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Waldenburg: Executive Sessions Protect Privacy, Shield District From Potential Litigation

The school board president explains the district's position on what is and what is not discussed in public.

I want to take this opportunity to speak to the community because

The Board of Education is the legally constituted corporate governing body of the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District. As such, the Board acts in accordance with authority and responsibility vested in it by federal and state laws, rules, and regulations on behalf of the district’s students and citizens.

Each member of our corporate board takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of New York to the best of his/her ability as a trustee. I believe all of our trustees are dedicated public servants who respect their ultimate responsibility of being stewards of the public trust. Nothing is more important to each of them and myself than our personal and professional integrity.

In its governance, the board has a myriad of responsibilities: to assure high quality education for each of its students, to provide long range planning for the district, to craft district-wide policies, to monitor fiscal responsibility and to confer tenure on well deserving professionals.

Most of the board’s work is conducted in public session through action where items are presented to the board to review, discuss and vote upon.

Sometimes however it is necessary for the board to convene into executive session for topics that may not be discussed in public.

The use of executive session to discuss these topics, protects the best interest of the District and protects the rights of an individual or corporation. Some of these topics include but are not limited to items that would endanger public safety, information related to a criminal offense, the employment history of an individual or corporation, or the sale or lease of real property.

In recent weeks there have been published statements indicating that the Board of Education through its advisory audit committee convened improperly into an executive session to discuss the district’s internal audit report. Although fact the reason stated for the executive session “to discuss the internal audit report” was not valid, two of the topics anticipated and ultimately discussed in that executive session were. It was anticipated that the employment history of both a corporation and an individual as they related to the internal audit were to be discussed. They were in fact discussed. If this individual and/or corporation were discussed in public, it would not only show a lack of respect for those being discussed, but could financially harm the district by exposing it to potential litigation.

Therefore, the intent of the Board was not to conceal the District’s financial information in the audit report since it was subsequently posted on the District’s website but to protect the identity of an individual or corporation and ultimately the district itself.

Since that time, the board has been most deliberate about the reasons stated for convening into Executive Session, adhering strictly to the letter of the law. Even the Committee on Open Government opined that the District, with regard to its executive session, is in full compliance with the Open Government meetings law.

Although the reasons for an executive session must be posted, minutes are not taken because these discussions must remain confidential for reasons already stated.

As President of the Board of Education, I ask that you understand the board’s collective commitment to the honor of our district and community. We will continue to serve our children and fellow residents with the sincerity and integrity this community deserves.

Stephen V. Waldenburg, Jr.
President of the Board of Education

benjamin June 14, 2011 at 01:56 PM
No, as Jean really does not what to be part of this anymore ..but does know what she is talking about..Shame you won't take the time to read the truth!! ps, PATCH only allows certain amount of words......this is why the letter was broken up....
benjamin June 14, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Also, did we hear this correct, that McDermott's contract was just renewed again with all new perks and benefits. Contract was amended last year till June 0f 2012..Well the word is she wanted a new contract because isn't' it in the works that all superintendent's contracts are to be capped at $225..per our Governor? Her salary would have been capped, but ow she is making alot more then that and that can't be changed for guess what, another five years. Hey wait a minute, no minutes of this and no vote in public, where are the details? Yikes, here we go again..can someone confirm all of this with the BOE?
mary gilmore June 14, 2011 at 07:31 PM
the renewal of dr mcdermott's contract was discussed and voted on publicly at the last boe meeting and was subsequently reported in all of the local papers.
luvjuly4th June 14, 2011 at 08:02 PM
what was discussed? what are the details of the contract? new salary? new benefits? raises for the next five years? i didn't see these details in the local papers. therefore i conclude no details of the new contract were released to the public. transparency? integrity of the board? you have to be kidding. get it in before the governor says enough is enough. i am sure northport won't be alone with that manuevuer. it may be legal but it certainly isn't right. that is my 2 cents.
Polly June 14, 2011 at 11:23 PM
And there she comes with yet another user name...

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