Onteora to appoint interim principal for Phoenicia school

The Onteora Central School District will appoint an interim principal to serve out the rest of the school year at Phoenicia Elementary, whose principal Linda Sella was placed on administrative leave in February.

Since Sella was forced to step down from her post, district administrators have refused to answer questions from parents and media about why she was placed on leave, saying only that it was a personnel issue.

At their next meeting on Tuesday, April 9, the Onteora Board of Education will vote on the appointment of Mona Jacobs as Phoenicia's interim principal. If appointed, Jacobs will start on April 18. Jacobs is a retired educator and former employee of the Onteora district, according to district clerk Fern Amster.

In February, when Sella was placed on leave, district superintendent Phyllis McGill told parents and media that Sella would be on leave "for the next few days." Last Wednesday, Phoenicia parents were sent a letter that made it clear that Sella will not be returning, at least in this school year. McGill wrote:

Since Mid-February, I have been serving as an administrator in the Phoenicia Primary School, assuming the duties of acting principal. The Board of Education has authorized the recruitment of an interim principal to serve at Phoenicia for the balance of the school year. It is hoped that a candidate can be appointed and start before the end of the month. 

Reached today by phone, McGill declined again to discuss the circumstances surrounding Sella's leave. Sella is no longer on leave, and has been reassigned to the administrative office.

Draft minutes from the Onteora Board of Education's most recent meeting on Tuesday, March 21 show that an employee -- identified only as "employee No. 2192013" -- was transferred to the administrative office, effective March 20, with the unanimous approval of the board. A source at the district office confirmed that the employee is Sella.