Saturday, May 21st

Hagerman Resigns Again Under the Cloud of an Investigation

ThomasHagermanExactly seven weeks to the day after the Board of Education learned that there was a tax lien, fines and penalties against the Scarsdale School District due to errors in payment of payroll taxes in 2020 and 2021, the embattled Schools Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Hagerman, has resigned for the second time in just five months.

Hagerman surprised the Board of Education and the community with his first resignation on January 24, 2022 when he announced that he would be leaving Scarsdale at the end of the school year, breaking the terms of his recently extended contract which stipulated that he give 12 months notice before resigning.

In the intervening weeks, the Board launched two searches: one for an interim superintendent and another for the permanent replacement of the superintendent.

In the midst of this work came more stunning news. On March 25, 2022 the Board of Education learned that the school district had failed to pay the correct amount of payroll taxes in 2020 and 2021, resulting in penalties and interest totaling $1,722,473 and a call for a back tax payment of $843,558 for the fourth quarter of 2020.

On March 30 they shared that news with the public when they called a special meeting to approve an $843,558 payment to the IRS for taxes due for the fourth quarter of 2020. The somber Board attested that though the district had learned of the tax problems in June 2021, they had failed to inform the Board until nine months later on March 25, 2022. On April 4, they offered more information about the issue and revealed that there was a $1,309,118 tax lien against the school district.  At the time, it was not clear who in the administration was aware of the penalties and lien, and why they had failed to share this information with the Board.

Things did not improve after this revelation.

On April 20, 2022, Dr. Hagerman offered an explanation of what had occurred to his new employer, the Latin School of Chicago. However, in that letter he excerpted comments from Scarsdale Board of Education President Karen Ceske, but misrepresented her statements by omitting three paragraphs and adding some wording of his own. He left out the fact that the Board was “working with legal counsel and other appropriate advisors,” to resolve the current IRS payroll tax issue, and the fact that “the Board is planning to do an investigation of the administration.” He added text to indicate that the Board had been in communication with the IRS, working towards a resolution.

However, the Board was not aware of the issue and was not in communication with the IRS.

He later issued a correction which was emailed to the Scarsdale community and the Board of Education also sent out an email acknowledging the error.

In hindsight, many speculated that Dr. Hagerman had tendered his resignation in January, knowing that the tax problems with the IRS were not going away very quickly.

In order to determine what had transpired, on April 20, the Board of Education held yet another special meeting. After two hours in executive session, they passed a resolution to retain Attorney Anthony J. Brock to “to conduct an investigation of the IRS payroll tax issue beginning Monday, April 25th.”

The Board also considered hiring an accounting firm to do an audit of the district’s payroll processing procedures but has not as yet announced that they have been hired.

After several more special meetings were announced, and some cancelled, the Board scheduled another Friday surprise. At 1:51 pm on Friday May 6, they scheduled a meeting in executive session at 4:30 that same day.

This one ended quickly. Shortly after 5 pm, the Board came out of executive session and announced that Dr. Hagerman had resigned. In his statement he said that “the IRS issue has become a major distraction,” and “although I have already resigned my position as superintendent of schools effective June 30, I now feel it is best to do so more immediately in order for the district to keep its focus on students and a successful ending to the school year.”

The Board accepted his resignation and appointed Dr. Andrew Patrick as interim superintendent for the 2022-23 school year. In their announcement about Patrick they said, “We are confident that he is the best individual to lead our schools at this time and provide important continuity in the months and year ahead. He possesses a deep knowledge of, and true passion for, education, along with leadership expertise, a collaborative nature, and exceptional interpersonal and communication skills. He understands the culture and values of our schools and is dedicated to the success of all of our students in addition to the members of our faculty and staff.”

Shortly afterwards, the Board posted Dr. Hagerman’s separation agreement with the district. In it, the district agrees to pay him for 25 vacation days, $3,357 toward his annuity, $8,319 to the SUNY Optional Retirement Plan and to continue his health and dental insurance through June 30. 2022. He will not receive any salary for the balance of the contract.

It limits any further comment on the matter, saying, "The parties have agreed to only provide the statements hereto as "Exhibit A" and "Exhibit B" in response to inquiries regarding this Agreement."

In exchange, he relinquishes, releases and waives all possible claims and causes of action against the district and the district agrees not to file any claim or bring any lawsuit against him. See the entire agreement here.

Community members we reached were happy to see this chapter of Scarsdale history come to an end. A parent who is active in the schools said, “As I listened to the Resolution being read, I felt a huge sense of relief. I feel that this moment will help the morale of the district; it certainly made me feel better and I’m glad that the Board was able to get it done. I think that Dr. Patrick is an asset to the district and that he will bring forward some positive momentum for the Scarsdale Schools.”

Others wondered if the Board had already received the investigator’s report. A reader commented, “What a quick resignation. There must have been some VERY damaging things in the investigator’s findings. I truly hope we all get to see that report.” She also noticed that the Board accepted Hagerman’s resignation without a thank you or the long goodbyes that are customary for other departing administrators.

Another observer said, “I speculate that the BOE was only willing to make a deal this generous to avoid a lengthy, expensive counter-suit being filed against the district by Dr. Hagerman’s lawyer in the future. The agreement allows him to step down vs. being fired, in exchange for the guarantee that he cannot sue.”

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez, a keen observer of Board matters offered the following: "I have no schadenfreude that he resigned. Sadly, Dr. Hagerman leaves under a dark cloud with a tarnished legacy. Now, he will never have to answer any of Scarsdale residents' questions. And we are still in the dark about what happened. Will the BOE now finally start answering at least our budget and accounting questions? The IRS lien and penalties have not gone away. I am worried about the health of Scarsdale schools' finances, because I want to make sure that our children receive the needed academic, mental, and emotional development resources that they need to thrive.”

On everyone's mind is what is in the investigator's report? Will the District release it? Will the Latin School of Chicago stick to their deal with the embattled superintendent? Did Dr. Hagerman resign in order to pre-empt being fired or sanctioned?

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