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Mar 15, 2016 12:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: School Board Accepts Eastport South Manor Superintendent's Resignation; Continues To Deflect Questions About Decision

Jen Kelly, of Manorville, addresses the board about Superintendent Mark Nocero's retirement. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Mar 17, 2016 1:56 PM

UPDATE: Wednesday, 10:15 p.m.:

The Eastport South Manor Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent of Schools Mark Nocero on Wednesday night, though they declined to explain to the approximately 70 parents in attendance why the longtime district leader would do so in the middle of an academic year and while still under contract.

The seven-member board unanimously approved the walk-on resolution after it was read aloud by Board of Education President Kenneth Cooke.

“The board has determined that it is in the district’s best interest that we reached an agreement for Mr. Nocero for his retirement, and his retirement is effective immediately,” Mr. Cooke said.

Immediately after, the board approved a second walk-on resolution appointing Joseph Steimel, the principal of Eastport Elementary School, as the interim superintendent. Mr. Steimel will start his new position on Thursday, March 17. Mr. Steimel served as principal of the district’s junior-senior high school for a decade before being moved to the elementary school in October 2014.

When questioned by several parents on Wednesday night, Mr. Cooke refused to offer any details about Mr. Nocero’s abrupt departure, including whether the district had demanded that he step down. Mr. Cooke and other board members also declined to share the specifics of the agreement, including how much money, if any, Mr. Nocero would receive as part of the arrangement.

Karen Kesnig, another board member, stated that terms of the agreement were confidential, though members of the public could request a copy by filing a Freedom of Information Law request with the district.

The lack of information did not sit well with those parents in attendance.

“Everyone here has their kids going to the school district here and the money is being distributed all over the place,” said parent Ken Colvin of Manorville. “No one knows where it is going, the superintendent isn’t around, there is a mystery going on, rumors going on, no one knows anything, no one is being forthcoming and I just don’t think it’s fair to the community.”

In particular, Mr. Colvin was asking how much the district is going to pay Mr. Nocero as part of the deal; board members did not offer a answer.

Prior to tonight’s meeting, Mr. Cooke failed to return multiple calls placed by The Press inquiring about the whereabouts of Mr. Nocero, who was last seen at his Manorville office last Tuesday, March 8. When last reached on Friday afternoon, Mr. Cooke said that Mr. Nocero was still an employee of the district.

A reporter for The Press who tried to find Mr. Nocero at his office on Monday was told by Linda Weiss, the district’s assistant superintendent for personnel, that he had taken that day off but that his confidential secretary, Colleen Bowler, would be able to explain the superintendent’s whereabouts. Ms. Bowler, who also serves as the district’s assistant for community relations, did not respond to multiple calls and emails this week.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Eastport South Manor Schools Superintendent Mark Nocero has not been seen at the district’s administrative offices since early last week, and school officials are refusing to explain his prolonged absence.

The absence of Mr. Nocero, combined with the Board of Education holding two closed-door executive sessions to discuss “personnel matters” in the past week, have prompted some parents to question if moves are being made to show the longtime superintendent the door. Both of those meetings—scheduled for last Thursday, March 10, and on Monday evening—were held on days when Mr. Nocero, who has held the top position in the school district for the past decade, did not come to the office.

When reached on Friday, a day after the first executive session, Board of Education President Kenneth Cooke said Mr. Nocero was not the subject of the meeting. He also stated that rumors that the board would be accepting Mr. Nocero’s retirement papers were false.

Mr. Cooke also said that, as of that time, Mr. Nocero was still an employee of the Eastport South Manor School District.

“I heard there’s rumors out there, and I can tell you they’re not true,” Mr. Cooke said Friday afternoon.

Mr. Cooke has not returned three messages left for him since that time, and multiple sources—including district employees—have told The Press that Mr. Nocero’s office has been cleared out.

Colleen Bowler, the district’s assistant for community relations, and Mr. Nocero’s confidential secretary, has also refused to explain Mr. Nocero’s prolonged absence, and would not confirm if the two recent executive sessions had to do with the superintendent who, according to multiple sources, was last seen at the district office last Tuesday, March 8.

“The superintendent is still the superintendent,” Ms. Bowler said on Friday.

On Monday, Mr. Nocero was still not in his office and calls left for him have not been returned.

“He’s home today. He’s not really working today—he just took the day off,” said Linda Weiss, assistant superintendent for personnel, when a reporter visited the district office on Dayton Avenue in Manorville on Monday afternoon. “He was in some days last week, I don’t think he was in the whole week.”

Ms. Weiss then said that Ms. Bowler would be able to answer any additional questions.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Bowler did not return calls or answer emails requesting additional information about Mr. Nocero. Previously, she declined to confirm if Mr. Nocero, who has led the district since 2007, was currently under contract by the district as his prior, five-year agreement expired at the end of the last school year. Another source noted that Mr. Nocero’s contract had been extended by two years, meaning that he is under contract with the district until the end of the 2017 school year.

“I can’t discuss personnel matters,” Ms. Bowler said on Friday.

The Press has requested copies of both Mr. Nocero’s expired and current contracts though, as of Tuesday morning, that Freedom of Information Law request had not yet been honored by the district. In an email, Ms. Bowler said she had forwarded the request to Richard R. Snyder, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

Mr. Snyder also did not respond to emails seeking information on Mr. Nocero’s whereabouts.

Susan Kenny, a former Eastport Elementary School principal who was terminated by the district after being denied tenure in 2011, said this week that it is unfair for district administrators to leave parents in the dark regarding Mr. Nocero’s status and whereabouts.

“This superintendent has been in the district as a long time,” said Ms. Kenny, who is now a tenured elementary school teacher in another district. “He’s been an educator for many, many years, so this man isn’t someone who would just all of a sudden not show up and then retire.

“Most superintendents don’t exit that way—most teachers don’t exit that way,” she added. “That’s why there is a lot of speculation about why he’s not around.”

A flier outside the district administration office, posted on Monday afternoon, notified the community about the second closed-door executive session scheduled for later that night. The notice said the board would be “discussing a specific personnel matter.”

Before entering the private meeting with other board members, Mr. Cooke declined to say if they would be discussing Mr. Nocero. He did note that a public meeting was scheduled for this Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at the junior-senior high school in Manorville.

Ms. Kenny said she expects a large turnout from parents who will be demanding answers from the Board of Education.

“It’s really important to the community for people to be honest with them,” Ms. Kenny said. “The Board of Education is elected from the community and they need to be forthcoming with the community. Every community member in every town has the right for their Board of Education to be honest with them.”

Mr. Nocero arrived at Eastport South Manor in 2005, serving two years as an assistant superintendent before being offered the superintendent’s post. His arrival came at a time when two separate school communities, Eastport and South Manor, were trying to hammer out a newfound identity as part of a merged district. After his contract expired in 2010, Mr. Nocero was given another five-year contract and, at the time, his annual salary was $215,000.

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Just pay your taxes, and shut your mouth. Lol
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Mar 15, 16 4:17 PM
The board meeting on March 16th will be a joke. They will not share any information! They never do.
By momom (25), Manorville on Mar 15, 16 5:00 PM
I'm sure they couldn't be discussing ways to lower the taxes in the ESM district behind those closed doors.
By Mouthampton (433), Southampton on Mar 15, 16 6:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
May be going to Tuckahoe???
By knitter (1846), Southampton on Mar 16, 16 9:25 AM
1 member liked this comment
Uh, who cares.
By whatapity (106), Tuckahoe on Mar 16, 16 10:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hmmmmm
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on Mar 16, 16 1:20 PM
ESM had the worse financial distress marks in the region, had spent all of its reserves and were facing a budget deficit with no aid from the state. It might have something to do with that.
Mar 17, 16 7:18 AM appended by KevinLuss
"worst" ....
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Mar 17, 16 7:18 AM
Bizarre.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Mar 17, 16 9:19 AM
This school district spends our money like water. Our taxes are way too high and is killing the value of our homes. Time to stop the spending. Our kids need more qualified teachers and not so many administrators.
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Mar 17, 16 9:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
Where is the LAX news or FOOTBALL NEWS VOLLEYBALL SOCCER BASEBALL
! But sure post about our Board issues!!!
By CorinneJuers Pace (1), Copiague, New York on Mar 17, 16 2:57 PM
All these local school boards are losers ! They pay these Superintendents huge salaries and then they let them go. Why under a shroud of secrecy?? If teaching were a true profession the teachers would govern their own. ! Not the cabbage and potato farmers on the east end who make up the boards !
By bayview (158), Southampton on Mar 17, 16 3:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
cabbage and potato farmers? As opposed to up west districts that are "self governing"?
Why don't YOU run and get back to us in a year?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 21, 16 8:34 PM
You can see this guy's contract (and all superintendent contracts) at seethroughny.net. This guy gets all sorts of perks,and in 2015 he had his contract amended to "extend healthcare into retirement " and if he doesn't take the healthcare, he gets 45% of the premium in cash. Retirement means for life! Does that blow your mind or what??
By Babyboo (292), Hampton Bays on Mar 18, 16 6:52 AM
$92,000,000 school budget.

Ninety-two million.

This is a sickening bunch of crap.

We get lied to. We get one story and then a completely different story - when Cooke accepts Nocero's resignation.

Colleen Bowler refuses to be open and frank with the public that pays her salary.
What's wrong with this picture? I'll tell you what's the worst about it - it is
a "re-run".

It is sickening to see programs for our kids get cut - while these characters ...more
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Mar 19, 16 12:44 AM
What is with these school superintendents!?!
By sgt202 (75), Hampton Bays on Mar 20, 16 10:13 AM
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