We have submitted the following letter to incumbent Ms. Antalek Everett:
Dear Ms. Antalek Everett,
At the May 11, 2016 "Meet The Candidates Night" hosted by the BCSD PTO Collaborative, stakeholders were invited to submit questions to candidates via the emails provided in the brochure. Since you could not attend, we would like to submit the following six questions to you. We feel these questions are important in regards to your voting history and your candidacy to represent us on the Board of Education:
You were not present at the August 10, 2015 Board of Education meeting where after the months-long battle for accountability culminated in a crowded school board meeting, where outraged teachers, tearful students, and parents demanding answers were all met with terse responses from our superintendent. At issue was Dr. Walkley’s involuntary transfer of at least 27 high-performing teachers, many of whom had been in their positions for years. Although this was not recommended by the state, and no evidence was presented to justify the move, the superintendent insisted it was in the district’s best interest.
The public repeatedly asked why teachers were taken from schools where they had so much success, and how BCSD would maintain the high standards set by those teachers in their absence. In response to these often emotional pleas, Dr. Walkley remained vague, saying she put strong teachers where they were needed and couldn’t comment on individual personnel. When parents asked for elaboration, they were told it was not their turn to speak.
Your first public comment after the August 10th meeting was on October 13, 2015. Your comment did not mention the teacher transfers, but that you were in full support of Dr. Walkley. Have you gone back to listen to the comments on August 10th, 2015? Have you read the petition that was signed by over 350 stakeholders? Has your position regarding the teacher transfers changed now that so much new information has come to light?
The January 11, 2016 Board Meeting was cancelled because a quorum was not present. According to the NY State School Board Association: “If a quorum is not present, no official business can be conducted until more members arrive. Informal discussion can, however, legally take place, or the meeting can be adjourned (less than a quorum may adjourn).” The BOE President, Melissa Thompson, chose to adjourn the meeting.
Over 350+ parents, teachers, students, and stakeholders remained in the auditorium. Board Members Anthony White and Bill Zopf remained in attendance along with Deputy Superintendent Ann Marie Quartironi.
Nearly 400 parents, teachers and concerned citizens packed the Seeger Auditorium at Beacon High School on Monday, January 11, 2016 criticizing a perceived lack of responsiveness from the school board and calling for the dismissal of Superintendent Barbara Walkley. Why do you think so many parents, teachers, community members and even local politicians came to this meeting? Are you pleased to see so much interest in what is going on in our school district?
If re-elected how will you learn from the past mistakes made during superintendent searches (and non-searches), and what specific actions will you take to ensure stakeholder involvement? We would like to make it clear that the following is not the type of community involvement we would like to see in the current Superintendent search:
At the March 28, 2016 Board of Education Meeting in response to the public asking for stakeholder involvement, you said to the public “I’m not really sure where this is all coming from; the community was involved in the last process; the community was involved in the process before that; the community was involved in the process before that.”
However, this is not what the public has witnessed. On February 23, 2015, Dr. Barbara Walkley was hired permanently. Her appointment was made during a BOE meeting following a discussion in a closed executive session. There was no resume, employment recommendations, or input from the community. The sole dissenting board member, Anthony White, expressed concern that the BOE was “blindsiding the public and the school community… making a rash decision without having all of the important information.” For Mr. White’s full comment please see here:
Mr. White attempted to get the Board’s explanation for this. He continued: I am asking the Board of Ed members to explain their point of view and to justify how they came to this decision so the community has a full and complete understanding of the decision being made. Some might say the Board has done its due diligence by evaluating the “body of work” that has been done while in the interim position. If this is the rationale I would ask my fellow board members what they are referring to with regard to the “body of work?”
Less than three seconds following this statement and with no response to Mr. White’s questions or concerns the Beacon Board of Ed. President called for a vote. Mr. White was the only member to vote ‘No’ on the immediate appointment.
Board Members were again questioned at the October 13, 2015 Board of Education Meeting regarding the decision to not have a search before hiring Dr. Walkley. Your response was the following:
(Video 2:23:17) “So, I just want to echo some of the things Kenya and Georgia said. I think people are somehow under the impression that we are just up here because we have nothing else to do on a Monday night. And we all care about kids almost every one of us has a kid in the district or recently graduated or a grandchild in the district so we all are stakeholders in this we all care. We’ve all given up countless Monday nights, other hours, other meetings, and umm it’s really disheartening that some of you would even feel the need to say that, but anyway. (Video 2:24:00) So yes, I also opted to not do a full blown search. I like Georgia was a part of one search directly and one search indirectly. I, like Kenya, sat in the audience for a year to a year and a half before I got involved. I got this seat because, oh by the way, the year this election happened no one wanted to run. There was no candidate for this seat. I really didn’t want this seat to be perfectly honest. So, umm, I felt at the time very strongly about it, I still do. I fully support Dr. Walkley I think she is by far and away the best candidate we’ve had in the three searches that I know about and I feel really badly that we are treating her so badly, thank you”.
For the search for Superintendent Dorward the then interim Superintendent Dr. Walkley held one forum. Audience members were allowed to say ONE WORD at a time (about a quality they wanted in the next superintendent). There was also a "stakeholder" committee comprised of district employees along with Dr. Walkley and the former BTA President, Ms. Pilla, a few administrators, and BOE members. This committee was about 10-12 people. The group met a few times and the process was run by SMART objectives. They went around the room, starting with words and statements that we would like to see in a new superintendent, they gradually got more specific. By the end they had a few 'firm' qualities that the group wanted in a new superintendent. The phrase 'community involvement' is very misrepresented, as there were only one or two non employees.
At the October 10, 2015 meeting you stated that “There was no candidate for this seat. I really didn’t want this seat to be perfectly honest.” This was in regards to your position on the Board of Education. We now have three candidates that do want a seat on the Board. What has changed for you, after this year of district turmoil, that now makes you want to run again?
At the November 23, 2015 Board of Education Meeting, board member Christine Galbo introduced a resolution calling on the state legislature to "review and redesign New York's Annual Professional Performance Review system," which she called "flawed" and leading to "redundancies, over testing of students and unfunded mandates."
You along with Bill Zopf voted ‘No’ to the resolution and it therefore failed at this meeting. Why did you vote against this resolution? What was your reasoning for voting ‘No’ on this resolution? Do you not agree with Christine Galbo’s assessment of the APPR?
After months of stakeholders requesting the BOE to take action, board member Anthony White made a motion at the April 26, 2016 board meeting (Video 2:31:49) to request an RFP for competitive bids for our board attorney. He stated that he believes it would be a good practice, that it would not hurt, and that it would be good knowledge to have.
This vote was to add an item to the agenda, in order for it to be discussed by the board. You, along with Mr. Zopf voted ‘No’ to adding the discussion to the agenda, and it therefore failed.
Again, at the the May 9, 2016 (video: 1:08:31) Board Member, Anthony White introduced a motion for the Board to have a discussion in regards to a Request for Proposal for legal services. You along with board members Kenya Gadsden, Bill Zopf, Georgia Patchen, and Frank Garnot voted ‘No’ to adding the discussion to the agenda.
Christine Galbo tried to clarify that this was only to add the item to the agenda in order to have a discussion. Because of your vote this motion again failed. Why do you continually refuse to have a discussion for a request for a competitive bid for legal representation?
We look forward to any answers you may be able to provide prior to the election.
Advocates for Beacon Schools