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A Celebration Overshadowed

Posted on 14 June 2008

At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting the excellence of the Sag Harbor School District was on full display. A number of teachers received tenure, a professional milestone that should not go unnoticed. Teacher after teacher addressed the audience and spoke eloquently about why they love teaching in this district, why they feel privileged to be able to do so and how, when their friends ask them if they like their job, they say no. Instead they say they love it.

It made us feel privileged to be afforded the opportunity to witness such a celebration.

And then there was the fact that it was Anne Mackesey and Kathryn Holden’s last board meeting. This too made us feel honored to be there and to witness the outpouring of support toward two professional, dedicated and special individuals. We wish them both well.

But then there was the elephant in the room. An elephant so large it might have overshadowed the celebration. One board member even attested to the fact when he asked that audience members refrain from speaking what was on their minds.

Which brings us to last Thursday, a travesty unlike anything we have ever been a party to. When asked about the method by which the new school superintendent was hired and the individual himself, the board showed blatant disregard for the parents, teachers and taxpayers they were elected to represent. By saying that no public input was allowed when it was clearly obvious the public wanted — and needed — to voice their concern, the board only made things worse. They missed a golden opportunity to have truly open discourse. They took the participation out of participatory democratic government and left it, as they did our new superintendent, in the library while they retreated to a district conference room like it was a bomb shelter, never to come out and face the wreckage they created. It was only when a reporter walked down to the conference room some two hours later to check on them, that the public discovered the meeting had, in fact, ended in private. A lone board member then strolled back into the library and declared the meeting adjourned. We ran to the parking lot, hoping to catch at least one board member, to ask why they chose to retreat from the public. The lot was empty, spare a few cars, which belonged to the members of the public who waited in anticipation of a full board’s return to the library, and the decision to come back and face them. Except for one member, the rest of the board had snuck out of the building, under the cloak of darkness.

Thank you board of education for scheduling a special meeting this Tuesday to explain your actions. On Monday there was debate over whether or not it was legal to make public the new superintendent’s resume. He had no problem emailing it to us this week. Indeed he was rather up front about the whole situation and about his past and we hope on Tuesday you, too, will be up front about why you chose to act the way you did 

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