MORAVIA — More than a month after a Moravia Central School District principal was placed on administrative leave under unclear circumstances, some community members came to his defense Wednesday night.
At a Moravia school board meeting at Millard Fillmore Elementary School Auditorium, several people attended and two spoke during the public comments portion in support of Bruce MacBain, the district's sixth- through 12-grade principal. Last month District Superintendent John Birmingham announced that MacBain was put on administrative leave, but said couldn't speak about it further, citing personnel privacy concerns.
MacBain has been a Moravia principal since 2000. Though MacBain initially declined to talk about the matter in March, he addressed the situation earlier this month in a public post on his Facebook page. He said he was told March 11 that he was going on leave and there were various allegations against him, but said the district wouldn't tell him what the complaints were until they were investigated.
Before public comments began at Wednesday meeting, board President Michelle Lyon thanked the public for coming but said "based on education law, we're not allowed to engage in conversation regarding personnel matters."
Sheri Spooner was the first to speak, saying she graduated from the high school, has a son in the district and she has been a substitute in the district. Based on her experience with MacBain and her understanding of the situation, she said she felt his removal was motivated more by in-house politics than by any wrongdoing on his part.
Spooner said she respects the board, but noted the district hasn't updated the public on the situation after more than a month.
"We're waiting for information and in this small town where info spreads like wildfire, it was quiet," she said. "So he hasn't been arrested, there's been no criminal charges. If he was a danger to students, wouldn't we have known by now?"
She added that she felt the little information the district had revealed was "just enough to make enough to make people's imagination say 'What could he have possibly done?'" She also expressed concern over MacBain being absent from the building and his role during the COVID-19 pandemic while students have battled learning loss and other issues.
"If there's something behind the scenes that needs to be worked out, let's work it out, let's figure it out and let's get him back in the school," Spooner continued.
Community member Dan Walters also spoke, saying he doesn't always agree with MacBain but has never doubted that he has the best interests of the district and its children in mind. He said he doesn't know MacBain personally but respects him as an educator.
MacBain, who was named the New York State Middle School Principal of the Year in 2012, said in his Facebook post from earlier this month that while he doesn't know what the specific allegations against him are, he wrote, "I can assure you I have done nothing immoral." He noted he hadn't received any disciplinary actions and said he was eager to return to work.
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.