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Lisbon school hires superintendents sister amid nepotism accusations

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LISBON — The Board of Education hired a school nurse Thursday amid accusations of nepotism by members of the community.

At their meeting, the board selected Brigid Vine, sister of Superintendent Erin E. Woods, as the new nurse.

“Her experience and qualifications are extensive,” Ms. Woods said. “We are fortunate to have such a qualified person in our district.”

The appointment occurred after one community member at the meeting raised questions before the board about the hire.

“We all know what nepotism is,” Renee Bond said. “My recommendation would be to possibly repost the position.”

Ms. Bond, a Lisbon resident, acknowledged she did not have any children in the district, but said she found out about the appointment through a letter to the editor.

“It is unfortunate that you looked at a letter to the editor as actual fact,” said Marc A. Montroy, school board president.

The vote to hire Ms. Vine was divided. Two board members, Megan Bowdish and Scott M. Walker, abstained from voting. Another, Tammy L. Amo, voted against the hire.

Previously, Ms. Amo accused the superintendent of sitting in on candidate interviews and directing that the hiring committee expand its recommendations to the full board from one candidate to two after Ms. Vine was not named as a finalist. Ms. Woods flatly denied the charges.

“The committee set the number of finalists. I did not give them any direction,” she said. “I did sit in on the first set of interviews, but not the second.”

Board member Blake P. Gendebien confirmed Ms. Woods’s statements, saying nothing about the appointment went beyond the norm except that the board’s final choice was an administrator’s sister.

Ms. Vine argued her path to employment was more difficult because of her family tie.

“You know what’s tough? Walking into an interview facing reverse nepotism,” she said. “The board was worried about their appearance, so I had to put in 120 percent effort, while other candidates had only to put in 80 percent.”

Mark C. Ginn, a substitute teacher in the school system, defended the hire and Ms. Woods.

“I’m sure she did not force this board to hire this person,” he said. “I am sick and tired of hearing this crap about hiring your own relative. It isn’t her fault that her parents had 10 kids and all of them sought out an education and a career.”

Anonymous letters received by the Watertown Daily Times as well as letters to the editor suggested Ms. Vine may face an uphill struggle to win over some Lisbon residents.

That is a winnable battle, Ms. Vine said.

“They will be happy once I start working because I am going to take great care of their kids.”

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