For nearly three years, the Liverpool Central School District has dominated the headlines with sordid tales of scandal.
Now it looks like the district is working to put those days behind it.
The district announced last week that it was dropping 3020a charges against Athletic Director George Mangicaro and Director of Technology Bonnie Ladd. Mangicaro was suspended with pay in September of 2006, Ladd in April of 2007. Disciplinary charges were brought against both in 2007 under Section 3020a of New York State Department of Education law; Mangicaro and Ladd responded by filing a $4 million lawsuit against the district, claiming the charges were retaliation for bringing allegations of impropriety by Superintendent Jan Matousek to light. The suit was settled after the charges were dropped; the district will pay Mangicaro $60,000, Ladd $45,000 and $15,000 to the couple’s attorneys. Mangicaro returned to work July 1 and Ladd will return Aug. 3.
So why, after all this time, did the parties finally come to an agreement?
“We had reached a stalemate, and it was likely that the dispute would not be resolved for some time,” said former Board of Education President J. Mark Lawson. “So the question before us was not only whether we could prevail, but how much more taxpayer money would we have to spend before we did? We decided that what was best for the district and our community was to end the stalemate and put this matter behind us. We have a new superintendent coming in, and I know he would like for all of us to focus on the future rather than the past.”
Mangicaro agreed, noting that his and Ladd’s attorneys had been working with some members of the board since December.
“All of us wanted to get this resolved,” he said. “Bonnie and I just wanted to get back to work.”
Mangicaro said he believed that the real catalyst was a recent court decision in his lawsuit against the district in which a judge ordered the district to allow Ladd to come back to work and dismiss all charges against her.
When asked if he thought it was coincidence that the settlement came just a month before Matousek is to retire, he simply said, “No, I don’t.”
But new board President Patricia Mouton disagreed.
“This is complete coincidence,” Mouton said. “This settlement has been in the works for quite some time.”
The timing notwithstanding, both sides are eager to get back to the business of educating children.
“I think this means that the district will keep moving forward,” Mouton said.
“We are making every effort to wield a steady course, perhaps even marking improvement in several areas. We have the staff to accomplish this improvement and to monitor its progress.”
Mangicaro said he will be working closely with Mark Potter, who filled in as acting athletic director during his suspension, on the upcoming stadium renovation.
“Several meetings are scheduled with Mark, myself and other support staff to make sure everything is up to the highest standards,” Mangicaro said. “As part of the agreement, I asked to keep Mark Potter as the lead agent on the stadium project. This will enable us to keep moving forward and get the stadium fixed ASAP.”
Potter will continue to work for the district even after the project is completed, having been originally hired as director of secondary education but serving as athletic director during Mangicaro’s absence. In addition, Scott Krell, who filled Ladd’s position, has been appointed as a principal on special assignment. Mouton said he will serve as a curriculum mapping coordinator, as a support administrator during the renovation of Liverpool Elementary and Liverpool Middle School and as a coordinator of seven through 12 business and technology.
Mangicaro, while glad to get back to work, did indicate that there was still some tension.
“Mark Lawson needs to go,” he said. “He jumped on Jan’s band wagon without attempting to hear both side of the issues The district has had no leadership from the BOE presidents for the past six to seven years. The only time there was any leadership is when Dave Savlov took over in October and November of 2008.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.