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Jan 19, 2017 1:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Board Of Education Criticized For Lack Of Transparency

Superintedent Roebrt Long at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Jan 19, 2017 3:41 PM

Skip Heaney of East Quogue—a former Southampton Town supervisor and school board candidate—gave his Board of Education a belated New Year’s resolution to work toward in 2017: Become more transparent.

Mr. Heaney said during a board meeting Tuesday night that it was troubling that the five-member board rarely discussed agenda items in public.

“Not everything qualifies as executive session,” Mr. Heaney said.

Executive sessions, in which public boards are allowed to meet privately, away from the public, are limited to discussions pertaining to legal matters and personnel issues, according to the New York State Open Meetings Law.

Holding a blue photo copy of Tuesday night’s agenda, Mr. Heaney pointed out that it was a disservice to the public that the document isn’t typically posted online ahead of the meeting for taxpayers and parents in the district to read before coming to the meeting each month.

Specifically, Mr. Heaney pointed to an agenda item—which was approved by the board later that night—that called for the Board of Education to submit an application to change the way the building administration is run. Currently Robert Long is serving as the single-school district’s superintendent and principal, and the variance would make his combined position official.

Mr. Long has been serving in the combined role since former Superintendent Les Black resigned in May 2015 after heavy criticism from parents for the school district’s dire financial standing.

Mr. Heaney said it was peculiar to him that Tuesday night was the first time Mr. Long’s position was discussed in public in months and that the board approved an agenda item on it during the meeting. “I don’t know how some of these things get on the agendas,” Mr. Heaney said.

Cynthia McNamara, vice president of the Board of Education, agreed with Mr. Heaney.

“The last time this was publicly discussed was May of last year and that’s when the public asked us to have a public discussion on this before we made the permanent positions,” Ms. McNamara said of the agenda item, which she voted against. “We have not discussed this variance since Ms. [Jessica] Stalters joined the Board of Education … I just want to point out that this agenda—nobody in the public knows this is taking place tonight because it’s not posted anywhere. That in itself is a problem.”

As Ms. McNamara began to get heated, Mr. Long and School Board President Patricia Tuzzolo stood up for the board’s practices.

“We’ve had discussions with the community and they had strong support about the change in position,” Ms. Tuzzolo said, pointing out that she feels the board does its part to be transparent with the community.

Mr. Long added that there is always opportunities for discussion at public meetings and parents with additional concerns can approach him in his office.

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There has been a lack of transparency on the EQ BOE for a long time. Too many items discussed in executive session which are not covered in the NYS Open Meetings Law. The EQ BOE meeting agenda can easily be added to the EQ website. Kudos to Mr Heaney for getting the SHP to cover this.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jan 19, 17 1:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Boards of taxpayer funded institutions should strive for accountability and transparency. For 17 months we've asked the Appointed Board of Trustees of the Westhampton Free Library to list meeting attendees in the minutes and to give, at the very least, a brief synopsis of what each individual discusses during Public Expression. Many libraries, municipalities, Villages, etc. do just that. The Library refuses. So there is no public record that for 17 months multiple taxpayers have been calling ...more
By st (128), westhampton beach on Jan 19, 17 2:14 PM
Just to clarify- the agenda item that called for the Board of Education to submit an application to change the way the building administration is run was indeed NOT approved unanimously! Mrs McNamara was the only member who voted against that motion.
By eqmomof3 (22), EAST QUOGUE on Jan 19, 17 3:19 PM
I don't know what's worse: the possibility that a decision of this magnitude was discussed behind closed doors, or the possibility that it was made with no discussion at all. Bravo to Ms. McNamara for calling the others out on this breach of community trust.
By 4545Sally (1), Plainview on Jan 19, 17 5:43 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By NoJustBecause (2), East Quogue on Jan 19, 17 11:00 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By NoJustBecause (2), East Quogue on Jan 19, 17 11:34 PM
NoJustBecause

1. Just stating a fact. The original article said the motion passed unanimously. It didn't.
2. The conversation wasn't specifically about Mr Long. It was about the possible combining of the two positions so I don't believe it was privileged.
3. If there was so much support for the combining of the positions 2 years ago what would it have hurt to have a publicized public meeting now in 2017?

I have always supported Mr Long, our BOE, our teachers and ...more
By eqmomof3 (22), EAST QUOGUE on Jan 20, 17 7:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
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