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Sparks Fly At MSD Board Meeting

Resolution to approve Pride For Youth workshop is defeated

Midway through the Oct. 18 Massapequa School Board meeting, Board President Maryanne Fisher’s cell phone rang and she left the meeting to take the call. A few moments later, she returned and announced that she had to leave due to a family issue. Her absence would have a significant impact later on.

Following the report of Superintendent Charles Sulc, as well as a presentation on the district’s Summer Stars program, the board voted on the resolutions on the agenda. The process was going rather ordinarily as the annual audit was accepted, IEP recommendations were approved, a performance agreement for a production of Grease at Berner Middle School was approved, and the board also approved Long Island Neuropsychological Consultants to serves as special education consultants for the school year, although trustee Jane Ryan abstained from that vote. She later told the Massapequan Observer that she chose not to vote because she has done business with the consultants and although she has no issue with them, she felt it would be a conflict of interest for her to cast a vote. However, when the board got to the fifth resolution on the agenda, the meeting took a controversial turn.

The fifth resolution on the agenda was the approval of a workshop from Pride For Youth, a division of the Long Island Crisis Center. The organization was to hold a staff development session with health and special education teachers. That workshop was to be held after school on Dec. 6. In a letter from Pride for Youth to the Massapequa School District which is available on the district’s website, it states that the workshop is titled “Making School Safer for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth.”

“It is a workshop focused on awareness and sensitivity to students experiencing difficulty in social settings because of gender or sexual orientation,” Dr, Thomas Fasano, assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction explained.

There was little discussion from the board. However, although trustees Jane Ryan and Gary Bennett voted to approve, trustee Joseph LaBella abstained, and Timothy Taylor, the board’s vice-president, voted against it. Therefore, with only two votes in favor, the measure failed, as three are required. This prompted harsh criticism from Christine Perrino, former board president, who was seated in the audience.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Perrino exclaimed. “This is an embarrassment. Some of the board of ed members need sensitivity training. You are failing the kids.”

In the aftermath of the vote, it was suggested that a revote be conducted, but attorneys for the district explained that could not be done as the vote had already taken place and the measure failed. Superintendent Charles Sulc said it would be brought back for a vote at a later date. After the meeting, Taylor spoke with the Massapequan Observer to explain his vote.

“I believe that our code of conduct more or less covers the entire bullying issue,” Taylor explained.

Trustee Jane Ryan voted for the resolution. After the meeting, she also spoke with the Massapequan Observer to explain her position.

“I feel that it’s important that all students should be given the opportunity to learn in an atmosphere which is supportive regardless of race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation,” stated Ryan.

In other news, Alexandria Battaglia, of R.S. Abrams & Co., LLP spoke about the audit conducted on the district. Overall, she presented a positive view of the district’s finances.

“You have a healthy balance sheet,” she said, “Going forward, you are in the right direction.”

In the current year’s findings, the auditors did find four areas for improvement, two in the tagging of the district’s capital assets and two in extra classroom accounts. When asked by Ryan if there were any areas in which the auditors were not satisfied, Battaglia referenced the extra classroom activity accounts. The report stated, “We noted the procedures for substantiating the cash receipt such as a listing of check numbers being deposited, or list of payers for a field trip, to determine what made up the deposit is not consistent among schools.” The report also noted that three clubs at the middle school, two clubs at Ames and two clubs at the high school had no financial activity last year and it is recommended that principals review these clubs annually and formally document whether these clubs are operationally active.

Trustee Gary Bennett stated, “We have an excellent business office. I know that we’re sound.” However, he did question an account about $1.5 million that was labeled “miscellaneous,” and asked for a breakdown.

Later on, Stephen Aspetti did a presentation about the Summer Stars program. He said the program was very successful in helping to keep students from suffering attrition of their knowledge while on summer vacation. Both Bennett and Ryan praised the program. Taylor said that he would like more students to take advantage of it.

At the beginning of the meeting, Sulc praised board members for their work in advance of School Boards Appreciation Week, which is Oct. 29 through Nov. 2. He presented each board member with a T-shirt and also said that he had made a donation to YES Community Counseling Center in the name of the board.

“It takes a great amount of time and energy on your part and we greatly appreciate that,” Sulc told the board members.

Sulc also reported that the annual Safe Halloween event would be held at the high school on Oct. 28, that the “Steps for YES” walking activity had raised about $5,400 for YES.