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.
The following is Meredith Heuer's comment:
Foundation. I began volunteering with this foundation in 2010. Since then, we have
sponsored over $80,000 worth of programming in the BCSD.
Six months ago, I approached this school board with the story of how our foundation
offered to fund an Arts in Education Coordinator position in the BCSD for the 2014-15
school year. The primary function of this position would be to maximize the use of the
New York State BOCES Co-Ser program which, every year, gives back around 50% of
money spent toward qualifying arts in education programing. Participation in the
BOCES Co-Ser plan makes programs like the CALICO BALL (a $16,000/year program)
possible. The offer of a donation was refused because, I was told by the superintendent,
she had found a way to pay a teacher to perform these duties through a grant. The
teacher’s title would be: Teacher of Special Assignment, or TOSA now known as and
Instructional Support Teacher, or IST. We were thrilled at this news, I passed on all the
information I and other members of the foundation had gathered over the years to the
new Coordinator, emails of acknowledgement were sent, and the year passed. After the
school year ended, in a meeting to review the Coordinator’s progress in this position, I
was told by the Superintendent that after her initial announcement to me about the IST
position she had found that the Coordinator’s responsibilities did not fit in with the rules
of the grant funding the position and so if this teacher did perform any of these duties, it
was purely volunteer. There were only 3 contracts put through the Co-Ser last year and
the IST was not responsible for any of them. This is in high contrast to what has
happened so far this year where there is a new coordinator and there has been a
tremendous amount of cooperation from teachers, administrators and parents. Nine
contracts have already been submitted this year.
After I made this statement, I was approached by many members of the community with
reactions ranging from disappointment to outrage about the lack of communication, the
possible misuse of funds and the absence of accountability. From members of the school
board, there was barely a ripple. And so I began contacting board members individually
to ask what they thought about the fact that, even after deciding that the IST position
could not take on the Coordinator responsibilities, the superintendent chose not to contact me to revisit the idea of the foundation funding the position and the lack of any real accountability for the IST position. One board member told me that the superintendent had refused our offer for fear that the foundation would not be able to fund it again next year. Remember, this foundation has raised over $80,000 for this district. What evidence is there that we are going to disappear? This board member also told me that the superintendent and the IST had had a really hard year. In a conversation with another board member, I mentioned that I had called the State Education Department to ask about an IST carrying out the duties of an Arts in Education Coordinator and they didn’t see any problem there. That school board member agreed that it was probably fine.
I wish this was an isolated event. Instead it seems to be a part of a larger problem of
systematically shutting down stakeholders who seek to improve the education of our
Almost a year ago, I was contacted by a middle school music teacher asking for a
donation to fund an electronic music program that would fulfill the general music
requirement. Her reasons for this being a great addition to the curriculum seemed really
sound to me: teaching the general music class was challenging because her students had such varying levels of music knowledge and she had found that, when she was able to
take them to the computer lab where they worked individually, they could each attain
success at their own level.
After offering to fund this program, I was met with silence. After several of my emails
went unanswered, I wrote the following to the superintendent: “Over the break I was
able to reach out to friends who have children in public schools around the country and I
am finding that my experience of having emails go unanswered (especially when they
contain an offer of a donation) is very unusual. When I joined BAEF, it was with the
understanding that our foundation is in partnership with the district. As you know, any
money that we raise is for the BCSD and so it is very confusing to make these offers, and
ask where we can help, and hear nothing back…. I really believe that any healthy school
district has an education foundation supporting it. Let's please schedule a meeting where
we can work out the details of this donation as well as how we can work more smoothly
together in the future.”
Finally, I was brought in to a meeting where I was told: 1) the program would be better
launched at the high school because there was already space for it to take place 2) we
would not need to donate towards it because the superintendent had received a grant to
fund the program. I asked if the program would be up and running for the fall and was
told, “yes.” Instead, we donated the money to the middle school for desperately needed
new musical instruments and waited for the program to be launched. It has not yet
Going back even further, in 2012, I began exploring the idea of launching a Youth in
Government program at the high school. I had heard about this program from many
adults who had participated in it when they were in high school and had found it life
changing. We, of course, would fundraise for it so that it would be no cost to the district.
After 3 years of emailing various administrators in the district I was able to make a
meeting with a YMCA representative and one of the high school guidance counselors.
The guidance counselor seemed genuinely moved by the possibilities that this program
would offer students and by other programming that the Y is willing to bring to us to fill
some of the gaps we have here. Students that were freshman when I started this quest are graduating this year. It is heartbreaking to me to think of how many students have missed this opportunity for no good reason.
Anyway, the last board member that I reached out to regarding the IST as arts in ed
coordinator question made a very strong statement of support for our current
superintendent but she did say “if you see something, say something” and so here I am to
say that I have seen something.
We have been told that the board of education ‘just’ makes policy but my recent research
tells me differently. In any case, there seem to be some unwritten policies in action here
that I feel are hindering the progress of our district: There seems to be a policy of ‘no’, of
‘we can’t’, of covering for a job not done well or a job not done at all. After my many
years of volunteering in this district, I am beginning to realize that things don’t have to be
this hard. We are told that this is what we get because we are a focus district, because we are title 1, we don’t deserve better. I don’t believe this to be true. I believe that if we can acknowledge this culture of ‘no’ and ‘we can’t’ that has poisoned our district and allowed for abuse of power, we can get back to the original goal here, to support our students and teachers and create an atmosphere where all can thrive. I have tried, since my children started school to help the district through the channels that the foundation offers but I have decided that it is time to move on. I would like to announce my candidacy for member of the board of education. It is said that trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets. Let’s start earning that trust back, drop by drop, today with more transparency, accountability and a renewed focus on the children of this district.