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WATCH: Power Struggles Shut Down Malverne School Board Meeting

Board ends meeting abruptly after conflicts arise regarding Frost Valley field trip and investigation of trustee.

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." 

Related: 

  • WATCH: Power Struggles Shut Down Malverne School Board Meeting
  • Malverne Trustee Criticizes BOE's Choice for 'Impartial Investigator'
  • Malverne School Board Hires Firm to Investigate Complaints Against Trustee
concerned parent December 13, 2012 at 04:36 AM
This kind of conduct will eventually cost all of us our real estate value. This school district has started to take off,now people that can afford it will pull their kids. Thanks, BOE! Half of you don't live here , so you really don't care.
A Malverne Alum, Lakeview Resident, and parent December 13, 2012 at 04:55 AM
I have to say that I graduated from Malverne High School (which I was always proud of) and my children currently attend Malverne Schools. I am very embarrassed by the way the BOE behaved in this clip. President O'Connor appeared to be inconsiderate and not willing to let Ms. Genti speak from the beginning. Mr. Taylor had his back turned to her, and Dr. Hunderfund appeared aloof. His compensation package should motivate him to be more attentive to the topic at hand. There has to be a major paradigm shift in the way we do business as district, administration, community, and BOE. We have our children's future in our hands. This dysfunction cascades it way down to our classrooms. So if you want our children, teachers, and school administrators to promote positive educational experiences and act appropriately in educational settings then it must start with the BOE. Furthermore, I am appalled that my tax payer dollars are being used for raised for Malverne's top Administrators, a law firm to look into complaints about "alleged facebook posts",and useless BOE meetings regarding field usage. Instead my school taxes should be for teacher's assistants in kindergarten classes, and class trips for the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, and library on a regular rotating basis. This is an area of concern because it appears that we are focusing on the wrong agenda! We have to demand better for our children and our future and we have to start today!
A Malverne Alum, Lakeview Resident, and parent December 13, 2012 at 04:59 AM
I also want to say that I am usually the type of person that would comment under my own name and in many circumstances I would. But I am not comfortable after reading about the level of corruption that is occurring with our BOE. I do not want my children to suffer because I am stating my opinion on a public forum. I know that we have freedom of speech, but I see how the BOE people who have an opinion that does not favor their agenda!
Felix Procacci December 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM
The people need TRANSPARENCY, TRANSPARENCY and TRANSPARENCY from their local government officials. All questions should be answered and explained to the public, even when there is a dispute. http://newhydepark.patch.com/blog_posts/sewanhaka-school-board-doesnt-want-transparency
Rob December 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Peg O'connor came across as arrogant and on a complete power trip. With your little snide comments. Get over yourself. How dare you treat people like that. Michael Taylor couldn't sit still for five minutes. Whispering in everyone's ear. He couldn't wait to shut it down and leave. I don't even know what to say about the rest of the Board, Hunderfund, and District employees who went along with this embarrassment....maybe that's the word I'm looking for....embarrassment.
Jan Kasal December 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM
The regular observers know that the BoE has been preoccupied by its own agenda for some time. It’s an embarrassment and unwanted distraction from other business matters. Fortunately, the elections are coming soon. If you are ready to do something from now till May in order to change the course, please meet others at vevajanka@hotmail.com
Tom Grech December 13, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Two words: Disappointed. Consolidate.
G. Miller December 13, 2012 at 03:43 PM
That was embarrassing to say the least. Who was the gentleman that was trying to interrupt the taping of the meeting? Just curious...Tom, I have another word....Arrogance....I wish I was a resident of SD#12 so I could actually weigh in on these meetings.
Gerald Barr December 13, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Tom, which district is gonna want to be in a partnership with us? Seriously? Too much political baggage.
Tara Conry (Editor) December 13, 2012 at 04:08 PM
G. Miller: The gentleman who was intentionally standing in front of the camera (twice) toward the end is Spiro Colaitis, assistant superintendent for district operations.
Tara Conry (Editor) December 13, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Malverne Board of Education Trustee Gina Genti has provided Patch with the full transcript of the statement she attempted to read, along with the questions she planned to ask, at Tuesday's school board meeting. Click on the following link to view it: http://patch.com/A-0sv0
algonquin December 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM
These idiots control a $48.5 million dollar budget funded by our taxes. Now would be a great time to petition the state to force consolidation with East Rockaway or other storm damaged districts, fire Hunderfund$, and dump most of these inept Board members and overpaid duplicative administrators.
James Porter December 13, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I feel for Trustee Gina Genti. The way she is treated by the board, particularly the President is disgraceful. As an alum of the Malverne School District, I am saddened by the actions and behavior of the board. It seems like they are wasting time and money on juvenile behavior, rather than making sure it is the students who are benefiting from their actions. Shame on you Malverne BOE. They should put this squabbling to rest, and get back to serving the children of the Malverne School District. Gina Genti should not stand down. If she did, that would let the bullies win. If the children behaved the way the board members of BOE staff are, they would be sent to the principal's office.
Felix Procacci December 13, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Said it before in a previous comment post. Can't say it often enough. The people need TRANSPARENCY, TRANSPARENCY and TRANSPARENCY from their local government officials. Residents need to call on the State govenment to reform the way local government operates. All questions should be answered and explained to the public, even when there is a dispute. As described in the article below, I experienced stonewalling by Board members at my school district too. This can't be tolerated. http://newhydepark.patch.com/blog_posts/sewanhaka-school-board-doesnt-want-transparency
James Porter December 13, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Whoever said at the end "this is a disgrace" is totally right. It is. If I acted the way Peg O'Conner did in a meeting, I would lose my job.
Gerald Barr December 13, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Did anyone catch the president's strange behavior at the 7:06 to the 7:15 mark of the video? She needs a psychological evaluation.
Margaret Doran Delligatti December 14, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I'd like to know where the rest of the video footage is? Considering what is shown here is very one sided. But considering I was at the meeting I know the whole story. Most importantly how about the footage of all THE CHILDREN receiving awards. Or do they not count?
Gina Genti December 14, 2012 at 01:43 AM
At the Dec 11 meeting the BoE trustees chose to show a video clip of me from last budget season explaining to taxpayers why Frost Valley was removed from the budget and how I thought it should be paid for through fundraising by students and parents. My comments then set the stage for what I have been working wth the SFV Committee to accomplish. I stand by my comments then and believe that our resources should be focused on the classroom and the professional development of our teachers. I am the parent of a current 6th grader so I get it but I also have a responsibility to the taxpayers. I was the only trustee willing to tackle the FV issue with the public and as a parent I'm doing exactly what I said I would expect to happen. I don't know what O'Connor, Taylor, Bottita and Hopkins were trying to accomplish but I am grateful them for reminding taxpayers of my commitment to my responsibility even at the expense of my own child.
A Malverne Alum, Lakeview Resident, and parent December 14, 2012 at 01:52 AM
although the footage was upsetting I would love to know the other side of the story... Margaret Doran Delligatti, please share your view!
Gina Genti December 14, 2012 at 02:27 AM
The attorney for the school district said I was not a member of the public and that is followed by Joey Bottita asking me to allow someone from the public to speak on behalf of Frost Valley besides me. This board has trampled my rights to free expression and speech too many times to count in the short time they have been together.
Tara Conry (Editor) December 14, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Margaret, thanks for the feedback! Not only do the students count, but I feel each of the groups and/or individuals who received awards Tuesday night are worthy of their own articles, separate from this issue, which we will be running in the coming days along with photos that I did take of each of them at the meeting. In fact, we already posted a story about one of the award recipients last month. Here it is in case you missed it: http://patch.com/A-zVP9 Also, I did mention in the article posted above that awards were handed out to students at the start of the meeting. I do not have the capacity to post footage of the entire meeting, which could run for hours, from start to finish. Nor do I see the value in that. Part of my job as a journalist is to package stories in the manner that makes the most sense for our busy readers.
Tara Conry (Editor) December 14, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Missing from the footage is: - the adoption of past meeting minutes, the treasurer's reports and the consent agenda. -Paul Gruol announcing the Jan. 9 kick-off meeting for this year's Relay for Life, which will take place May 4. - Awards were handed out to students Emmanuel Adeyeye, Tailah Revels, Alex Castro, Nia Pollard, Kim Lin Ramsawak, Kevin Baksh and scholar-athletes from girls tennis, volleyball and soccer. - Residents were reminded about the Dec. 19 budget forum and online survey. - Dr. Banyon stated that the number of students achieving honor roll is up. - Three administrators -- Assistant Superintendent Spiro Colaitis, Business Administrator Tom McDaid and Herber Dean Daniel Nehlsen -- were recognized for completing their certification to become evaluators for the new Annual Professional Performance Reviews for teachers. We'll have separate stories on many of these topics in the coming days.
Garfan December 14, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Someone needs to send this video to whatever state agency investigates school board misconduct. What a group of rank amateurs and kooks - and they spend millions of public dollars. This district needs immediate take over by the state, like Roosevelt. What a disgrace and disaster. Why do we need this crackpot board - just turn it over to the lawyer.
sally December 14, 2012 at 07:45 AM
Hey why doesn't somebody contact Arnold Diaz to do a SHAME on you episode of this poor excuse of BOE. This is disgraceful.
Margaret Doran Delligatti December 14, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Feel free to contact me. Btw, who are you, do I know you?
G. Miller December 14, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Thanks Tara.
Todd Hundley December 14, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Seems like the children aren't in the classroom, they're the head of the BOE. How childish, immature, and down right disrespectful O'Connor, Hunderfund, & Colitis (sp?). You're an embarrassment as heads of the BOE & as people. This is why most Malverne residents send their children to Private Schools, outside of Genti & Bottita, the rest of you are MORONS! This is prime example of the MUFSD.
Tara Conry (Editor) December 15, 2012 at 06:45 AM
And here is the full transcript of Malverne Board of Education President Peg O'Connor's statement: http://patch.com/A-0wvT
Gina Genti December 15, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Margaret Doran Dellegatti since I am the only person that stands to lose from your making the entire comnmunity aware of "the real story" why don't you share it here. You have my permission. When your done go back and recap all the lies and mistakes you have heard and seen coming from this district in the past 2 years backed up by real information and documentation.
Chris T. December 17, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Is the Facilities Use Policy EVER going to be read and adopted???

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