Sept 3, 2002
Public Throttled ē New Positions ē No HS Principal
by Stewart S Lilker
The Freeport Board of Educationís continuing lack of regard
for the publicís right to speak, their tax dollars, or any regard
for NYS Open Meetings Law, continued unabated at the August 21 and
August 26, 2002 board meetings.
The August 21 meeting was marked
by the smallest public turnout of any regularly scheduled board
meeting since 1992. Discounting district employees and the meeting
regulars, one person showed up. The board and the superintendent
have constantly claimed they seek and need more community
The board members spoke among themselves, endlessly, without
regard for the three members of the public who had come to voice
opinions and ask questions, making them sit for almost two and a
half hours before they were allowed to address the Board. When
finally allowed to approach the microphone, the speakers had to
speak a mile-a-minute in order to beat the four-minute clock.
The average Freeport homeowner, who is now among the highest
taxed in Nassau County, is paying the equivalent of $76.62 a minute
for what the Freeport School Board calls the "privilege" of
After being forced to sit for over two hours, seventy-six year
old Alan Jay had his patience worn thin. He asked the board, "Does
this board invite the public to give their opinions and participate?
If you do, the four minute rule is an absurdity." The board sat
Earlier in the week, trustee Mike Raab, had monopolized the
microphone at a village board meeting for almost forty-five minutes.
Last year, when Raab ran for the Board, he campaigned to remove time
limits for speakers and had been one of the loudest critics each
time a previous board reduced the publicís right to speak, claiming
his constitutional rights were being violated. Once elected, Raab
forgot about "constitutional rights" and did a one eighty, leading
the charge to reduce public participation at board meetings.
Mr. Jay continued, "Right away that says to the public, donít
waste your time. The other part is I have to sit here for two hours.
You folks limit yourselves to your own sphere of influence by
freezing out the public with what is actually a farce. You are
denying yourselves great input from the public."
In their continuing effort to eliminate the real history of the
district and rewrite it by executive fiat and press releases, the
board and the superintendent continue to eliminate the speakers,
their comments and the boardís responses from the minutes.
Mr. Jayís time had expired, and with the stopwatch beeping in the
background, Board President Sunday Coward kept interrupting Jay,
trying to shoo him away from the microphone. Finally, seventy-six
year old Jay told Coward that he was going to finish what he had to
say and if she didnít like it, she could have him arrested.
Mr. Jay concluded, "This is the most outrageous board Iíve ever
appeared before in thirty years before this village. You have a
contempt for the public and itís quite obvious."
Next up at the microphone was Rochelle Sanchez. Ms. Sanchez.
Speaking a mile a minute, she sounded like she was auditioning for a
Federal Express Commercial. She told the Board, "I donít feel that
four minutes will be enough time for me to express my views."
The Establishment Of New Positions
At the August 7 Planning Meeting, it appeared that Superintendent
Eversley sprung the establishment of five high level administrative
positions on the board and the public. Eversley and School Board
President, Sunday Coward, made absolutely no effort to advise the
public about the positions or their titles. The August 7 agenda,
which was made available to the public shortly in advance of the
meeting over the Internet, was clearly designed to keep the public
in the dark stating only, "Establishment of a position." There was
some debate whether or not all the members of the board knew what
was going on, as Ron Ellerbe complained that he hadnít received
enough information to make an informed decision.
After some discussion, it was brought out that the Superintendent
advertised the positions in the NY Times before they were brought to
the board and approved. The reason for this was never explained to
the public. The board never asked about it.
The motion to approve the positions was tabled until the board
received more information. It was determined that it would be
revisited at the August 21 meeting.
On August 21, Ron Ellerbe again expressed his reservations. He
said, "The recommendation was tabled at our last meeting. It was
tabled because the board felt it did not have sufficient information
to make an intelligent decision at that time. There was a request
for you to provide the board with information as to how these
positions would be financed. You sent us a quite extensive package
defining the positions, but you have nothing in this package about
how these positions would be financed." Eversley has made no attempt
to reach out to the community and explain the new positions.
Eversley explained that he handed out that information at the
last meeting. "The Assistant Superintendent previously made $119,250
and there are fringe benefits associated with that position as
Ellerbe said, "Itís not right to ask anyone to pay any more
Superintendent Eversley replied, "Why donít you just let me do my
job? We have to move fast."
Your reporter asked, "Eleven months have past between the hiring of
the Superintendent [Eversley] and the budget vote in May. These new
positions could have been put into the budget. Why werenít they?"
Eversley said, "Over the course of the year, we have been
progressively putting together information, doing observations and
doing a variety of things to sort out what would be the most useful
things for the school district to do. How the school district may
best do the things to move this district ahead. That work takes
Ellerbe said, "In light of the fact that we just voted on the
budget for a twenty percent increase [actually
26%] last week and all indications are that the next
budget may be similar, if not greater than that. I donít know that
it is a prudent thing for us to be doing in light of the financial
posture of the district at this time."
Sunday Coward asked, "Ron, what is it that makes you feel
Ellerbe answered, "My concern is that the price we will pay will
be cutting programs. There is no way we can support a budget by
adding on positions. This is not one position. The superintendent is
asking us to add three additional positions. He is proposing adding
to the budget over a half a million dollars, for two superintendent
positions and three other positions. The only way you can support
that without creating a budget that is going to force folks to re
mortgage their houses and move out of Freeport is to cut programs."
Eversley explained that the positions would be funded through a
combination of Title I funding and the transferring of money in the
budget from ROTC and other places.
Later on in the evening, the board voted on the establishment of
the positions. The vote was four in favor and one abstention
The High School Principal
And the Disappearing Staff
The district has been trying to find a principal for the high
school since early in March. It has been clear for some time that
not only can Freeport not hold on to veteran teachers and
administrators, many new teachers come here only to get experience
and leave at the first opportunity.
Board member Cattano addressed this issue to the superintendent.
"I feel it is very important to understand why teachers are leaving
the district. I feel a reluctance as far as explaining to the board
the reasons why teachers are leaving the district. Is there an issue
Eversley stonewalled Cattano and the board, "What I indicated to
you is that it is hard to have the information available. We are
still massaging that. I think we have to have some more conversation
about that. Iím going to table this for now."
Cattano and the board didnít follow up.
In response to a question about the principal from Frank Tucker,
a long time resident and part time employee of the district,
Eversley said, "With regards to the principal position at the high
school, I regret that that position is not filled. At the same time
we certainly are not alone among school districts that have taken
extended periods of time to find principals for their schools. We
will take the time that is necessary."
On Thursday, August 29, the board called an emergency meeting to
interview a candidate for principal. Trustees Raab and Cattano
played musical chairs to maintain a quorum. Not unexpectedly, no one
from the board nor Superintendent Eversley introduced the candidate
to the two members of the public, who attended the meeting. It was
the acting principal of the high school, Robin Calitri, who made the
introduction. The candidate introduced himself and explained he had
flown in from the mid-west for the interview.