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May 26, 2016 12:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton BOE Appoints Interim Director Of Pupil Personnel Services, Won't Comment On Status Of Administrator Who Held Position

Southampton Interim Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Dyno and School Board President Heather McCallion at Tuesday night's special meeting of the Board of Education. GREG WEHNER GREG WEHNER
May 26, 2016 12:11 PM

The Southampton School Board on Tuesday night appointed an interim director of pupil personnel services—but so far has declined to comment on the status of the administrator who held the position, or why an interim was appointed in the first place.

But the board also voted to hire the Garden City-based firm Jaspan Schlesinger LLP to “provide attorney services to the district, as presented,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Dyno read from a prepared statement. The firm is the same agency that conducted an investigation into former Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina earlier this year, one that led to his resignation in April.

Several sources say the latest probe will target Denise Merchant, who is the district’s director of pupil personnel services—or was until the board on Tuesday hired Dr. Harmon Cohen, a former special education administrator in the district who retired several years ago, as the interim director of pupil personnel services.

According to a source, the firm will look into allegations a teacher in the district has made against Ms. Merchant, although what those allegations are is still not known. The source said the allegations were presented to the School Board in an executive session last week.

Dr. Dyno and School Board President Heather McCallion have declined to comment on Ms. Merchant’s status as an administrator in the district. According to sources, Ms. Merchant was escorted out of the district administrative building on Friday afternoon. Her assistant, Terri Hall, answered Ms. Merchant’s direct line at the school on both Monday and Tuesday, and said she was not in the office.

Ms. Merchant did not return a phone call and text message seeking clarification about her status.

She has held the post since August 30, 2010, and she received tenure in 2013. According to the district, Ms. Merchant makes $154,429 annually, although the public information website www.seethroughny.net states that her salary in 2015 was $159,105.

According to the district’s website, the office of pupil personnel services, which Ms. Merchant oversees, offers “a range of services, from part-time to full-time special education ... to allow success in meeting the requirements of the New York State standards. This is accomplished through specially designed instruction based upon the individual needs of students identified as disabled by the district’s Committee on Special Education.”

Dr. Harmon Cohen will be paid $850 daily and work three eight-hour days per week, according to District Clerk Mary Pontieri.

Jaspan Schlesinger was compensated at an hourly rate at $235 for attorneys, and $135 for paralegals and law clerks, during its probe of Dr. Farina and likely will receive a similar rate, though it hasn’t been billed.

After the five-minute meeting on Tuesday, Ms. McCallion declined to provide any further comment. “We don’t discuss personnel issues for reasons of privacy and respect for our personnel,” she said.

Dr. Dyno echoed Ms. McCallion and declined to deny or confirm whether Ms. Merchant was escorted off school property. He also declined to say what circumstances led to the appointment of an interim director of pupil personnel services.

Staff writer Greg Wehner contributed reporting to this story.

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The saga at Southampton BOE
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 23, 16 1:08 PM
"Executive Session"
AKA nothing to see here
By smacw (240), New York on May 23, 16 1:24 PM
Its an allegation. So quick to judge.
By guest (68), Bridgehampton on May 23, 16 1:40 PM
And based on past conduct, we can assume we will never hear what those allegations are, even if they found to be cause for action.
By Dafsgirl (64), Southampton on May 23, 16 1:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Farina paid $300K to go away, Adler-O'keefe manning a rubber room at $150K annually. Cant wait to see the tab for tonight
By smacw (240), New York on May 23, 16 3:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Its all fot the kids roflmao The real children seem to be the administration.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 23, 16 6:53 PM
Secrets.......little secrets. Bums
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on May 23, 16 8:24 PM
This my friends is how an institution functions when it becomes run by the liberal left.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on May 23, 16 9:57 PM
Close, the Illiberal left
By smacw (240), New York on May 24, 16 10:23 AM
Are we being filmed for a reality show?
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 23, 16 11:20 PM
4 members liked this comment
You can't make this sh*t up.

At a time that the BOE should have total transparency, they continue with the "behind closed doors" mentality, having Amy Pierson deliver press releases.

This is a quote from the BOE mission statement

The Board acknowledges that publicizing the district’s progress and performance is important to maintaining the community’s trust and support. The Board is committed to keeping the public aware of such progress and performance on a ...more
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on May 24, 16 7:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
Progress and performance...not conduct.
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on May 26, 16 10:56 PM
never a dull moment!
By minnie mouse (9), southampton on May 24, 16 12:41 PM
demand full disclosure from the board
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on May 24, 16 3:57 PM
2 members liked this comment
Another reason to home school your kids. Lord knows what goes on in the public schools system anymore. Between the propaganda laden curriculum, overpaid administrators, teachers, and janitors, and out of control Boards of Education you would be crazy to send your kids to public school these days.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on May 24, 16 6:36 PM
40k a student is criminal. Its robbing children of their futures while lining the pockets of the teachers.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 24, 16 6:46 PM
3 members liked this comment
More like 27,000
By localyokel (16), Southampton on May 26, 16 4:17 PM
$300k golden parachute for Farina, Adler-O'Keefe still collecting $150 to do nothing, another $150k for her replacement, Merchant "escorted out" but still getting paid, her rplacement getting paid, law firms on retainer, PR firms too, where coes it end?
By smacw (240), New York on May 24, 16 9:56 PM
3 members liked this comment
Well, let's see where that $8.2m in the reserve kitty ends up?!
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 24, 16 10:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
it seems to me that most of the shady activity goes on with the administrators, not the teachers. The administrators get a hefty paycheck well above any teacher. Its really sad that these are the people that are appointed to run the school!
By minnie mouse (9), southampton on May 25, 16 8:44 AM
What the heck is going on with the Southampton Schools...if I were a parent of a child in that system I would start worrying.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on May 25, 16 10:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
No point in hiring a public relations firm if the only communications they will issue is NIET! No comment...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 25, 16 11:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
Denise Merchants thinks she rules the school. There is a whole lot of others that need to go.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 25, 16 5:30 PM
Need to get some grownups back in charge.
By smacw (240), New York on May 25, 16 6:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
The public has the right to how there tax dollars are being used
By North sea (3), SOUTHAMPTON on May 25, 16 7:42 PM
Nothing to see here.. keep moving..
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on May 26, 16 11:11 AM
What is the public relations firm for? There is zero public relations. Who can tell us what is really going on?
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on May 26, 16 3:57 PM
Friend called the Southampton School District's Superintendent's Office today, and a live voice indentified it as Dr. Farina's office! Really??? These folks better get a grip.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 26, 16 8:14 PM
we pay these people's salary and should demand answers
By BrianWilliams (87), on May 26, 16 9:15 PM
I think there is a pretty good quantity of embarrassing allegations to follow..........maybe......it is the Southampton School District,after all. Who knows.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on May 26, 16 10:55 PM
What on earth is a director of pupil personnel services anyway? I know I could google it but why is its meaning disguised in a term of such bureaucratic gobbledygook?
By lineside (4), southampton on May 27, 16 8:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
In layman's terms, Director of Special Ed.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 27, 16 10:00 AM
Our tax dollars are paying for a lawyer for the district, a "community relations specialist," and a public relations firm. No answers from anyone and more and more bills from these employees who are doing nothing. In-house counsel should be used for issues relating to the district or this paid position should be discontinued and counsel hired from outside for issues relating the district. As for the "community relations specialist" and the public relations firm, they do nothing except cost us ...more
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on May 27, 16 8:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Are not in house lawyers competent enough to go to court?
What is their job??? Get rid of the local lawyers [free bees] and go out side. Why have both$$$$$....
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 27, 16 6:51 PM
Are not in house lawyers competent enough to go to court?
What is their job??? Get rid of the local lawyers [free bees] and go out side. Why have both$$$$$....
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 27, 16 6:51 PM
Their job is to recommend outside council...honestly.:)
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 27, 16 8:27 PM
forget the lawyers and the PR people. the board really needs to restore the public and taxpayers with real and honest answers as to why these personnel problems are happening. I think the taxpayers and residents should by pass the local board and go directly to state ed with this problem. Be assured State Ed is already looking into this problem. vote them all out over the next few years if answers are not given NOW! who do these people think they are? they have no power unless the taxpayers ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on May 27, 16 7:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
This Board has "jumped the shark."

It's for the kids education. Not your egos.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on May 28, 16 12:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
I do not know what is going on but indefense of Ms. Merchant, she is said to have done a good job, and had the students interest at heart. There are so many problems in that school .If they had a strong leadership, Superintendents, Principals BOE, etc, the staff would be doing a better job then they are dong. But when cheating is going on and being covered up, it all filters down and no one seems to care. Important people's children are getting away with everything. At that point apathy rebounds! ...more
By bayview (160), Southampton on May 29, 16 2:58 PM
What cheating?
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on May 29, 16 5:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ask the students of the class of 2015.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 29, 16 10:31 PM
1 member liked this comment