Letter: Strange goings-on

Dear Editor,

The actions of our Owego Apalachin CSD Board of Education appear counter to the public good over the past two years. New York law states, “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner…” 

All deliberations, with narrow exception of personnel issues and the like, are required to be public and documented! For as far back as Owego Apalachin CSD has archives, the Board of Education has established a BOE Meetings Schedule in August of each year. These have always been simply “BOE Meeting Schedule”. 

Annually, an OACSD staff person prepares a suggested BOE meeting schedule and places it on the BOE meeting agenda. This is then reviewed, perhaps edited, and approved by BOE vote. The vote is recorded in BOE meeting minutes.

Never prior to school year 2021-22 had the BOE needed a definition or dichotomy of BOE meetings. They have always been “BOE meeting” like every other district, never any “Regular” and “Business“ distinction. 

In October of 2021, a very unique BOE meeting schedule was posted. This schedule was never on any agenda or voted on. It did not see the light of day until posted. 

This is unlawful in New York State. District business was and remains being transacted outside of legally constituted public meetings. The agendas for the “Regular” and “Business” meetings are essentially identical. No reason whatsoever was tendered to create this dichotomy. 

The intent of this change is to preclude public observation and contribution, as stated in both new and old bylaws. These Business meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m., and Regular for 6:30 p.m. Scheduling BOE meetings for 9 a.m. is illegal because it creates a circumstance where taxpayers, teachers, parents, etc. are precluded from attendance. Teachers need to teach and taxpayers and parents have to work. This could not be any more self-evident, yet the BOE did this.

This letter was motivated by the fact that at the March 28, 2022 BOE meeting, the BOE was advised they were violating their bylaws by improperly deleting the Public Forum of BOE meetings. This comment and the BOE’s response are not recorded in the BOE meeting minutes, and the video of this meeting was destroyed. 

At the very next BOE meeting, April 12, 2022, the BOE began erasing the old bylaws and replacing them with new bylaws. The method by which they did this violated their bylaws. They excluded public participation as required by the bylaws. 

The BOE went to special lengths to exclude THE PUBLIC, those they are to serve. Never did any member of the BOE make the smallest of comment regarding the new bylaws. All were adopted by unanimous vote. This constitutes about 200 pages of governance material. No BOE member commented on obvious and in your face errors. 

It would appear the BOE did not read the new bylaws. Did they? Unique among BOE meetings there are no minutes of the April 12, 2022 BOE meeting. Bylaws and compliance with are important. Had, over the past two decades, the BOE operated to their bylaws; students and taxpayers would have been better served. Seems like a Banana Republic, we’ll change the law, as we need. 

The new and improved bylaws have added a section, which requires BOE members “Be able to read and write”. The ability to speak and add / subtract is not a requirement. This is filler used for distraction. The real effect of the new bylaws is to remove public comment, participation, oversight, and transparency.

The OACSD BOE was first advised of these concerns in December of 2022 and asked for comment. None was provided. Considerable effort has been made to acquire material from the district regarding these concerns and this remains a problem. 

This was done to ensure this letter is as fair as possible. Everything stated here can be validated by the district’s documents except where the videos have been destroyed, minutes don’t exist, and where minutes record nothing more than votes on resolutions. 

The greatest accomplishment of our BOE was hiring our current Superintendent. He works at the direction and pleasure of the BOE. Why would any Superintendent want to waste their time destroying BOE meeting videos and materials when New York State law requires retention? Is it wild speculation that there might be a link between OACSDs 15 years of having the highest compensated teacher’s union members in the Southern Tier?  

Due to the pandemic, video recordings were made of BOE meetings. These have been destroyed. Today the BOE adamantly refuses to make video recordings; however, if you wish to see thousands of hours of OACSD activities, go to the districts YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@OwegoApalachinCSD. Why not? If a video was made of the Feb. 13, 2023 meeting, the community might require all meetings be video recorded.


Haig McNamee

Owego, N.Y.

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