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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amid credit card scandal in his own school district, Trevor Ebel withdraws from Hudson hiring process

HUDSON – Wilton-Lyndeborough Superintendent Trevor Ebel withdrew Wednesday as a finalist for Hudson superintendent of schools, hours before he was scheduled to take part in a public School Board interview.

School Board Chairman Lee Lavoie and district human resources director Kate Minichiello confirmed Wednesday night that Ebel had withdrawn earlier in the day. Minichiello said Ebel contacted her directly, but didn’t specify if he wrote a letter, sent an email or communicated by telephone.

She said she considers the content of their communication a personnel matter on which she cannot comment.

Wednesday night’s other candidate interview, with Hollis Brookine Associate Superintendent Betsey Cox-Buteau, went on as scheduled. The other two finalists, Alvirne principal Bryan Lane and Hudson Associate Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond, were interviewed Monday.

The School Board plans to choose the winner at its April 9 meeting.

Ebel hasn’t returned several Telegraph calls requesting comment on the recently launched investigation into alleged expenditure and financial improprieties within the Wilton-Lyndeborough School District. Nobody has been named in the investigation, which alleges a district employee used federal grant money to pay for alcohol, movies and limousine services.

The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board voted recently to hire Manchester attorney Dean B. Eggert to look into the issue, which was raised by the most recent School District audit.

Board Chairman Geoff Brock confirmed the investigation. He said police are not involved, but declined to speculate whether they will be called in.

Ebel has been especially active on the job-interview circuit in recent weeks. In February, he and Ormond were among candidates seeking to replace retiring Litchfield Superintendent Elaine Cutler. Nashua educator Brian Cochrane was ultimately selected.

On Feb. 20, Ebel was named one of two finalists for superintendent in the Shaker Regional School District, which includes schools in Belmont and Canterbury. Just days ago, he became the lone candidate standing when the other finalist, Stacy Buckley, superintendent of the Goffstown, Dunbarton and New Boston district, withdrew her application.

According to a Concord Monitor story, Shaker Regional School Board members have yet to make a decision on Ebel because, they said, they’re unable to agree on Ebel. As of Wednesday, the board was still planning to take up the matter at its April 12 meeting, according to the Monitor.

It’s not yet known if the Wilton-Lyndeborough allegations will prompt Ebel to also withdraw from that process or if the district will decide against him because of it.

Ebel was among four finalists looking to succeed retiring Superintendent Greg Wagers in Fort Morgan, Colo. That process has ended last week with the selection of another candidate.

He and the other three were in Fort Morgan in mid-March for interviews, tours and dinner with school officials, according to Fort Morgan Times reporter John LaPorte. Ebel graduated from University of Colorado and began his career in the state.

Ebel first came to New Hampshire in 2002, when he was named principal at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Junior-Senior High School.

Originally from California, he taught in Maine for several years and was an assistant principal at Littleton High School when he took the Wilton job.

In May 2008, Ebel became assistant superintendent of SAU 63, the district encompassing Wilton and Lyndeborough schools. He was elevated to superintendent two years later.

Meanwhile, Cox-Buteau told her interviewers Wednesday that she believes teacher and student morale isn’t tied only to what a district pays its teachers and spends on students, but retaining quality teachers can be a problem if wages are a perennial issue.

“I believe recognizing the good work that’s being done is very good for morale,” she told the board. “It doesn’t matter so much what a teacher is being paid; what matters is what, and how well, students are learning.”

Still, Cox-Buteau said, consistently low pay often drives good teachers away, especially if nearby districts offer better pay or benefits.

“If we’re losing quality teachers because of pay, we need to let people know,” she said. “That’s why we do exit interviews, to see why people leave, whether it’s a wage issue.

“We need to keep high-quality teachers. Quality learning comes from quality teaching,” she said.

Buteau-Cox, who earned education degrees from Dartmouth and University of New Hampshire and began her career as a high school music teacher, said it’s important to seek input from a wide range of “stakeholders” on school committees and decision-making bodies.

“Students, teachers, parents, administration and members of the community, everyone who wants to be involved should be,” she said, “My approach is keeping everyone in the loop. It’s important every voice is heard, that we have information out in advance and go forward together.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.