Liberty school district uses caution

By Robert Guttersohn


Liberty Local School District has been through a lot since the last two board members Joseph Nohra and Christine Flanagan were elected.

The district cut ties with its conversion schools, Liberty Early Academic Resource Nest and Liberty Exemplary Academic Design. The district’s Treasurer Tracy Obermiyer resigned. And the district fell into academic emergency.

But if the board of education has learned anything from the past two years, it’s to be skeptical after a dysfunctional relationship with the conversion schools ended in September with a $350,000 settlement.

“We are more cautious,” said Board President Diana DeVito. “We want to see everything in writing.”

And Liberty residents will see two new faces on the board.

Along with DeVito, David Malone, Liberty resident and principal of the Springfield Intermediate School, ran unopposed for two open board positions.

A second new person will fill the void left after six-year board member Gloria Lang resigned in September. DeVito said the board will approve her replacement at its Jan. 15 organizational meeting.

“There’s a great deal of trepidation [on the part of those interested in filling Lang’s position] because of the situation,” she said. “It’s not going to be an easy thing to walk into.”

Malone has spent his entire life in Liberty minus the eight years he spent along the East Coast as a teacher and administrator. He is in seventh year as principal in Springfield.

He replaces Jeff Grinstein, an attorney and a certified public accountant, who did not run for re-election.

At first, DeVito was concerned because the board was losing its numbers guy, Grinstein. But with the concentration of state auditors currently and the fiscal oversight commission, which was put in place when the district fell into academic emergency, in the district, she feels secure in that the board can go to them if they have financial questions.

But Malone said the fiscal overwatch of the school district is only a portion of the board’s responsibilities.

He said it also is charged with setting policy to provide students a quality education.

“Sometimes people run for school board because they have an ax to grind with the district,” he said. Because of his two children enrolled in the district, “now is a better time than ever to run because I have a vested interested in the district.”

As board member, he plans to bring the diversity of ideas he has gained throughout his career as an educator around the country.

However, Malone believes the district’s most pressing issues are financial.

He sees cuts to the budget as necessary but also pointed to the Education Choice voucher program and the community’s failure to pass a levy as the main forces behind the district’s deficit.

“It’s disappointing as a lifelong resident of Liberty to see the community destroyed from within,” he said.

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