Eldred school board meeting morphs into rally
ELDRED, NY — Superintendent Dr. John Morgano and board member Brian Siegel were the two personalities in the spotlight at the June 7 meeting of the board of education of the Eldred Central School District.
The meeting started later than scheduled to await the arrival of three board members needed for a quorum. Conspicuous by their absence were Siegel and fellow board member Allyson Wagner.
Public comments were directed to both Morgano and Siegel.
Meg Blaut addressed the members present—Carol Bliefernich, Amador Laput and Linda Bohs—stating that change is needed, and that she had hoped that Siegel and Wagner would have brought new ideas to the board but that instead they brought yelling to the discourse. She asked, “Where is our strategic plan and how do we move forward?” and challenged the board to lead, follow, work together, or step away. She also addressed Morgano, saying that she hoped he will reconsider his announced resignation, but that if not, she wished him the best.
Kristen Smith stated that she was outraged and disgusted with the treatment of Morgano, whom she called a breath of fresh air. She unveiled a petition signed by 250 residents, with a promise of more signatures to come, asking Siegel to tender his resignation from the board or for the remaining members of the board to remove him.
Morgano stated that he is giving serious consideration to withdrawing his resignation, which would be effective August 15. He also stated that neither the New York State Education Department nor the state board of elections had any issues with the cancellation of the May 15 vote, that no laws had been broken and that he would cancel the vote again if safety is an issue. This comment garnered a standing ovation from most of those present at the meeting. Later in the meeting he stated, “We’re not merging with anyone. We will be here for a long time.”
Joanna Dutcher asked about holding a “Save our School” concert, with proceeds going toward funding of a pre-Kindergarten program. The pre-K program was eliminated as part of the $800,000 of budget cuts taking effect in the next school year. She said that she’d spoken with about a dozen students and more had expressed an interest in participating. Morgano invited her to continue dialogue with him on the subject.
Lastly, Maria Nealon, a fifth-grade teacher, commented that there has been much talk about the district in the past tense, and said, “We’re still here and we’re worth fighting for.”
Bliefernich lauded the report of students’ names being read on the state Senate floor in recognition of their academic achievement, as well as the distinctive performance of the students in the state music competitions. She stated that she was very happy to be president of the board and was looking toward the new year. She cited rough seas, but noted, “Our boat has not capsized.”
She closed the meeting by thanking those present for “this rally” and announced that the board was entering executive session. At the conclusion of this session, the three members voted unanimously to initiate an investigation by the district’s legal counsel into the behavior of a particular board member for possible subsequent removal.
The vote to fill the seat being vacated by Bohs, funding for the Sunshine Hall Free Library, and on the budget, which remains unchanged from that previously presented, will occur at the Eldred Junior-Senior High School on Tuesday, June 19 between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Everyone who previously voted in person or by absentee ballot will need to cast a new ballot. If the budget is not passed, a contingency budget would go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.