The September meeting of the Malverne school board started out calm and on a positive note.
Two teachers were recognized for earning tenure, the school principals reported a successful school opening and district officials said its two capital projects
The tone changed though when Joann Krudis, a mother of two and NYC teacher who ran for the school board last spring, asked a series of questions, all pertaining to local assessments the students would be subjected to for the first time this year. As Krudis was speaking to Assistant Superintendent Richard Banyon, she was interrupted by Board President Marguerite O'Connor, who was enforcing a new one-question-at-a-time limit.
"This is why people do not come up here to talk," Krudis said.
The board's guidelines stipulate that "all speakers will be limited to three minutes," but O'Connor said the new rule was introduced in reaction to criticism the board received after last month's meeting, when one resident "had one topic under which she had nine questions."
Another former school board candidate, Kathleen Nolan Kasal, also spoke up during the comment period, presenting she started in August in reaction to the to all members of central administration. It had 207 signatures.
"It was done secretly," she said, referring to how the resolution was added to the agenda at the last minute and not clearly explained to the public upon its adoption, "... and right after the May budget was adopted, in which staff and programs were cut."
"The general perception of the board is that they are not necessarily putting the students [and taxpayers] first, but the administrative pay increases," she stated, adding that the community desired more input in these matters.
"The public is not allowed to have input into contract negotiations," O'Connor said, and argued that the resolution was not done in secret and that most of the items cut in the May budget have since been restored.
Coming to the defense of the adminstration, Marisa D’Andrea, a 16-plus-year resident, read a lengthy letter pointing out all the ways the district has improved since they arrived.
"They are doing their job. Are they perfect? No. Is our district where we want it to be? No. But we are moving in the right direction," she said. "The administrators are the only employees of the school district who did not take a pay raise last year. What makes these people so undeserving?"
She also defended the school board and condemned the "mud slinging" on the unofficial Malverne schools Facebook group. As did Iesha Brown, a dedicated Malverne Wildcats mom, who said the football league is often depicted "in a negative light on there." She accused Trustee Gina Genti of attacking the group on the site and said, "People are wondering, 'Are we still in a racist town?'"
"I don't like Facebook," O'Connor said, a statement that prompted applause from some audience members. "We are absolutely maligned constantly [on there] ... we want a positive, positive, positive educational program, a positive community."
Genti, who frequently comments in the Facebook group, responded to O'Connor, saying "In order to foster a positive community environment, it starts at the top and that means fostering a positive board meeting and not talking down to the people who elect us."
Also discussed at Wednesday's meeting, was the loss of school busing to some residents, efforts to save the Frost Valley field trip, and use of the district's field. Check back tomorrow for coverage of these topics and video highlights.