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West Hempstead Residents Call for DiMiceli's Resignation

Board of education trustee criticized for mailings sent to community members during budget time.

West Hempstead residents were calling for the removal of one trustee from the board of education at Tuesday night's meeting, accusing her of violating the board's code of ethics.

Four residents read statements that they had prepared in regards to a postcard that Trustee Cynthia DiMiceli mailed to community members the weekend prior to the May 15 budget vote.

"In the postcard, she encourages people to vote 'No,'" stated resident Christine Fennes, citing various lines of the code of ethics that she believed DiMiceli broke through her actions, warranting the board to remove her from her position. Fennes accused DiMiceli of speaking to residents in town, telling them to vote down the budget, and putting together a slate of board candidates in an attempt to defeat long-time incumbents Carole Rilling and James Mariano.

"As a board of ed your responsibility is to present the best of our schools," long-time resident and retired West Hempstead teacher Barbara Keilty-Michaleski added. "When a decision is made and voted on, the majority vote is the decision that is presented to the public, despite individual differences."

Keilty-Michaleski accused DiMiceli of using her position to "influence how people should vote," acting in a "detrimental manner" to "undermine" the board, spreading "incorrect" information and "inferring there is money to be found between the lines" when the district has been operating on a frugal budget for years. She then requested DiMiceli resign from the board.

"Why would you work so hard to destroy our district that my children, your children, their children all attend?" asked native West Hempsteader Loraine Magaraci, who disclosed that she had elected DiMiceli to the board. "A failed budget would have had detrimental effects on our district that would have taken years to recover from ... This time you went too far."

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Another long-time resident and father of two West Hempstead graduates, Seth Bykofsky, said DiMiceli offered up "opinion or sheer fiction in lie of fact" calling her actions "nothing short of a breach of public trust."

DiMiceli told Patch she sent the mailings, which she for paid out of her own pocket, to residents to explain why she at the April 17 meeting. (She had tried to present her position during the meeting, but was told by the BOE President that it was not the appropriate forum to do so.)

In the letter addressed to West Hempstead residents, DiMiceli writes: 

"We live in a new economy that has placed financial stresses upon families, seniors living on fixed income and young graduates who are looking for work. Having said this, some residents have criticized my disapproval of the Proposed 2012-2013 School Budget. Ever since my children started public school all I heard was '…if you do not vote 'yes' on the school budget you will be labeled anti-public education.' In my opinion, we must change this way of thinking."

Although these statements were interpreted by many as indicating that DiMiceli was encouraging residents to vote down the budget, DiMiceli told Patch, "In my letter, I did not tell anyone to vote 'No.''"

She told Patch her intentions were to explain her views on the budget and to inform residents about certain "facts that [they] may not know of," including the potential loss in revenue the district is facing next year now that Nassau BOCES has of Eagle Avenue. She also wanted to inform residents of the which predicts that, in the worst case scenario, West Hempstead could start deficit spending in 2014.

DiMiceli's critics accused her of "bashing" the school district by writing that the community "must have the courage to face and admit our deficiencies" and that "our standard of education will drop even further along with the value of our homes" if it didn't spend wiser and make provisions for the future.

DiMiceli told Patch she stands behind the statements in her letter, saying, "There's nothing wrong with saying ever single one of us can do better." 

As the parent of students in the schools, DiMiceli said she had no intention of taking anything away from the students, but instead wanted to see the district explore other ways of saving money while keeping programs intact such as through contract negotiations, grants and better advanced planning.

"You can't put children and money in the same sentence," she stated, adding that those who do "are playing on emotions."

She also contends that if she hadn't pressured the district to spend more time working on getting the budget's tax levy increase down to 2.58 percent then they probably would have went with the 3.06 percent that was first presented to the board. 

She explained that the district's motto is "Dedicated to Excellence," but showed that in many areas West Hempstead was performing below the Nassau County average -- specifically in Math and ELA in Grades 3 - 5, and Grade 6 ELA.

"We need to define what excellence is," DiMiceli said. "If being in the middle is excellence to people of West Hempstead, then I can't fight that. Excellence, to me, is being on my game every day."

Board President Walter Ejnes motioned for the board's Code of Ethics to be reviewed at the next policy meeting, scheduled for October, and asked their legal counsel to weigh in on the matter.

Greg Guercio, of Guercio & Guercio, LLP, did not disclose the contents of the legal opinion he sent to the board, but explained that the only penalty for trustees who violate the Code of Ethics is removal from the board.

"That is an extremely rare, almost unheard of, occurrence," he said. "An ethical violation has to rise to an extremely high level." 

What did you think of DiMiceli's letter? Tell us in the comments section below.

Tuesday's meeting also explored the recent NYS test scores, progress on grant-writing and the Strategic plan, and a potential lawsuit regarding APPR. Check Patch tomorrow for a recap of these discussions.

Christine Fennes June 22, 2012 at 05:09 AM
As usual, Cynthia manipulates her words and her actions to appear misunderstood. If she did not have the intention to damage the district, then why the secret meetings with those who have been vocal for years on taking down the West Hempstead public schools? Why did at least two people tell others that they changed their votes to "no" after speaking to Cynthia the day of the vote. Code of Ethics and Responsibilities for School Board Members - A School Board Member, operating under the highest ethical standards, should:      4. represent the entire community without fear or favor; 5. remember at all times that he/she is one of the team; 6. ABIDE BY ALL BOARD DECISIONS ONCE THEY ARE MADE AND ASSIST IN CARRYING THEM OUT EFFECTIVELY; 10. assure the opportunity for high quality education for every student;  There is no manipulation of these words!
Felix Procacci June 22, 2012 at 12:08 PM
If she should be removed, most SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS ON ALL SCHOOL BOARDS ON LONG ISLAND SHOULD BE REMOVED. This is because most school board members (all that I have seen and I attend most schood board meetings) misrepresent the school budget each year. They cherry pick the facts they want to present during meetings to insure a YES vote. What they should do, is present all facts THROUGHLY, and let the voters decide. I have never seen this at a school board meeting or budget presentation.
Walter Ejnes June 22, 2012 at 04:29 PM
You are correct- school boards should present all facts THROUGHLY, and let the voters decide. Fortunately this is how it is done in West Hempstead. Three meetings were held in which the budget was reviewed in public line item by line item. All budget discussions were held in public and those who attended the meetings were allowed to ask any question on any budget item. To keep the process totally transparent, the complete line item budgets were posted online prior to each workshop. In most districts, these workshops take place in Jan/Feb. In West Hempstead, the process starts in the Fall with a series of community meetings where the residents have their say before the budget is presented at the winter workshops. The budget that was eventually adopted and passed by a vast majority of the community reflected much of what came out of those community meetings. I suggest you look at the past Patch articles on our budget process. I think you would be pleased with how it is done in West Hempstead.
Christine Fennes June 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
If you were from WH you would have been involved in the many resident budget meetings that WH held this year. They explained and explored the budget thoroughly. What the Federal and State governments mandate (which means it comes right off the top of the income), what is expected in the district and what would be great to offer. The ink barely dries on one budget and the next one must be started. It is a joint effort to make and then trim the final budget. I'm sure a few of Cynthia's 1,456.9 suggestions was looked into, but I'm also sure she was not the only cause of the .48 decrease, but again 5. remember at all times that he/she is one of the team;
Christine Fennes June 22, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I'm sorry..... the sentence should say..... "I'm sure a few of Cynthia's 1,456.9 suggestions were looked into,..."
Just The Facts June 22, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Im curious....if a Board member can publicly campaign for yes votes, why would it be improper for one to solicit no votes?
Felix Procacci June 22, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Walter Ejnes, just curious, does the WH school board discuss the Triborough Ammendment? At the Sewanhaka and Elmont school board, and budget meetings, the Superintendents, and most board member won't publically state their position. At the budget presentations at my civic this year, I asked this question and both refused to answer.
Lorraine June 22, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Soliciting no votes is not a problem if you are not a member of the Board of Education. While a member, you must support decisions voted on by the board. You can disagree while the decision making process in in play, but once the vote has gone through you need to support that. If that is not possible and you cannot live with the decision, you should step down. Sending out a mailing two days before the vote seems a little sneaky.
Lorraine DeVita June 23, 2012 at 12:29 AM
EVERY parent, taxpayer educator and Administrator most of all EVERY Board Member should strive to be better, raise the bar and QUESTION. If people remain blind, blindly accept the staus quo just because the are afraid of change or afraid to reach for higher standards then the only ones doomed are the students. TOO many board members cowtail to adminstration, never questioning , however odd as it may seem admin doesnt know everything nor are educators demi gods. YOUR BOARD , EVERY BOARD needs people like Ms Dimiceli to question the status quo & say we CAN do better for the taxpayers but more importantly for the kids. I would HOPE if she had 3000 suggestions the board would explore EVERY ONE of them just to insure that THEY collectively are doing THEIR fiducuary duty for the taxpayers of the community. Just because people QUESTION & make suggestions doesnt make them the anti christ if that was the case then perhaps we should just raise sheep .
Lorraine DeVita June 23, 2012 at 12:53 AM
If you can do it better, smarter, less expensively & bring a higher level of excellence & QUALITY then why the heck would you shoot down suggestions. Perhaps its not Ms Dimiceli you should fear its the sheep on the board who are afraid to recognize the staus quo aint as good as you kid yourselves. WH is following the same footsteps of My SD Seaford, Instead of nailing her to the cross you should LISTEN with an open mind & ask her WHY she is making suggestions. Become educated taxpayers not sheep blindly following the fold. Remember sheep get led to the slaugter. Seems to me she is trying to prevent the bloodshed. Are you satisfied with expensive mediocre WH? Because truth be told you dont lead the pack, you arent a benchmark others look up to nor are you hoovering in the top ten, you like my SD Seaford are middle of the road . Not bad but certianly not GREAT. I will ask you what i ask my Board- Are your students LESS capable then a JERICHO or RVC? Do they deserve less then a quality education at an affordable price Throwing good money after bad doesnt insure quality .. truth be told if the people who rule the roost dont want change your in for a long hard road & a very rude awakening in a few years.Seems to Ms Dimiceli is trying to look towards the future to insure you DONT end up like Seaford did last year Personally i wouldnt kill the messenger I would look to WHO ISNT questioning & ask why are the satisified with mediocre? good luck you ARE going to need it
LSmith June 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM
L.DeVita- Everything you are saying is right but what you may not know since you do not live in WH is that no one in WH is happy with the status quo including the board and administration. In WH they do not cowtail to the administration. In fact this administration is fabulous. They have opened the process of improving the schools to the community. WH has an active strategic planning process that includes residents which looks at all areas for improvement and measures the success of the plans once implemented. The Superintendent in our district even has open door meetings monthly for residents to come in and discuss any issues and ideas they have. In a nutshell, this district is constantly looking at ways to improve. The problem that we as a community have with DiMiceli is that as a board member, she feels that all of these changes must come through her. So if she is not satisfied with what the community, administration and board has come up with to improve because it was not her idea, she does not support it and never gives an alternative solution. She is a micromanager who does not respect the experience and knowledge of her fellow board members nor the school personnel. I voted for her because I thought she would be a great addition to the school board. Now I see that she has aligned herself with a group trying to strip our schools of its basic programs because they are the only ones to listen to her. Live in WH and you will feel the same about her.
Anna June 23, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I am not in the West Hempstead school district, but based on my experience of living on Long Island and being forced to pay outrageous school taxes for 30+ years even though living in a household with no children, I have come to see that this whole property tax situation (on the Island and in similar American communities that have high property taxes) is mafia-like. They don't like to hear any opinions (whether they be from a fellow board member or the community) that differ from the pre-approved plan. All those board meetings are for show to make the community believe they have any input, when they actually don't - what a scam! Unfortunately, all these communities (and any school board member who dares to veer from the pre-approved plan) don't realize that they've been Delphi'd. What's Delphi'd? The Delphi Technique was developed by the Rand Corporation as a cold war mind control technique, used to channel a group of people to accept a point of view that is imposed upon them while convincing them that it was their idea. Delphi is used in SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, in trainings, at neighborhood association meetings and other places where the organizers want to give the appearance they have listened to community opinion and incorporated it into the plan when they have not. (Cont'd below)
Anna June 23, 2012 at 05:44 PM
This seems to explain why year after year, school board members and Long Island communities approve ever skyrocketing school budgets proposed by school administrations, resulting in exorbitant tax hikes detrimental to their own livelihoods, and forcing more and more residents off the Island. Kudos to Ms. DiMiceli. Whatever you may think of her timing, at least she had the courage to stand up to this bullying tactic. It wouldn't have mattered if she'd given her input in the manner they'd requested, she'd inevitably have been shut up. She apparently didn't play their rigged game, so she's to be punished. It also has become apparent that voting for these school budgets is an effort in futility itself. I did not vote this year because I now know that our vote counts for ONLY 20% of the budget. And of course that 20% is the portion that affects the kids -- after-school programs, etc. etc. The main portion -- the 80% -- that sends our taxes sky high is the portion that we DON’T get to vote on. That's the portion that covers the salaries, pensions and benefits of the administrators and teachers. These monies have already been negotiated into contracts in which we have NO input. Since these contracts have to be honored no matter what, your property taxes will continue to increase, regardless if your property value has decreased. Your tax rate will simply be increased so they can bill you the increased taxes. Nice scam, huh? (Cont'd below)
Anna June 23, 2012 at 05:45 PM
(Cont'd from above) And the cherry on top is that (and, c'mon, you've always known this) you realize you don't really own your property in America. You RENT your property from the government. Even if your mortgage is 100% paid off, you can LOSE that property if you miss a few property tax payments. More accurately, your property can be STOLEN from you by the bureaucrats who live off your productivity. As one Long Islander (a Woodbury resident) commented in a letter to Newsday on May 14, 2012: "In the 64 years that I have been a Nassau County taxpayer, I have paid about $500,000 in school taxes and never had a child in the schools." Wow! Each of us should think about that. Just how much have we paid in school taxes over the years? Think about all the delayed retirements (if any at all), home repairs and repairs that can never be made due to this corrupt tax. It's way past time to break out of this brainwashing matrix and reclaim our communities from these opportunists!
Christine Fennes June 23, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Again, 5. remember at all times that he/she is one of the team; 6. ABIDE BY ALL BOARD DECISIONS ONCE THEY ARE MADE AND ASSIST IN CARRYING THEM OUT EFFECTIVELY; 10. assure the opportunity for high quality education for every student; The board had passed the approved budget so that the community could vote "YES"
Christine Fennes June 23, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Dear Anna, Your first comment "I am not in the West Hempstead School District" should save everyone from reading your extensive diatribe on mind control. Please stay on topic. The conversation is not about the outrageous taxes on LI. It is about an elected member of OUR Board of Education IN West Hempstead who broke several of the code of ethics for the WH BOE members. Full disclosure, this is a copy and paste from the Walter's letter article. Anna, please come to our board meeting with all your extra time and see what you're speaking about.
Lorraine June 24, 2012 at 02:26 PM
The BOE should spend its time improving education in WH while keeping a watchful eye on our taxes, not arguing every issue and detail with Cynthia DiMiceli. The issues that have come under her scrutiny are just time wasters.
Lorraine DeVita June 25, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Perception- From reading this i am gathering people dont like the WAY Ms. Dimiceli voices her concerns nor do they like her attitude. Ok thats fair enough- however, while her delivery maybe something your not used to or appreciate do not let it detract from her message or from the fact that she unlike so many others is willing to voice her opinion and rattle a few cages to get people to take notice. Sometimes you need one or two or more people on a board who are not ESTABLISHMENT to look at things from a different perspective. Every SD has these issues, people who have been on boards for years dont like newcomers telling them they have been doing it wrong for years, even if it something simple like following roberts rules of orders or adhereing to open meeting regs. there might be a method to her madness , look beyond the personality and look to the issues she is addressing. there may be substance there that needs ot be addressed. NO issue is a time waster. Contrary to beleif EVERY SD is a business and you need processes and rules and regs in order to run the business of education effectively. If the foundations arent in place and followed then you leave yourselves open for issues far greater then a woman who is by all accounts trying to insure WH improves . Something everyone wants. Again while her methods may be grating her INTENT is to make changes for the better isnt that what EVERYONE wants? Perhaps this board needs to invite NYSBA to help them move forward.
Lorraine DeVita June 25, 2012 at 12:32 PM
WH like so many district have to understand the pecking order..the Super & Admin REPORTS to The BOARD. The BOARD is the decision makers not the Super nor Administration. It is a the Boards Legal FIDUCIARY responsibility to insure the practices of the SD are sound it is their LEGAL responsibility to QUESTION Administration, the BOARD set goals for the amdinsitration and insures those goals are followed .. THE BOARD sets the tone not the ADMIN. Again i highly suggest you all call for NYSSBA (NY State School Board Administration_ to come and give some suggestions on HOW a BOARD functions and its responsibilities .. you would be surprised.. and it couldnt hurt..
Lorraine DeVita June 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM
and everyone INCLUDING Ms Dimiceli .might be better for it.. If she IS doing something wrong they will point it out and give you methods/directives . steps to follow as an UNBIASED third party. Cant hurt and would probably HELP everyone. and it doenst COST the district a DIME..
LSmith June 25, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Lorraine- It is obvious that you are close to DiMiceli as you seem to be able to repeat, almost verbatim, some of her arguments and issues. What you need to understand is that in the 2 decades that I have lived in WH, I have never seen improvement like the improvement we are experiencing these past 4-5 years. Ms. DiMiceli joined the school district 2 years ago without any experience with the district beside having kids in the schools (My child is in the same grade as one of hers). She came to one board meeting after the teachers union asked her to inorder to complain about the way the board was negotiating with the union (3 years without a contract). Then after one meeting she decided to run for school board supported by the teachers union. From what I see she has brought great ideas to the table but if someone has another idea she attacks it by not supporting it. She is not open to other ideas but her own. And she comes across as if she is the ruler of the district. Let the administration do the job they were hired for and are being paid for. Their ideas are fabulous and supported by the community. We are seeing great change in WH. But because not all of her ideas are accepted or even feasible and because the change is resulting from other's ideas, she is spreading lies and false facts that threaten to harm everything positive being done here. All she needs to do is open her mind to the ideas of others the way she expects others to be open to her ideas.
Lorraine DeVita June 27, 2012 at 01:05 PM
@lsmith- sorry I dont know Ms Dimiceli - What i do know is that when a SB has issues whether it be with one individual or a few they have resources to call upon NYSSBA is one of them. I dont know what Ms Dimicelis issues are , I DO know that SB's need to be held accountable ALL of its members. ALL SB members are strongly urged to attend a NYSSBA indoctrination training especially newly elected ones. There are specific rules, processes & doctrines for School Boards that MUSt be followed. Why WOULDNT you want NYSSBA to come to your BOARD, thats my question? If you have tools available to you that would help your board members ALL of them, be better Trustees why wouldnt you want the help or insight ? Also IF Ms Dimiceli is doing something wrong NYSSBA can provide the direction & tools to rectify the issues /problems. Just becaseu it has been done a certain way for years doesnt mean it is the correct way, if inviting NYSSBA to work with the Board is such a hot topic of debate then my question is what the hell is everyone so afraid of ? If you want Dimiceli OUT then this is an avenue for you to pursue to lay to rest the questions is she just an annoying PITA or does she have some valid issues & ground to stand on.. People who refuse help are usually the ones who need it the most. I invite you & the rest of your community to visit the NYSSBA website to review the organization.
Lorraine DeVita June 27, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Again i dont know Ms Dimiceli, never met the woman but what i do know is every SB board needs to know how to professionaly address & resolve issues/conflicts that impede the effectiveness of the board. That includes ms dimiceli as well as your board president. BTW your SD as well as all others pays DUES to this organization & are members for a reason. http://www.nyssba.org Go take a look ....

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