Our opinion: That uneasy feeling

There has been something unsettling about the selection of a new Warren County School District superintendent.

Perhaps it’s because a field of ten candidates became a field of one, at which time the public was brought in to meet, greet, and perhaps ask a few questions.

We are told by the school board that it has not decided whether to hire Dr. William Clark, nee of the Manheim Central School District near Lancaster. He is not even referred to as a finalist in the search, but rather a “second round candidate,” the other nine apparently failing to advance past the preliminary heat. We can only suppose that something in their resumes or interviews made them unacceptable for further consideration. We will never know for sure.

Nevertheless, his contract is written and a vote will be taken this morning.

Then there is the nagging memory of why we are looking for a new superintendent, the circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of Brandon Hufnagel, barely two years into a five-year contract. First we were told that he was pining for homelife and was leaving to be with the family he had promised to move here when he was hired. The relocation expenses he was paid were apparently used for either commuting or other pursuits. Only later was it discovered that he had been running up the balance on a district credit card at a New York State casino.

The public got a chance to meet, greet and ask questions of Hufnagel, as well as two other candidates. All three were called “finalists.”

Even though it may only be coincidental, Dr. Clark also left his former district barely two years into a five-year contract, having been placed on administrative leave during a legal investigation of district operations and personnel matters.

At the time of his departure in 2012, Manheim Central School Board President Brian Howett would not provide any details regarding the situation but did say “it’s nothing of a criminal nature.” Clark resigned his post in November and settled with the school district. No official reason was given for the resignation, and, as part of the settlement agreement, both sides agreed not to make disparaging remarks about the other as per a “non-disparagement/neutral reference” clause.

Such clauses tend to make those with suspicious minds wonder why a prohibition against disparagement needs to be contractual if there is nothing to disparage.

And, no one is talking, even to the media in Lancaster County.

Maybe we’re just gun-shy.

Maybe Dr. Clark is the one.

It would have been nice to meet, greet and question more than one candidate, though.