Board of Ed response to publication of its letter to TB supporting Shapiro

Monday, June 9, 2014
~ from Jeffrey Mester, President, Chappaqua Board of Education

The letter we wrote to the Town Board speaks for itself.  The letter, by its tone, was obviously meant to be private, but the School Board has no objection to the message in the letter being made public.  While sending a letter to a public board has no expectation of privacy, we did expect discretion.

Our intention in writing privately to the Town Board was so that it could not be used to inflame incivility.  We certainly did not want it to be used for anyone’s or any publication’s political gain.  In fact, we turned down a request by the Town Supervisor to write a separate public letter as well as turned down an informal request by this publication to provide either a copy of the email or to make a separate statement.

In summary, we wanted the Town Board to appreciate that:

1) There needs to be more civility in communication between members of our community. As neighbors and fellow community members,  we should be able to disagree without making personal attacks.

2) Our support for Jill Shapiro is based on the renewed working relationship she has built with the school district in the last 6 months.  Speaking from experience, people always have time to criticize but rarely have the time to send a note of appreciation.  This is what we did as we would do for any other employee with whom we have direct working experience and who has had such a profound effect on the tenor of relations.

3) It is up to the Town Board to manage and oversee the business of the town.  That is why they were elected.  A publicly elected board should use the facts, community input, and especially their good judgment and make decisions that they believe is in the best interests of the entire community while protecting those classes of community members that need or are entitled to protection.

4) We believe giving input to any public board where there is direct relevant information is appropriate. Just as we hope community members communicate with us about relevant school matters, we as a district are members of the community that is New Castle.  How a board chooses to use that input is their business. 

Again, our only interest in writing the letter is to acknowledge the Town Board’s role in managing the town, to reiterate that we support civility in disagreement and to give our input by acknowledging the professionalism and competency Jill Shapiro has demonstrated in her dealings with our administration.

Jeffrey Mester, President
Karen Visser, Vice President
Alyson Gardner Kiesel
Victoria Tipp
Warren Messner
Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education
____________________

Related: In post-election Kittle House conversation, BoE members decide to write in support of Shapiro, NCNOW.org, 6/9/14

TB member Jason Chapin objects to appointment process for administrator position, NCNOW.org, 6/5/14

Op-Ed: Our TB has a duty to conduct an open search to fill the Town Administrator position, NCNOW.org, 5/24/14

Was Jill Shapiro appointed town administrator for six months or for two years?, NCNOW.org, 5/19/14

L to E: Transparency?  The town administrator’s contract was supposed to be for six months, NCNOW.org, 5/19/14

 


Comments(45):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

The school board wanted this endorsement to be secret.  That is outrageous. They are a publicly elected body, when they speak as a body it needs to be public.  There is no excuse for this.  They need to get out of their cozy bubble and behave with the ethics commensurate with their offices.

By anonymous on 06/09/2014 at 10:48 am

Mester quotes JFK in his school board’s private letter to the town board.  Here’s another quote for Mester to ponder:

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

John F. Kennedy

By Openness on 06/09/2014 at 11:20 am

Very odd response by Mr. Mester and the entire Chappaqua school board. If the school board has nothing to hide, why was the school board not open and transparent in the first place?

Questions to the Chappaqua school board:

What are the specific “personal attacks” you refer to?

what other correspondence is there between school board and town board regarding specific community members?

 

By school board in shadows on 06/09/2014 at 11:27 am

Both Christine Yeres and Robin Murphy were bringing to light the fact that the town boar had misrepresented the term of the Administrator’s contract and that it is in the best interest of the town for there to be an open interview process.  Not sure what is uncivil about that.

Ironic that Mr. Mester, Alyson Kiesel, Warren Mesner, Vicky Tipp and Karen Visser think that they were elected to use their “judgment” when this letter clearly proves theirs is not good judgment.  And very disappointing that school administrative employees are engaging in the badmouthing of citizens standing up for what they believe.

By In support of Christine Yeres and Robin Murphy on 06/09/2014 at 11:38 am

Mr. Mester- and School Board and Administrators- would you feel the same way if the town board weighed in on your choice for a school superintendent and every time you appoint a new school principal?

By if the tables were turned on 06/09/2014 at 11:40 am

And Jay Shapiro’s inluence/role in this?  Conflict of interest? Anyone?

By Stunned on 06/09/2014 at 11:46 am

While the school board may have indeed voiced it’s support for Ms. Shapiro, it only goes to her role in working with them and does not speak to any of the other issue involved with being a TA.

By read the words on 06/09/2014 at 12:03 pm

There is nothing wrong with a private letter from the school board to the town board supporting a town employee who has been helpful to them. Even businesses normally keep personnel files, including letters of recommendation, private. So they did decide to send the letter as a private letter, but it was still made available to the “press” under FOIA. So they complied with the law. End of story.

Editor’s Note: It has not yet been supplied to the “press” under FOIA.

By Long time resident on 06/09/2014 at 12:30 pm

Why in the world would the School Board single two local resident ??? One who happens to be a member of the local press corps…. Shame on you School Board!

By Scared of the Media? on 06/09/2014 at 1:10 pm

@read the words,

Why did they, the school board do all they could to keep their “words” secret ? 

They have no place in the administrators decision.  There is no excuse.

By ?????? on 06/09/2014 at 1:15 pm

Please spare us the concern for civility in local media. Anonymous commentary, even if uncivil, has an important role in our society, particularly in the realm of government. If comments spill over into rudeness, so what?  It is all part of the discussion.  Moreover, I cannot recall either Ms. Yeres or Ms. Murphy being anything other than probative and direct in their postings. In other words, they were making salient points and asking the correct questions. Was this situation awkward? Sure. Ms. Shapiro seems like a nice woman with a lot of friends and supporters, but it is a very fair and reasonable point to make that a proper administrator search should have happened. The attacks by the BOE and members of the Town Board on those making this point are unwarranted.  This whole situation is kind of astounding

By Resident on 06/09/2014 at 3:34 pm

Who is zooming who?    Keys see who is doing what to whom,  Nimby style

By Sunshine on 06/09/2014 at 4:43 pm

The school board is being criticized for praising someone who has been working well with them.  This is classic.

By Classic on 06/09/2014 at 5:48 pm

“We certainly did not want it to be used for anyone’s or any publication’s political gain.” -Jeff Mester and the CSD Board


Isn’t that exactly what Mr. Greenstein and Jay Shapiro did when they admittedly worked together and wrote the “thank you” letter?

By what gives? on 06/09/2014 at 6:03 pm

Q5. As a new board member, you will participate in the school board’s most important job, choosing a new superintendent.  Do you believe the search should be national in scope and use the services of a national search firm?

A5. I believe we should have a national search that includes internal and external candidates.

As regards a national search firm, I believe the district should use someone capable of attracting the greatest number and most qualified candidates.

http://www.newcastlenow.org/index.php/article/new_qa_of_jeffrey_mester/

By Jeff's own words on filling vacant positions on 06/09/2014 at 6:11 pm

Perhaps Ms. Shapiro saw the BOE’s ingratiating letter for what it is, an attempt to curry favor, rather than a real endorsement, since its contents were not meant to be known publicly.

By unctuous on 06/09/2014 at 6:30 pm

Mr. Mester, you say, “Our intention in writing privately to the Town Board was so that it could not be used to inflame incivility.” 

Perhaps you and the board of education could lobby Albany to repeal the right to know laws, so that you could increase the civility of your oversight of our schools and town. It seems that unless someone invokes New York’s FOIL, the board treats requests for information on its actions as ‘informal’ and not worthy of compliance.  That’s unfortunate for we citizens who want to know what public boards are doing. 

It may not be comfortable for Mr. Mester to hear that his actions were inappropriate, but it is not uncivil for citizens to want better for our school board than he has been able to provide and to state that opinion in a public forum such as this one. 

 

By right to know on 06/09/2014 at 7:26 pm

I can only imagine how Jill Shapiro is feeling.  She should have been given the opportunity to apply for and possibly receive the administrator position if she is the most qualified for the job as opposed to having her name and qualifications dragged through the mud like this.  Of course, nothing is stopping her from insisting the town interview others to make sure she is indeed the best pick.  I wonder why she doesn’t do that?

By Thanks to Rob Greenstein on 06/09/2014 at 8:20 pm

What does this mean:

“Our intention in writing privately to the Town Board was so that it could not be used to inflame incivility.  We certainly did not want it to be used for anyone’s or any publication’s political gain.”

Who would want to “use” your recommendation to “inflame incivility”?? What “political gain”?? You really don’t get it. You were way off base to do any recommending at all. And way off base in your deciding that Christine Yeres and Robin Murphy had “crossed the line (again)”. What line? Whose line? Again how? What did they do to draw out your justice-dispensing side before this transgression?

By All About YOU on 06/09/2014 at 11:57 pm

Go back and read Jeffrey’s speech in honor of Jay Shapiro’s retirement from te school board after serving two terms. It made clear how close they are. It was a wonderful tribute to a friend and mentor. However, Jeffrey clearly has a conflict of interest when it comes to Jay’s wife and her position with town. The explanation above is silent on this issue. Friends may well write letters of support in real life for friends but an elected reprrsentative has an obligation to the community to put aside such personal intetests.

By Stunned on 06/10/2014 at 9:06 am

Jeffrey Mester has behaved unethically and he should resign.  Every member of the school board should call for his resignation, but instead they allow and endorse his speaking for them.

By Mester should resign on 06/10/2014 at 10:38 am

I accept Mr. Mester’s—and the Board of ed’s—letter of praise for Ms. Shapiro and the NC Town Board, for what it appears to be: a very gracious and courteous thank you for a healthy, ongoing working relationship. Mr. Mester writes in his response (to this latest, quintessentially Chappaquiddian kerfuffle), “Speaking from experience, people always have time to criticize but rarely have the time to send a note of appreciation.  This is what we did as we would do for any other employee with whom we have direct working experience and who has had such a profound effect on the tenor of relations”.

I, the eponymous John Beach, agree completely with the thoughtfulness of this statement.

I don’t know Ms. Shapiro, or her politics. Same for Mr. Greenstein. I have never met Mr. Mester, for that matter. But I do understand the written word. To me, the words in the letter from Mr. Mester feel ameliorative, politic, and appropriate.
If I was overseeing a town board and was doing regular business with another body—of any kind—I would hope that I could muster the same graciousness and decorum shown by Mr. Mester and his colleagues. Jeez, folks, the guy just sent a peace pipe, is all.  It’s like a perfunctory thank you note for a nice kinship. It’s a benign document. I read it as a kind, open, and smart message of praise to those with whom the Board of Ed necessarily works.

I don’t know how else to say it. Have a great day, everybody.

By John Beach on 06/10/2014 at 11:46 am

cro•ny•ism (ˈkroʊ niˌɪz əm)

n.
the practice of favoring one’s close friends, esp. in political appointments.
[1830–40]
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

By school board needs to go to school for an ethic's on 06/10/2014 at 5:00 pm

Well said Mr Beach.

By bob on 06/10/2014 at 6:37 pm

Mr. Mester,

How do you define “civility”. Is it when people keep official CCSD documents secret? Is it when they don’t disagree with you?

Your duty is to lead the school district and to do so in the most transparent way possible. Unless of course you have something to hide.

Normally a positive letter about a person who does not work for the CCSD and who is being given a critical town function would be something you would be happy to share. Especially if you had nothing to hide.

There simply is no rational reason to keep it secret and you need to remember that your duty is not to the Town Board, to Ms. Shapiro, or to anyone in her family. None of them are “protected classes”. Your duty is to us, the people who pay school taxes and send our children to the CCSD.

But then if you have something to hide, perhaps you feel differently.

By Civility on 06/11/2014 at 10:05 am

Team New Castle has managed to upset a vast majority of the residents, alienate their fellow board members and now drag our schools into their mess.

What’s left??? Mess up the Ragamuffin parade?
I say give them time and they will find a way to do that as well.

By Drag the schools into this mess on 06/12/2014 at 7:24 pm

The town board should read paragraph 3 of the above letter. It seems that they are totally ignoring everything that they should be paying attention to. I’ve lived here a long time and I have to say that there has never been any controversy close to what this board has caused. If they had any sense of decency, they should resign and we should have a new election.

By Long Time Resident on 06/13/2014 at 9:16 am

Neither boards have the good judgment to effectively handle their board positions.

If the School Board really wanted the Town Board to “use the facts, community input, and especially their good judgment and make decisions that they believe is in the best interests of the entire community while protecting those classes of community members that need or are entitled to protection” then they wouldn’t have sent that letter privately or at all.  And they surely would not have bashed the community members who publicly criticized the board for lying about the 2 year contract they signed and asked for an open interview process.
 
Rob Greenstein publicly apologized to, of all people, Jill Shapiro for being in the middle of the &hit; storm he created but not to the residents of New Castle.  Will Mr. Mester and the rest of the School Board publicly apologize to Christine Yeres and Robin Murphy?

Or does Mester consider “cronies” to be “a class of community members that need or are entitled to protection.”

By Actually ... on 06/13/2014 at 12:18 pm

Individuals ranting on this blog have no idea how the “vast majority” feels. Nor do they speak for the “vast majority.” Unless of course they mean the “vast majority” of the New Castle Democrats.

By bob on 06/13/2014 at 12:22 pm

@ Longtime Resident,

The school board has demonstrated that they are more interested in circling the wagons behind Jeffrey Mester’s ridiculous bloviating that in no way credibly answers what the school board has done, than they are about doing the work of the school board.
Every member who remains silent behind Mester’s spin, is an embarrassment to the town and to themselves.

By school board is an embarrassment on 06/13/2014 at 12:26 pm

bob,

You show yourself to be a fool.  The residents are disgusted by the actions of the school board and by the actions of the town board.

By anonymous on 06/13/2014 at 1:56 pm

The contract for the administrator was explained in January. No one lied.

By bob on 06/13/2014 at 1:59 pm

I don’t associate myself with any party and vote for I believe would serve the best.  This group of new board members has failed in so many ways.

By this is not a democratic party issue on 06/13/2014 at 4:38 pm

No need to rely on name calling. Most residents would like to see more, not less, interaction between the town board and the school board. In fact, the tax cap and upcoming rebate will require both boards to work together, and they, of course, should.

By bob on 06/13/2014 at 4:47 pm

Editor,

Would it be possible for you to provide Jill’s contract for the readers to see ?

Editor’s Note:  It’s in a link at the bottom this piece:  http://www.newcastlenow.org/index.php/article/index/new_was_jill_shapiro_appointed_town_administrator_for_six_months_or_for_two

By voter on 06/13/2014 at 5:18 pm

Voter, here’s Jill Shapiro’s contract: 

http://www.newcastlenow.org/images/articles2010/Employment_Agreement_for_Town_Administrator_Jill_Simon_Shapiro.pdf

bob, watch the town board meeting starting at the 35 minute mark and you will see lies and misleading statements.  Rob sidesteps the question but Jill and Ward-Willis state that it’s 6 months. 

http://vimeo.com/95162742

By board watcher on 06/13/2014 at 9:57 pm

Watch the tape of the meeting at which the issuing of the contract was explained.
Not rocket science.

By bob on 06/13/2014 at 10:09 pm

Mester, Greenstein and Jay Shapiro, you should all be ashamed regarding your roles in this matter.  We deserve far better!

By resident of Town and school district on 06/14/2014 at 8:40 am

The link to the video provided above is for a May meeting. To understand what took place you have to go back to the organizational meeting of early January. At that meeting the relationship between the appointment and the contract vis a vis the requirements of the NY State Retirement System is explained.

By bob on 06/14/2014 at 10:47 am

Yes, do watch and see for yourselves.  bob is counting on you all believing his innuendo,
funny that he thinks anyone believes him.

By yes, do watch on 06/14/2014 at 6:06 pm

Have you watched? Good. Now you understand.

By bob on 06/16/2014 at 11:48 am

Hey bob. Would you kindly explain to this town bd watching newby, what does it mean that Mrs Shapiro’s contract is stated as 2 years “for retirement purposes”?

By Bobbin on 06/16/2014 at 4:21 pm

Requirement of the state retirement system. Below are the adopted minutes from the January meeting. Mottel moved the motion, and it was approved unanimously:

APPOINTMENT OF TOWN ADMINISTRATOR
Council Member Mottel moved, seconded by Deputy Supervisor Katz to appoint Jill Simon Shapiro as Town Administrator for a period of two years for the purposes of retirement reporting as set forth in the resolution adopted by the Town Board at the direction of the New York State Retirement System on October 25, 2011, but to serve at the pleasure of the Town Board as set forth in that resolution of the Town Board adopted on October 25, 2011.
VOTE AYES ALL

By bob on 06/17/2014 at 7:54 am

But what does that mean?  What difference does it make that they mention that her appointment was for the purposes of retirement reporting? 

By the way, Penny Paderewski and Jerry Faiella’s contracts didn’t include that provision.  They never had terms set.  If they were let go without cause, they’d receive 3 months salary.

By Bobbin on 06/19/2014 at 7:37 am

This whole episode leaves a black mark on the current Board and Administration.  How can they be trusted?

By In the end on 06/19/2014 at 8:21 pm


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