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Letter fails to tell whole story about Niskayuna board actions

Monday, May 19, 2014
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Letter fails to tell whole story about Niskayuna board actions

With regard to Stephen Bentons' letter of May 15, 2014, Mr. Benton does not tell the entire story. Mr. Benton and a small group of angry parents vowed last fall to unseat Deb Oriola and other BOE members when they were unable to convince the Board to rehire the boys’ varsity basketball coach for this past season.

At a board meeting on 10/8/13, I listened as a group of parents addressed the board, saying that the coach had essentially bullied kids on the team on more than one occasion. Others spoke on the coach's behalf, saying that he was sorry and had changed. One young man from the team addressed the board to discuss what had happened to him, repeating the language that the coach had used. The audience and the board visibly recoiled on hearing the student speak these words, because it was shocking to hear. I am certain that scarcely any members of our community would find it acceptable to have their children spoken to in this way. Yet three members of our board, Debbie Gordon, Bob Winchester and John Buhrmaster, voted to reinstate this coach for the following season.

Four Board members, Deb Oriola, Barbara Mauro, Pat Lanotte and Kevin Laurilliard, understood that the districts’ own bullying prevention policy and The Dignity for All Students act prohibit the creation of a “hostile environment by conduct or threats, intimidation or abuse.”

To have rehired this coach after a number of parents complained about his behavior would have undermined our districts’ own standards and policies and could have exposed the district to lawsuits.

With regard to “threats of school closures,” voters should closely examine how these “threats” arose. Our current board, led by Deb Oriola and other motivated members have worked hard to get accurate budget numbers from our administration. These numbers showed that the projected $2.6 million budget gap that drove the perceived need to close a school could be closed without a school closure and without cutting program. In fact some programs are restored in this budget. Further, enrollment projections showed that within just a couple of years, four buildings would not have been able to adequately house all of our elementary school children.

A divided Board of Education can’t all be wrong. Don’t let Mr. Benton fool you into believing the politics of personal destruction. Deb Oriola is one of a slim majority of board members who have been fighting for what’s right for our kids and our schools. She has worked hard along with some fellow board members to restore transparency to our budget.

Voters need to closely examine the behavior and voting patterns of our BOE members and vote to retain those who have done what’s right for our kids and our community. I will be casting a vote for Deb Oriola on Tuesday.

Barbara Burgess

Niskayuna

Current Niskayuna school president has to go

As we go to vote for our school budgets, we will also vote for vacating school board positions. In Niskayuna, one of those seats is open as one board member does not seek another term. Surprisingly, the current school board president has the arrogance to seek a third term. The incumbent has presided over the most contentious and dysfunctional board in recent memory.

In case you forgot, the year started with preliminary budget information that screamed a $2.6 million deficit, never mentioning that last year ended with a $3.4 million surplus. There was the long, drawn out, recurring drama of a possible school closing, bringing packed meetings, television cameras and crying mothers. Then they let us know that there really isn’t a huge deficit at all; no programs need to be cut; we don’t need to close a building; and we can restore some fund balance, too!

The icing on the cake was the secret meeting, in violation of open meeting laws, that canned the superintendent just eight months after the board extended her contract. This disastrous record speaks for itself, and the presiding school board president must go.

For the Niskayuna Teachers Association (NTA) to come out and endorse this incumbent is a slap in the face of every Niskayuna taxpayer. Furthermore, the fact that the NTA conducted its meeting, inviting just two of the three candidates, excluding Rosemarie Perez-Jaquith, stinks of dirty tricks. What is the NTA’s agenda here, and why are they endorsing anyone? It seems that they are just further dividing the community.

We need to come together and stop pitting neighbors against each other. I hope my community will join me in casting one vote for challenger Rosemarie Perez-Jaquith. Let’s elect someone who can unite our district, someone who is looking out for the best interests of all our children.

Aliza Mesbahi

Niskayuna

Believe in God, not politicians

For the record; I believe in God; I do not accept the concept of “open borders;” I reject the concept of multi-generational families (Kennedy, Bush, Clinton) as president. King George left our shores a long time ago.

In reference to the immigration issue, Jeb Bush said “immigrants work harder, are more family oriented ...” etc. Who are they more than, Afro-Americans, whites, Asians? If Sara Palin said that she would be in everyone’s crosshairs.

Jeb Bush is the new, more of the same. “Things must change so they remain the same.” It is obvious Obama and the Democrats are wearing thin on the American people. The ones here legally. Remember, George Bush “the lesser” set the table for President Obama, Patriot Act or immigration.

There is a misconception that business, chambers of commerce (communist) are somehow in it for traditional American values. Chambers of communist stand behind open borders, cheap labor. Before Democrats discovered the advantage of a large pool of illegal aliens voting, Republicans made sure swarms of illegal, cheap labor, poured across the border, unrestrained. Soon there will be no traditional American values left, not even a chapter in history books about the United States.

It is clear America has passed the point of no return. The ship of state is headed for the big iceberg, the Titanic killer. It won’t be global warming that did the United States in.

The Democrats are what they say. You can sort of respect them for that. Republicans ape American values. They wear American flags in their lapels. The tea party is falling apart, being consumed by traditional corruption. Conservatives here in New York state are whores for the ruling party. Patronage is their game. Working Families, the party of people who do not work. Nothing is as it seems.

If you live in what is referred to as America and have traditional values, believing in God is a good option. It is the only decent option left for many of the United States. Stalin (Hitler’s twin brother) stated he was doing God’s work, making so many people poor. God favors the poor. That is a myth, but you get the point of Stalin’s remark.

One way or the other, politicians are making sure we are close to God, like it or not.

Edmond Day

Rotterdam

Vote for Niskayuna candidates who support improvement of district

Last May, Niskayuna residents resoundingly voted no on a proposed budget that went over the tax cap. The residents also voted in two new board members demanding change. Decisions were made last year and in previous years that have caused our community to start paying attention and demand more from those who represent us.

Unfortunately, given the nature of the system, change cannot happen overnight. But it has started to happen within this past school year, and the changes that are occurring are benefiting our schools and community.

The past two years have been a turbulent time for the Niskayuna school community. The Board of Education has struggled to reach consensus under the guidance of (a flawed) district administration. The trust that existed between the two entities has been greatly damaged, and the new board members that we voted in last year have been leading the way to demand that the administration be more forthcoming and transparent so that the board can make informed decisions and cast votes with accurate information.

Previous boards have blindly followed the administration's lead, and this past year we have seen a lot of changes because the new board members demanded answers. Much of the animosity and anger from the community must be tempered with the fact that many of the decisions made were at the administrative level, and the change has already occurred there.

The current board, at least those who are willing to demand answers and challenge the administration, are working diligently to continue to lead our district in the right direction.

When voting for Board of Education candidates on May 20, please consider which two candidates are best suited to continue working for change, and which candidate has demonstrated that he/she is willing to work with the entire Board of Education for what is best for the students of our community.

Stacy Lampman

Niskayuna

Oriola a victim of unfair criticism, should be re-elected in Niskayuna

I am writing in response to the May 15 letter, “Niskayuna board president must go.” Mr. Stephen Benton referenced several controversial issues as his rationale: the 2013 school budget defeat, the firing of the boys’ varsity basketball coach; the separation agreement with the superintendent and the threat of closing schools.

In 2013, the board approved the budget recommended by the (former) superintendent, in an effort to maintain instruction and programs. This budget was voted down by a majority of residents and the board responded with a new proposal. This is not dysfunction, this is democracy.

With regard to school closings — I credit Ms. Deb Oriola for stopping the superintendent’s recommendation to close Birchwood Elementary School. She, and others, listened to the residents who filled the auditorium — night after night, week after week, in protest of this proposal. In 2013, the superintendent proposed a closure of Van Antwerp Middle School, which Ms. Oriola also opposed.

I don’t have all the facts concerning the basketball coach, so I will refrain from commenting on this personnel issue. But I certainly don’t think this should be a defining issue for voters (unless your child is an NBA prospect).

As a town representative and a parent, I have worked with Deb Oriola during her seven years on the board and have always found her to be a thoughtful and sincere person who is serving for all the right reasons.

The timing of her re-election is unfortunate, and it speaks to her character that she is willing to face these unfair criticisms as the only incumbent running this year.

Please resist the urge to oversimplify district issues and just “vote out the incumbent.” Our real focus should be on finding a superintendent who will understand our district’s commitment to education, address financial issues, and will recommend policies that do not divide our community.

Julie McDonnell

Niskayuna

Oriola wants to continue to lead Niskayuna district

On May 20, Niskayuna School District voters will elect two school board members. I am seeking re-election to continue to represent our community in creating school policy and in planning educational programs by serving on the governance and oversight body for our schools, the Board of Education.

When I first ran for the board in 2007, my commitment was to make sure that Niskayuna schools would continue to offer the excellent education our district was long known for, and I maintain the same commitment today.

Our district has emerged from many challenges. It has been a time of rapid transition. Strong leadership will be required to create a long-term plan that embodies our community’s vision for meeting the needs of all students.

For the past seven years, I have dedicated myself to being an active, educated, accessible, and fair board member and would like to continue to serve in this capacity. I have been consistently committed to fiscal responsibility, academic excellence, support for our teaching staff and effective board oversight of the district. I understand the board’s responsibilities under state and federal law and strive to work effectively within this framework.

By being active and present in our community, I have listened to community concerns and brought these concerns to district administration and the Board of Education. Every voice matters. Broad community involvement is integral to the success of the schools that we value so much.

As a parent of a Niskayuna High School graduate and a soon-to-be graduate, my primary focus has been raising my children. For me, education is a priority and one of the few gifts we give a child that cannot be taken back. As a board member, I will continue to dedicate my efforts to meeting the needs of all students.

Please come to the school budget vote and school board election on May 20 at Niskayuna High School. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Deb Oriola

Niskayuna

Unions shouldn't endorse in school board races

The purpose of the teachers’ union is to fight for increases in salary and benefits, and for better workplace conditions for its members. Unions have no place endorsing Board of Education candidates, and should not be encouraged to do so.

When persons at the other side of the bargaining table are beholding to a union that endorsed them, their ability to negotiate in good faith for the interests of students and taxpayers is diminished.

Joseph J Hehir

Niskayuna

 

comments

May 20, 2014
11:32 a.m.
+0 votes
JIMOCONNOR says...

How many other school board elections generate as many verbally adept entreaties? Where does the line between good citizenship and neurotic helicopter parenting get drawn? I posit that all these letters; have less to do with children, finances, or, personnel, and more to do with an elitist neurotic mindset believing it is in its power to control everything. I am saddened by the sense that children living in 12309 are burdened by the weight of their parent's needs.

Heaven forbid these kids get dirty, endure three hours of unstructured unsupervised time, or, be chastised by an official.

 

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