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Sullivan West Board of Education: no comment

By Linda Drollinger
August 27, 2014

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — If anyone who attended the August 21 meeting of the Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education expected the board to make a public statement about its decision to sell the unused Narrowsburg School building and the related lawsuit that has been filed by disgruntled residents, they were disappointed. A considerable number of Narrowsburg Organized for Responsible School Usage (NORSU) members and other school district residents were present, and made their interest in the issue clear during the public comment period—but the answers consisted largely of “no comment.”

Iris Helfeld of Narrowsburg was the first of several residents to address the board during the public comment segment of the meeting. Reiterating solidarity with previously stated NORSU complaints, objectives and initiatives that include the lawsuit, she asked the board what actions it would take if school buyer Joan Buto waives the 120-day due diligence period, opting instead to “flip” the school to another buyer. Board president Mary Scheutzow’s response was a “no comment” answer. Helfeld informed the board that NORSU had commissioned Sullivan County Legislator Alan Sorenson, a professional planner, to review the sale process; his findings and conclusions were detailed in a report handed out to each board member present at the meeting.

Kathy Michell of Narrowsburg, a former Narrowsburg school district board member, also addressed the board. Praising board members for the outstanding civic service they perform without monetary reward, she said her own board experience made her appreciative of their dedication and personal sacrifice. But she also said that she thought they might be misinterpreting their roles as board members. She suggested that, by deferring without question to the advice they received from district administration officials and the district’s attorney, they are abdicating their responsibility to the voters who elected them. Michell told the board that they must weigh advice they receive from administrators and attorneys, but that their decisions must ultimately be of their own choosing and must take into account all stakeholders. When Michell asked if Scheutzow could talk about the board’s plans with regard to the sale and the lawsuit, Scheutzow answered, “I cannot.”

Narrowsburg resident Tony Staffieri asked the board to discuss its policy with regard to litigation in general, saying that costs associated with this lawsuit will almost surely outweigh any fiscal benefit derived from Buto’s $9,000 advantage over second-highest bidder Brendan Weidan. The board had no comment.