Good evening parents, neighbors, staff, administration and Board members. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Larry Cohen. Our family has been here for 4 generations attending Beacon Schools. I was fortunate to serve as a member of this School Board for 3 terms ending in 2014. My service to this district also included many years as a PTA Board Member at South Avenue; I co-chaired the BAEF with Meredith Heuer for 2 years at its inception and have been involved in other local community organizations. I now serve as a Councilman in the Town of Fishkill. I tell you this because I have devoted my life to public service and my community which I take very seriously.
I was on the School Board during the rotation of the 8 superintendents. So as to not rehash what has been, I will keep my feelings about this subject to myself for now. I will say that I believe it was not handled in the best possible way for the best interest of our children.
I would like to address the current climate and issues that I believe are impacting our children in a negative way. First, I would like to state that while still on the Board, I was in full support of bringing Dr. Walkley on as interim and then full time Superintendent. It was a long and well thought out plan that was founded in as much fact based information as we could have based upon prior experience. It was at that time, the best alternative and I was in agreement as even though Dr. Walkley had no Superintendent experience, it made sense at that time. However, sometimes a person is great at one position and not at another due to outside influences; I am not judging here, just stating information.
While still on the School Board, I observed and was aware of inappropriate relationships between certain board members, union officials, prior administrators and others that I believe are not only unethical but may possibly border on a violation of State Education Law. At the least, they are a complete conflict of interest for what is best for our children. Ironically, it was me that was accused by fellow Board members that I had too much information about what was going on in the district. However, my relationships were never unethical or a violation of any regulations.
This district is now in possession of documentation that details communications between administration and a staff member that is so far beyond inappropriate. These communications state how to deal with certain Board members, lay insult upon other administrators, detail an inappropriate personal relationship which is a direct conflict of interest in the operations of our district and at the minimum, show empowerment to an individual that should not be empowered. As to the legality, this is for courts to decide. As to the issue of unethical behavior, this too can be decided by others. However, in the case of morality and the court of public opinion, along with my neighbors, we will be the judge and the jury. Those of us who have reviewed this documentation are appalled by the content and its implications. If just a small percentage of any of this documentation is valid and true, it is full justification for a vote of “no confidence” for this administration, the involved staff member(s) and especially members of this school board for its complete lack of oversight. The consideration of multiple resignations should be placed on the table.
Once again, I have no questions this evening so I require no response. I believe that any response short of an apology would be insulting.
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.
We thank all of those that stayed and listened to the speakers.