of Clarkstown fairly.
“Maybe there are legitimate reasons,” Levine said. “We don't know. Whoever voted against her was irresponsible and not fit to be on the school board."
Another resident with a child in high school thought the issue lasted too long and was “politics as usual.”
"It seems like they've been trying to get rid of her for a while,” he said. “It dragged out. If you want someone fired then just fire them. Don't drag it out like this."
Keller-Cogan is looking to the future. She said it will be a great career opportunity for her to apply much of what she has learned over the years from teachers, educators and other administrators. Her responsibilities include reviewing curriculum and making recommendations, increasing student enrollment, representing the school in the community and leading fundraising efforts.
She is familiar with the model of a kindergarten through eighth grade school, having attended one herself. Keller-Cogan said educational research is showing some of the advantages of the model such as less transition for students, a great opportunity for older students to be role models for younger students and fostering a great sense of community.
Keller-Cogan who starts at the Elmwood Franklin School during the second week in July, said she appreciated the chance to work with talented people in the Clarkstown district and enhance programs for its students.
“I am really just filled with good thoughts of the parents, the community, the staff,” she said.