UPDATED: District's Welcome for New School Chief Comes Under Scrutiny

A dinner event for district staff to meet the new superintendent has several parents protesting such a district expenditure.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10 am to correct and clarify how a portion of the dinner bill was paid for by a trustee.

The turnout Tuesday night for Bayport-Blue Point residents to meet the newly hired district superintendent, Dr. Vincent Butera, was well attended by dozens of taxpayers and district staff but not every community member is happy on how the board of education welcomed the new school chief.

The community meet-and-greet, which followed a special board of education meeting to formally approve the hiring, was not without controversy as several parents said they are outraged that the district held a dinner at a Blue Point restaurant for staff and administrators to meet Butera prior to the community meeting.

Residents Rita Palma and Noel Feustel believe the BOE event at Blue was not an appropriate action given the budget constraints facing the district and last year's challenging budget process.

"It's outrageous," said Palma, who told Patch she intends to file Freedom of Information forms to determine the actual cost of the meal and the policy of the district regarding spenditures by the BOE on such events.

"I heard [from an administrator] it cost $2,600 for the meal. That's ridiculous given that we've cut programs and things for the students due to budget issues," she said during the meet-and-greet event.

Feustel was so irked by the dinner event that he and his wife went to Blue to determine that the event was being held and his wife took pictures of the event being held in the private dining area.

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"I think this is wrong and I wanted to come down here and find out if it was true," he said.

During the meet-and-greet a BOE member confirmed the final meal tab to Patch.

Trustee Bill Milligan, who was elected in May on a platform calling for deeper review of district spend and fiscal accountabiity, said he pre-paid for 10 of the meals, which was about one third of the final tab, upon arriving at the event and did so in a low-key manner.

"I came in and said hello and then talked with management staff to pay for the table I was sitting at. I did it pre-emptively," he said, explaining it was done before his knowlege of any Feustel's attendance at the restaurant. "I didn't say anyting as I did not want to make anyone else [at the dinner event] feel uncomfortable," he told Patch Tuesday morning.

When the Feustels arrived at Blue Board of Education President James March left the dinner event to talk with them in the bar area. He said that while the dinner event was not unanimously endorsed by all the trustees, as some believed such a expenditure may be viewed as sending the wrong message, he believed it was an appropriate event.

"I defend the decision to provide the opportunity for the new superintendent to meet with administrators and the board," he told Patch. "It was appropriate and I think necessary for everyone to meet him and have a chance to talk."

jane October 05, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I support the BOE taking the Mr.Burtera to dinner at a LOCAL place with a pre-fix cost of $22, with money being donated by BLUE to show how we all can chip into the cost factors and then the new BOE members chipping in also. Let me ask you this? does any support the PTA? Or buy their teachers gifts at the end of the year? volunteer breakfast at the schools is better then thanksgiving at my house. But why is the community so upset when the BOE spends money on a dinner to Welcome the major person who will be stearing our ship? I know why< Because Rita Palma and Noel Fusteal put a twisted spin on it. As if everything these people do is wrong. For all the hard work and time and talent I for one will Donate $20 to cover a dinner or 7. I am proud of the people who work, volunteer and live here..I dont feel the need to spy. In the past, the school pays and each BOE gets a bill for dinner and we would get a statement and pay it back. But heck what do I know? except my vlounteer job always cost me money! lol NOTHING wrong with that!
Sarah October 05, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Oh Jane, PTA money comes from voluntary membership and fundraisers. You should know this having been a part of the PTA. Our school district is a not for profit organization supported by all the taxpayers in our town. If this tab for dinner had been picked up by the taxpayers of the district it would have been an ILLEGAL use of taxpayer money, according to the STATE OF NEW YORK!!! It is a lovely gesture but, ILLEGAL. We are not a Fortune 500 company. This is not the proper use of our tax dollars when the students have to do without because of budgetary constraints. Perhaps the BOE needs to reexamine the legalities involved in spending funds from our tax budget.
jane October 05, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Sarah I am aware of that. What I am saying is PTA does nice things for teachers etc. But it very seldom has a negitive impact as this. When the PTA tips a event person that is also a gift of public funds. and illegal. Or when they bring in food that is homemade. etc etc. I am not saying one or the other is correct WHAT I am saying is that until the facts are known and the questions asked why do the same people always assume the worst. Like I said the BOE would go to a dinner and then have to pay it back. It cost money all the time, and some of these programs were mandatory! . The school is also not for profit and has to follow the same rules, But I don't see anyone following PTA taking pictures. thats my input. I didn't agree when we followed the rules of PTA and stopped giving gifts to the custodians. I felt it was cheesy we work them beoynd there scope of work and our programs depend on them yet we weren't allow by law to gift them anything other then left over pizza. I dont know how it is now but I am sure that if gifts are happening it won't make the patch.
BBP Family October 08, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I am troubled by all of this and would like to explain why. Obviously, based on reading this and the responses, this is being populated by intelligent, passionate people. However, that being said, does everyone realize the job of the BOE and Supt.? It's to craft a fair school budget and get it passed. Is it for personal gain? No. It's for the exact reason we are all passionate...without a passed budget, our kids' education will take the direct hit. So, I write today to ask that we back off, welcome the new Supt., and acknowledge that we move past a $22 pp dinner welcoming the person responsible for our children's future. I am concerned, not about individual BOE members, but about this BOE, as a whole. All BOE members attend regular, mandatory trainings. So, why are we pinning this "mistake" on one person, and then watching a fractured, panicky, and maybe confused BOE reach into their pockets to cover the bill...or maybe it was their own tails? This is a terrible first impression for BBP to make on our new Supt. I hope this BOE can pull it together and be more united in their focus on what they are there to do...give us a budget we can vote yes on.
Katy Chandler October 08, 2012 at 11:07 PM
All of this bickering back and forth has gotten out of hand! Everyone has there opinion of course. But some are taken it too personally! The replies to one another is over the top! This is the last time for me ever making a comment on the patch!


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