Southampton School Board suspends high school principal and assistant principal, who are then hired by East Hampton

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With little more than a month left in the school year, the Southampton School Board abruptly suspended its high school principal, Adam Fine, and assistant principal, Maria Mondini, indefinitely on Monday with no explanation—though Mr. Fine said the move is related to Superintendent Dr. J. Richard Boyes’s displeasure at the two administrators having visited the East Hampton School District last week for job interviews.

That same day, both principals submitted their resignations, effective June 30, Mr. Fine said. And on Tuesday, the East Hampton School Board hired Mr. Fine and Ms. Mondini to become principal and assistant principal, respectively, at East Hampton High School, effective July 1.

The suspensions were handed down at a special meeting of the Southampton School Board on Monday night, one conducted largely in executive session, at the recommendation of Dr. Boyes, who notified Mr. Fine and Ms. Mondini on Sunday evening via e-mail that they were being placed on an indefinite administrative leave and should not to report to work until further notice, Mr. Fine said Wednesday morning.

Mr. Fine maintained that both administrators had informed Dr. Boyes of their interest in the job opportunities at East Hampton in March.

Dr. Boyes refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding the suspensions.

Mr. Fine, who is in his second year at Southampton, and Ms. Mondini, who is in her seventh, will be paid during their leave. Mr. Fine earns $163,554, and Ms. Mondini, who could not be reached for comment as of Wednesday morning, earns $145,956.

Both will see their salaries increase at East Hampton, where Mr. Fine is set to earn $183,400 a year, and Ms. Mondini, $156,100—though Mr. Fine said pay was not at all a factor in either administrator’s decision to apply for the new jobs.

East Hampton’s larger student body—approximately 940 students, compared to 595 students at Southampton High School—allows more course offerings and a greater master schedule, which will allow administrators more flexibility, Mr. Fine said, adding that both he and Ms. Mondini were attracted to the opportunities for professional development in the East Hampton School District.

Dr. Nicholas Dyno, the Southampton School District’s assistant superintendent for instruction, was tapped to take over as interim high school principal. He earns $186,300 and it was unclear Wednesday whether his salary will be adjusted in response to his taking on a new role. Dr. Dyno served as high school principal in Southampton for two school years from 2005 to 2007.

The School Board also hired Robert Barker, a retired former Southampton High School assistant principal, on Tuesday to work as interim assistant principal, at a per diem rate of $500, effective Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Fine said he received a phone call from Dr. Boyes on Sunday, repeating the same information that was in the e-mail—that he was being placed on administrative leave.

“I asked the superintendent to please elaborate. I said, ‘Rich, can you elaborate further? I don’t understand,’” Mr. Fine said Wednesday. “He said it was in regard to events that took place on Thursday—and the only thing I did on Thursday was go to East Hampton and interview. I’ve never been given the exact specifics of why I’m home.”

Dr. Boyes and members of the School Board have not offered a reason for the suspensions and have repeatedly refused to discuss how they could make such a major decision without providing any explanation. Their official statement said only that it was a “personnel matter that has no connection to our students, staff, community or law enforcement.”

Mr. Fine said he and Ms. Mondini had kept Dr. Boyes informed of their interest in the East Hampton positions to the extent they could without jeopardizing their jobs in Southampton. They each took a personal day last Thursday to attend the interview but did not report the reasons for the time off to Dr. Boyes, Mr. Fine said. While they were gone, Sarah McGuire, a student dean, oversaw operations at the school.

When Mr. Fine returned to school on Friday, he said Dr. Boyes told him that he was displeased with what transpired on Thursday.

The next he heard from the superintendent was to inform him of the suspension. Since then, Mr. Fine’s and Ms. Mondini’s attorney, Brad Steuhler, has been handling communications between the school and suspended staff members.

Although the hiring in East Hampton wasn’t done until Tuesday, school officials in Montauk and Springs, which send high school students to East Hampton, accused East Hampton school officials of having made their minds up earlier, and without input from the feeder districts.

Neither was invited to Monday’s hastily called meeting in East Hampton, and Mr. Fine said he learned afterward from his union representative, Tim Frazier, the Southampton Intermediate School principal, that the action was taken unanimously by the board.

“This has been very disconcerting to both of us. We didn’t have a job. We resigned, but we had no right to resign because we were on leave. Until last night we were sweating and hoping everything worked out,” Mr. Fine said Wednesday.

Mr. Fine, whose pet project in the school was exploring ways to renovate the planetarium at the high school, spoke highly of his colleagues and time at Southampton.

“We have not a negative thing to say about Southampton. We love the kids, love the staff. We thought we were very forthcoming during the whole process,” Mr. Fine said. “Both Marie and I wish we were allowed to finish out the year. We really wanted to say goodbye.”

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