Current Board of Education President Robert Rossi scrutinized postcards passed out in school buildings endorsing three candidates for the board at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
“I’d like to let the community know about an unfortunate situation that has taken place in our school buildings. The teachers union has been using our school buildings as a political stomping ground in hopes of getting some people elected to the school board which might lead them to a rich contract,” Rossi said at the podium Tuesday night.
Rossi chose to speak from the podium where community members address the board to make his speech rather than from behind the desk with the rest of the board. After the meeting, Rossi explained that he chose the podium so his personal views are not confused as the collective views of the board.
“I wanted to remove myself from the table, I didn’t want anyone to think that I’m speaking on behalf of any of the board members here,” he said. “It was my own personal problem and I felt the only way for me to handle it was to speak on my own.”
The names of two first-time candidates are on the postcard – Joanne McEnroy, who is running opposed to current board member Neil Carlin, and Grace Plourde, who is running opposed to Rossi – as well as current board member Gladys Waldron, who is running unopposed.
Rossi said when he asked Waldron if she was aware the teachers union was putting her name on the postcard she said she was not aware.
After the meeting, Rossi said campaigning should not take place in the schools.
“They [postcards] were passed out in the school buildings and I don’t find that appropriate,” he said. “I think that if you’re going to run for a position, run for the position where it belongs, out in the street not in a school building. They’re there to teach the children, not to advance anybody for our own personal gain.”
In a phone interview, Smithtown Teachers’ Association President Rich Forzano said he had no knowledge of the postcards being passed out during school hours and passing out postcards endorsing candidates is nothing new.
“Those [postcards] have been distributed at STA building meetings, which are always done before school or after school … every member of the board is very well aware the things the STA has done in the past when we endorse a candidate,” Forzano said.
Rossi said in his speech that Forzano declared impasse in the school and teachers union contract negotiations and said he is the reason there is no contract agreement. Forzano, in a phone interview, said he as surprised at Rossi’s comment and added, “neither side has made a move to push for another negotiating session at this point.”
“He made it sound like I was refusing and I could tell you that the district has not approached or asked for any more negotiations, it’s not like I’ve been asked and I said no,” he said.