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Could Closure
Vote Be Rescinded?

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — July 5, 2005 – It’s not over yet.
According to a copy of the Sullivan West school board’s tentative July 7 meeting agenda, the board will once again vote on the closure of the Delaware Valley and Narrowsburg campuses.
Or rather, they’ll be voting on keeping them open.
One of the first items on the agenda, the resolution states, “Whereas the Sullivan West school board has a vastly different composition since the June 2, 2005 meeting, and whereas there has been controversy over the closure of the Delaware Valley and Narrowsburg buildings for the purposes of conducting student instructional programs, as well as other programs and activities, effective July 1, 2005, and now therefore be it resolved that the Sullivan West Board of Education hereby rescinds the decision to close these buildings and declares that appropriate studies, committees and public hearings will be undertaken to study whether such action would be suitable in the future.
“Further be it resolved that the Sullivan West Board of Education will investigate every possible means of streamlining the operations of the district to the financial constraints of the 2005-2006 budget and will make the decisions about such cost-cutting measures based on the educational benefit to and the well-being of all students.”
In other words, the resolution – if approved – would undo the 5-4 vote of June 2 to close the two elementary schools and shift their students to Jeffersonville (while sending the 7th and 8th graders to the high school in Lake Huntington), even though the current contingency budget makes no provisions for keeping the schools open.
The resolution was drafted by board member Shawn Bailey, who said Thursday that he had done so at the request of Jennifer Mann, a newly elected board member who will be sworn in this Thursday.
Mann, a Narrowsburg resident who ran on a “save our schools” platform and staunchly opposes the closures, is not officially a board member until she is sworn in, so she cannot yet introduce agenda items prior to a meeting.
Anna Niemann of Youngsville is the other new member to be sworn in, and the new board is why Bailey felt this resolution was necessary.
“They need to have the opportunity to vote on it,” he remarked.
Although he said he understood why the June 2 vote was held when it was, he felt it was time to re-examine that decision.
“The easiest thing to save money was to slash those buildings,” he said. “We could have waited until next year to make this decision.”
As for the lack of a budget to keep the schools open, Bailey said there are “a lot of areas where we could get creative with our budget” – specifically referencing programs like teaching foreign languages to kindergartners and first graders.
So how might Thursday’s vote go?
Of the five who voted for closure on June 2, only Rich Sandler, Rick Lander and Regina Wagner remain on the board. The four who voted against closure also remain: Bailey, Catherine Novak, Angela Daley and Arthur Norden.
However, Norden has clearly indicated he is only in favor of keeping DV open, not Narrowsburg.
Of the two incoming board members, only Mann has stated a clear opposition to closing the schools.
That leaves Niemann as the potential swing vote.
And how does she feel about it?
“I think we’re between a rock and a hard place,” she said on Friday. “I’m not in favor of it [closure], but I don’t feel we have any other choice.”
The board meeting will be held this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the high school in Lake Huntington, to be preceded by the annual reorganizational meeting.
That’s Not All
Other items of note on the tentative agenda for July 7 include two resolutions rolled into one – half to NYS Comptroller Alan Hevesi and half to NYS Attorney General Eliot Spitzer – requesting an investigation into the processes by which the merger and construction projects came about.
Drafted by school attorney David Shaw, the resolutions make different requests of each office.
For the comptroller, the resolution asks Hevesi’s office to investigate and audit the aforementioned processes and “the circumstances giving rise to the district’s current financial condition.”
For the AG, the resolution asks Spitzer’s office to review information and documentation about the construction of the high school “for the purpose of investigating the business practices and professional services provided in fulfilling contractual obligations on the part of Hillier Architectural Firm and Turner Construction Company, respectively, and to bring about the recovery of monies that may be owed to the taxpayers of the district and the State of New York as a consequence of any performance failures under the contractual obligations assumed by Hillier and Turner.”

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