Arrogance took front and center stage at Tuesday night’s Oysterponds Board of Education meeting when members approved a controversial proposal to extend the three-year contract to send the district’s junior high and high school students to Greenport for two additional years. There’s no doubt that the continuing relationship between both school systems has been mutually beneficial, but there was no need for a rush to judgment to extend the latest agreement, which has been in effect for only about a year.
Unfortunately, the less than rational rationale behind the move seems to be the desire to undermine the three new board members elected last month, who will take their seats in July. The resolution only surfaced on the board’s agenda distributed Friday, giving community members little opportunity to weigh in on a matter that has both major educational and financial implications.
Outgoing board member Nancy Williams, who voted against the resolution, was right on target when she said circumstances could change that might prompt Oysterponds to want to tweak the existing contract or change it altogether at a later date.
What’s more, the vote may be illegal, if incoming board member Deborah Dumont’s reading of state law is correct. She says the law prohibits the practice of “tacking,” extending a contract to a time beyond the terms of the board members who voted to extend it. Three board members’ terms end July 1, two others run to July 2011 and the remaining two serve until 2012. The extension pushes the Greenport contract’s end to 2014.
While the board did allow the public to comment on the resolution Tuesday night, members refused to answer questions about their reasoning for bringing up the issue at this time. Veteran board member Linda Goldsmith said public comment periods are only for the board to hear from the public, not to engage in a dialogue. That is not how the North Fork’s other four schools operate.
We can only hope that the board that takes over in July will truly embrace the concept of transparency and encourage open dialogue with taxpayers.