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June 11, 2001 (Posted June 16th)

A Nasty Scene At The Board Of  Ed.

by Stewart Lilker

Tuesday night, June 12, 2001, the Freeport School Board was again up to their ankles in their secret ways. At 1:20 p.m., the clerk called a special board meeting for 9 p.m. that evening.

At 9:05 p.m., with all the board members in attendance, Board President Ellerbe moved for a motion to go into executive session. He said, "Iíd like to get a motion to go into executive session to discuss matters of, one matter inparticular of personnel." Board member Grover responded, "So moved."

Freeport school district administration building during a night meeting.

The superintendent, along with the three assistant superintendents, remained behind as the four members of the public were asked to leave the room. Your reporter asked if the newly elected and absent Board members, Cattano and Raab, were invited to the meeting. The question was ignored. When Board member Grover was asked directly, he answered with his typical grin. It was not clear whether Cattano and Raab knew of the meeting.

About ten minutes later, Ann Scricca, a member of the Boardís renegade legal team, arrived at the meeting and stormed into the closed executive session. Five minutes later, the district clerk, Mary Bediako, came out of the Board room and told the members of the public, now camped out on the chairs in the administration building hallway, to move into the conference room down the hall, saying, "I turned on the air conditioning, you can go sit in there." It appeared that while it is impossible to hear through the walls of the building, someone wanted the members of the public squirreled away out of sight.

When Freeport resident and former Principal of the Atkinson School, Jan Wilson, looked at Bediako and explained that she was sitting in a public hallway and she wasnít moving, Bediako went back into the Board room. Wilson continued to sit in the hall, along with Kevin Barry and Carol Nelson.

At 10:43 p.m., the boardroom door opened. I was unclear whether one of the attendees was going to the bathroom or they were just getting a little fresh air. After a few moments, when nobody came out, the members of the public got up and went into the boardroom. Your reporter was first through the door, followed by resident Carol Nelson. Kevin Barry and Wilson remained at the boardroom entrance.

NYS law and the Commissioner of Education requires that "all action taken by board must be in open session...," unless otherwise required by statute. NYS Education Law requires that charges preferred against a teacher must be brought in executive session. If a vote is taken in executive session, the law mandates that the resolution and the vote must be made public within one week from the date of the executive session. There is nothing in any American law that mandates lawful votes by a school board to be kept secret for any amount of time or that the resolution and vote cannot be discussed at any time.

It was a nasty scene as the public reentered the boardroom. The attendees were packing up their papers. Your reporter, addressed Board member Coward, who was walking toward to door, with her head down, "Is this adjourned?" Coward didnít look up. Board member Grover responded, "Theyíre adjourned."

Your reporter then asked the school districtís attorney, Ann Scricca, "Donít school board meetings have to be adjourned in public, counsel?" Scricca ignored the question. A chorus of the board replied, "We opened the door." With Renken stating, " We opened the door and we saw you there." Your reporter responded, "You opened the door and then you adjourned, before we got back in."

Board President Ellerbe said, "Go home. Get a life."

When your reporter asked, "Was there any action at this meeting tonight?" Somebody answered, "No." Not seeing who it was, your reporter asked Scricca, "Was there any action at this meeting, counselor, or did you just adjourn? Did you guys vote on anything?" Scricca answered, "Just adjourned."

Your reporter then asked Board member and past Board President Al Renken, "Was there any action?" Renken remained silent.

The following day, a veteran staff member with thirty-two years of service in the district was served with papers which said in substance: Please be advised that the Freeport School District Board of Education, meeting in executive session on June 12, 2001, has found that there is probable cause for the following charge against you. Please see attached.

It was clear. The Board did indeed, vote. Like most everything the mendacious Renken-Grover board has done during their six year tenure, their last acts were also surrounded by a shroud of suspicion and the cover of darkness.



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