The ongoing internal strife among Malverne school officials spun out of control Tuesday night, leading to an abrupt end to the Board of Education's December business meeting and leaving some residents seriously considering moving out of the district.
After awards had been doled out to students and the board adopted the consent agenda, President Peg O'Connor addressing why the board voted last month to hire an impartial investigator to probe complaints made by two central office employees against Trustee Gina Genti.
O’Connor explained that a regulation recently adopted by the board requires it to engage an impartial investigator if complaints are filed by a district employee against a trustee.
“Unfortunately, the board has received complaints from two different district employees regarding a board member’s conduct toward them … [and] correspondence from one such employee threatening potential legal action,” she stated.
O’Connor also said the board has adopted policies pertaining to the conduct of trustees, including how they must request information from district employees.
“A majority of the board believes it’s important to enforce these policies,” she added. “Frequently, however, we have been frustrated in these efforts by one board member who has instead attempted to accuse those board members of wasting district money. That’s simply not true … We sincerely hope this year will bring more cooperation.”
Genti tried to respond to O’Connor’s statement, but she was shut down by the board president, who then proceeded to show a video clip of a budget meeting held last spring in which Genti suggested cutting the $30,000 allocated for the 2013 sixth grade trip to Frost Valley YMCA from the budget. In the footage, Genti proposes the trip be paid for through fundraising efforts, which is something she has been working on since June as a member of the Save Frost Valley Committee.
O’Connor said the purpose of showing the clip was to clear up “misinformation” that’s been circulating in the community. She then announced that she would take up to 5 minutes of comments from the public, limiting the audience to two questions pertaining to Frost Valley.
Genti’s hand shot up, requesting the opportunity to speak about the trip, but O’Connor told her that only the public was permitted to address the board at this time. Genti then scurried around to the other side of the dais, and sat in the chair reserved for members of the public who wish to address the board, hoping to be heard that way.
“She’s out of order,” Schools Superintendent James Hunderfund whispered to O’Connor. When Genti tried to respond to Hunderfund’s comment, he told her, “Ms. Genti, you’re not telling me what to do.”
O’Connor then threatened to close the meeting, but Genti pleaded with her not to, explaining that there were two checks that the Save Frost Valley Committee needed to present to the board in order to comply with the deadline given to them.
“I don’t think we should close the meeting,” stated Trustee Joey Bottitta, who then encouraged Genti to have a member of the public speak on behalf of the SVF Committee.
Genti complied, and sixth grade parent Margaret Delligatti volunteered to present the checks, which totaled $6,434, covering the cost of the trip’s down payment and advisor.
Once the money was accepted, Genti again requested the opportunity to speak, now wishing to address the complaints filed against her. O’Connor granted her two minutes.
“The staff complaints manufactured against me were done so by two individuals in December of last year, both of whom work in the central administration building,” Genti said. “It’s important for people know that I don’t walk the school halls, speaking to our principals … or our teachers.”
As Genti was still reading O’Connor motioned to adjourn the meeting and received enough votes to do so. Genti continued to speak as the board members walked out and Assistant Superintendent Spiro Colaitis -- the target of some of her remarks -- repeatedly made attempts to stop Patch from recording the rest of her statement.
“This is a disgrace!” one resident shouted.
“I’m putting a ‘For Sale’ sign on my house,” stated another parent. “I’m out of this school district.”
Click on the video above to see how the final minutes of the meeting played out or watch the extended footage under "VIDEOS."
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