Newspaper coverage : LUSENET : Diversity coalitions : One Thread

Newspaper coverage of Onteora news. Please try to give a link as well as reprinting the story, and note in the regular current thread that you've added a story here. Use the link to access the original story, as occasionally there will be online letters in response to the story that are useful.

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2002


Daily Freeman January 16 Kemble story


WOODSTOCK - The investigation of school Superintendent Hal Rowe has been reopened by the Onteora school board majority, but the board agreed questions about conflict of interest by a school district attorney must be answered before the revised review is started. Areas of concern included in the investigation are the retirement package approved for former district employee Brian Lane; why 11,000 flyers intended to inform district residents about a bond vote were thrown out; and whether a $24,000 study to conform with state mandates to assess district buildings was paid properly.

Rowe has defended each of the actions as being done within the law and said the review is part of the three-year effort by Trustee Joseph Doan to undermine confidence in district administrators.

A request by Doan to have attorney David Shaw return to the role of special investigator was approved in a 4-3 vote Monday, though the Board of Education also unanimously approved seeking clarification on how it could affect pending cases against the school district.

Trustee Marino D'Orazio, who is also a lawyer, said a conflict of interest review of Shaw should be done. D'Orazio said having Shaw conduct an investigation while defending school officials in a case that seeks to overturn a board vote approving a lease for modular classrooms at two elementary buildings could be detrimental because findings would be available to the opposition.

Shaw said a conflict of interest review will be conducted after he receives a formal request from the board.

"This issue is certainly legitimate," he said. "Thought and care have to be applied ... before we would go forward and investigate (the conflict of interest issue)," he said.

D'Orazio added that Shaw also recently put the district in a legal dilemma by filing papers in the case that acknowledge the district accepts responsibility for violating laws.

"My understanding of what a lawyer is supposed to do is (not) admit everything the other side alleges," D'Orazio said.

"Shaw, in at least four or five places, in my humble opinion, made admissions that should not have made as our counsel," he said. "When you are somebody's lawyer, you don't just willy-nilly admit everything."

The case was brought last year by district residents Samuel Mercer and Gerald Ricci, who have agreed with Doan that a three-year lease at $44,000 annually should not have been approved for the modular units.

D'Orazio contends the relationship Doan has developed with Shaw is a form of legal sabotage.

"Frankly, I have a little problem with ... the Joe Doan-David Shaw connection," he said. "I'm starting to think that maybe Shaw feels that he needs to respond to the needs of Joe Doan."

Shaw, who was contacted by telephone Tuesday, denied favoring Doan in handling district legal affairs and said the response in court papers was appropriate.

"Whatever contacts I have with Joe Doan are based upon contacts that have been established by the board for contacting its attorney," Shaw said. "Most of my contacts are with the board president ... and others are with Joe Doan in areas where he has a specific involvement and responsibility. It's also my understanding that other board members have a right to access to me."

Shaw also disputed contentions the district legal response in the court papers should not have included admissions there were violations of law when approving a lease for the modular classrooms.

"An attorney is under an ethical obligation to present the court or a (state Education Department) commissioner ...with a fair assessment of the facts and a fair representation of the law," Shaw said. "I believe I met that ethical duty accordingly and appropriately."

District papers filed to defend the board seek to have the case dismissed based on procedural problems, with Shaw reporting deadlines were missed and that all of the people involved reaching a lease agreement should have been named.

Voting in favor of the investigation of Rowe were Doan, school board President Martin Millman, Trustee Rose Ostrander and Trustee Greg Walters. Opposed were board members D'Orazio, Margaret "Meg" Carey, and Thomas Rosato.

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2002

FYI.. no Onteora school Board news in today's (1/17/02) UCT..but this in MARIAN"S MEMOS..In congratulating several Phoenicia students upon graduation from UCC," Therefore I must conclude that they recieved an excellent education both in the grammer and the high school! This appears contrary to recent information which was well publicized and seems to be unfair and unfounded to some extent.Let's hear from the other side ...namely the dedicated teachers and administrators! "

-- Anonymous, January 17, 2002

Actually the response by Marian was for students graduating from SUNY.

-- Anonymous, January 17, 2002


-- Anonymous, January 18, 2002

I went to a scholarship award ceremony at UCCC in support of a friend. It was very noticable the large number of students getting awards from Shandaken/Phoenicia area. I wonder what the real number of successful return students from Onteora is at UCCC.

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2002

Maybe the students and/or parents would like to come to a Board meeting and talk or hold a press conference about their experiences at Phoenicia, Onteora high school and UCCC! Tobe

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2002

Perhaps Sayde Finkel would like to comment, being a Phoneicia graduate and all. I'll contact her.

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2002

Ice cream assaults

Millman, Doan criticized for Phoenicia blasts

The education at the Phoenicia Elementary School came in for praise this week from teachers and students, who also criticized recent comments from Onteora school board member Joe Doan and the board’s president, Marty Millman, in which the trustees cast blame for poor middle school performance on Phoenicia principal Randy Collins and the concept of ‘family grouping’. Some of the comments questioned the validity of assigning cause and effect based on such limited data, while others objected to the singling out of a particular school in a negative way through the media.

In November, Doan requested that assistant superintendent Frank Gorleski assemble data on failure rates of seventh- and eighth- graders at Onteora Middle School, broken down by elementary school of origin. In the course of making allegations against Superintendent Hal Rowe, Doan had already asserted that Phoenicia students were not doing well in the middle school and that the reason was ‘Family Grouping,’ in which classes are composed of students from two adjacent grades. He attributed the family grouping arrangement to principal Collins and to consultants from BCL Solutions, linking both to Rowe. Collins is on an unpaid leave of absence for the 2001-2002 school year, and Doan and Millman have announced that they do not want him back. Robert Barrette of BCL has denied that his company was responsible for introducing Family Grouping to Phoenicia.

Gorleski’s report, delivered to board members on December 21, appeared to confirm that students from the Phoenicia School did not perform as well as students from other elementary schools in 1998 through 2001. However, Gorleski cautioned against drawing conclusions from a single report, saying, "One of the lessons taught in statistics courses is that correlation can be drawn between two items — for example, the rate of ice cream sales and the number of assaults reported. There is a direct correlation between the two data, but can you prove that eating ice cream causes assault?"

Gorleski, who was both a math major and a math teacher, has been working for several years on CDEP, the Comprehensive District Educational Plan, which requires extensive data analysis. When seeking causes for trends, he said, "You find out very quickly that your first guess probably isn’t going to be correct." It took the CDEP committee months to examine data from many sources in determining causes and remedial actions for performance lags at the high school. Conflicting with the recent report is the fact that Phoenicia students have scored well on state-mandated standardized tests, whose validity Doan has questioned.

Two eighth-grade honor roll students, both from Phoenicia, reacted to the Townsman article. Orion Hinkley said, "I think the school was at its prime under Randy Collins. I liked the environment." Brandon Ballister added, "I felt the statements made by Doan and Millman were false and unfair to the students and faculty of Phoenicia Elementary. I think they should acknowledge the positive outputs of the school."

Phoenicia teachers agreed. In a letter to area newspapers, signed by 36 Phoenicia staff members, they stated, "In light of the ‘Phoenicia bashing’ that has been taking place…we’d like to take the opportunity to publish some good news." They recognized "the fifty-one percent of last year’s graduating sixth grade class who made the merit list, honor, and high honor rolls in seventh grade. We’d like to commend the present fifth grade class for achieving the highest score of the four district elementary schools on the recent New York State Social Studies test. We also want to point out that Phoenicia’s fourth grade students have consistently exceeded state benchmarks on the New York State Language Arts Assessment and Math Assessment tests." ++

Violet Snow

School board nominations open

The Onteora Central School District has announced that petitions are available to nominate candidates for the Board of Education. The seats held by Joseph Doan, Rose Ostrander, and Marino D’Orazio will be up for election on Tuesday, May 21, 2002. The trustees elected will serve for three years, from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2005. Last year’s procedural change to "voting at large" means that candidates will not vie for specific seats, but the three highest vote-getters will be awarded the seats. Candidates must have resided in the school district for at least one year at the time of the election.

Petition forms may be picked up at the Onteora Administrative Offices, 33 Basin Road, West Hurley, from the District Clerk between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each business day. Petitions will require at least 82 qualified voter signatures and must be returned to the Clerk by 5:00 p.m., Monday, April 22, 2002.

Discussions regarding next year’s budget will begin at the next board meeting on Monday, January 28, when budget proposals for buildings and grounds and physical education will be presented. From now until the May election, each meeting will involve discussion of a portion of the budget. ++

School Board lawyer pledges impartiality in Rowe investigation

Onteora School Board attorney David Shaw confirmed that he had been contacted by the board regarding investigation of six allegations of wrongdoing in district business, as well as the concern that this investigation might involve some conflict of interest on his part. He said that his firm, Shaw and Perelson, are reviewing the issues and will respond to the board. Shaw declined to speculate on the potential cost of the investigation, which will be charged at an hourly rate of $150, since it is not in an area covered by the district’s retainer agreement with the firm. He acknowledged that they may already have some of the information required.

When asked about board member Marino D’Orazio’s conjecture that Shaw was beholden to Joe Doan, who was behind his hiring, Shaw replied, "I thought his comments were offensive and an insult to the intelligence of many people. I’m disappointed in him in terms of focusing things on bare allegations of unethical behavior on my part, instead of on determining the facts of what’s happening in the school district. I’m not the issue. To focus it on me is a disservice to the community."

He added, "The protocol of contacting me is primarily through the board president [Marty Millman]. Joe has authority to contact me on certain issues, and other board members have access to me. There is nothing unusual or untoward in the contacts I’ve had with Joe Doan." ++ Woodstock Times January 24, 2002

-- Anonymous, January 23, 2002

Daily Freeman Jan. 29

"Law Firm wants out of probe"

BOICEVILLE (Kemble)- The Onteora school district's lawyer has told trustees to find an attorney who can investigate the administration without suspicion of a conflict of interest.

Attorney David Shaw responded in a letter to questions whether his firm could review certain issues while simultaneously defending the district against a legal action that could use its report as evidence.

Shaw, whose letter was read by board President Martin Millman at Monday night's meeting, wrote that he sees no actual conflicts, but that there could be an appearance of impropriety.

"Our partners believe that it would be better for another firm to conduct the investigation," Shaw wrote. "A cloud has been created over the investigation by the uninformed attack leveled by Trustee (Marino) D'Orazio against our firm, implying that the investigation would not be impartial. We believe that the six questions to be answered ... should be the focus of attention of the school community and not whether or not our firm will conduct a fair investigation."

Shaw said it has been difficult for his firm to serve the district.

"We already perceive a strained relationship between our firm and the superintendent ... that is counterproductive to the day-to-day legal services we are obligated to perform for the district under our retainer agreement," he wrote.

D'Orazio, who is also an attorney, said questions about conflicts should not have been characterized as opposition to the law firm.

"I don't believe I've attacked anyone by asking this," he said. "A client, that's me and the board, has the absolute right to ask his attorney numerous questions regarding ... any conflicts of interest in work that the client is about to give him," D'Orazio said. "So for Mr. Shaw to say that I attacked in some way by asking ... (about) his admitted strained relationship with the superintendent is not really the proper way for an attorney to be dealing with his client."

The investigation revises areas of concern for Trustee Joseph Doan, whose requests for a review span several years. Among his requests are determinations on the legality of the retirement package approved for former district employee Brian Lane; whether 11,000 fliers should have been discarded prior to a bond vote; and whether $24,000 to study buildings needs under state mandates was paid properly

-- Anonymous, January 29, 2002

Daily Freeman January 30

Check online link, there are already some letters in response by mid- day.

"Ball field may have lacked proper approval"

BOICEVILLE (Kemble) - Onteora school board members are looking into whether state approval was needed for a new girls' athletic field at the high school, which has created drainage problems in nearby playing areas. Some school board members questioned Monday how the project was accomplished after Trustee Joseph Doan, who volunteered to engineer it, admitted there "is no formal plan, yet."

Trustee Thomas Rosato, who serves as a building and grounds adviser for other school districts, requested engineering reports thought to have been developed by Doan when the project began last year.

"It's good sense to have the new girls' softball field placed on a print so it can accompany our existing (building) plans," he said.

Trustees said last year that work on the field would cost $10,000, but they later acknowledged the cost had escalated to $25,000 and could reach $35,000 if equipment for spectators is approved.

Doan suggested the state Education Department be contacted to determine whether a formal plan had to be submitted. But he later argued that seeking state approval prior to the project would have made it more expensive.

"If this board has decided it was going to build a girls' softball field and we were going to do it in accordance with (state) requirements and hire an architect and do whatever we had to do to satisfy that, I guarantee you that the cost would be so high that it wouldn't be practical," he said.

Trustee Margaret "Meg" Carey said there could be expensive liability problems for the district if the project is found to have been done incorrectly. She said the absence of plans was baffling.

"What directions was anybody following?" she said. "How do we know that the drainage is correct? How do we know the (measurements) are correct? Did you just stand there and tell people?"

Doan, upset that his volunteer efforts were being criticized, replied: "If this was a positive forum that you were presenting here, I'd be glad to respond to you."

Business Manager Chuck Snyder questioned trustees asking for adherence to state regulations after the project has been substantially completed.

"Boards of education do one of two things," he said. "You either decide to play it by the book 100 percent or you decide to get things done (while trying) to meet the intent or spirit of the law, and I think we fell into a gray zone."

-- Anonymous, January 30, 2002

Daily Freeman February 5 story

"Onteora trustees debate statistics about students"

BOICEVILLE (Kemble)- Administrators and some trustees contend statistics involving Phoenicia Elementary School students are being manipulated by the Onteora board majority to fuel the long-standing feud with a building principal who has been on a leave of absence. The comments were made during a Board of Education meeting last week, when Trustee Joseph Doan said information presented in a recent study showed the need for a curriculum report that could determine if changes are needed to prepare elementary school students for middle school. "The socioeconomic label that is used as a partial reason for the survey results is not a valid one," Doan said. "When Bob Maroney was principal at Phoenicia, that school was always near the top (among four elementary buildings) in the district."

Doan contends a recent survey shows "a 41.6 percent failure rate in 2001 and 43.5 percent in 2000" among former Phoencia Elementary School students, but did not provide details of the research or explain how the figures were tabulated. Officials later said the figures represented students who failed at least one middle school course.

In recent presentations, district officials said statistical data used to compare success among schools should be based on state Education Department tests.

"The only stats I heard of came ...a couple of weeks ago when (administrators) said Phoenicia performs very well on standardized testing that is scored and evaluated outside of our district," Trustee Marino D'Orazio said.

Several trustees questioned the request for an additional study, which came at about midnight, because no information had been provided on the agenda.

"This is something that is better discussed at a goal-setting workshop," Trustee Thomas Rosato said.

Doan was also reminded by minority board members that his previous criticisms of Phoenicia Elementary School have included comments about the personal life of Principal Randy Collins, who is on leave of absence until July while working for a North Carolina charter school.

School Superintendent Hal Rowe said a curriculum report could be prepared but added that Doan would probably be dissatisfied because it involves a specific program.

"You've indicated that you've already made the assumption that Family Groupings is the cause of it all and then you use the statistics that were given you to confirm that's the case, and then when we show you favorable statistics from kids in Phoenicia, you indicated that the test was flawed," Rowe said.

Efforts by Doan to have the report prepared in conjunction with a separate special education study was also "respectfully" chided.

"I absolutely welcome the opportunity to take a look at those numbers and what they mean but you're isolating on those, you are focusing on those, and you are failing to recognize some other information that's been put before you that talks about the numbers and percentages of kids from Phoenicia who excel or are honor roll students," Rowe said.

-- Anonymous, February 05, 2002

Daily Freeman February 6

"Onteora board to develop policy on meeting photos" BOICEVILLE (Kemble)- Onteora school district officials expect to develop a policy prohibiting flash photography at board meetings after Trustee Joseph Doan complained that sudden bursts of lights are painful. The request was announced by board President Martin Millman, who said the issue is expected to be on the meeting agenda Monday, but information is being sought from district lawyers before a resolution is drafted.

"It seems that the flash photography is affecting Mr. Doan's eyes; they are very photosensitive," Millman said.

Millman said the request was made based on complaints about a flash used by Woodstock Times photographers.

"We asked the young lady (Beth Blis) and she insisted that she was still going to do it," he said. "We'll have to discuss how we can meet somewhere in between. Maybe she can get a different camera or maybe do something about the flashing."

Doan did not return calls seeking comment.

Woodstock Times Publisher Geddy Sveikauskas said full support will be given to photographers who are assigned to meetings.

"We'll bail Beth out if that becomes necessary," he said. "We are surprised that the shedding of light causes so much distress to Mr. Doan and if necessary we will seek other measures by which to see every corner of the district, illuminate it by the search for truth."

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said the use of flash photography is not covered under laws that provide public access to meetings, but previous research has been conducted .

"Years ago when the (state) Court of Appeals experimented with the use of cameras during its proceedings ... they said the still camera was more disruptive than the video camera because you hear the click," he said.

"You are talking about a physical interference rather than a psychological interference or distaste," Freeman said. "There would have to be some sort of disruption ... for a rule (prohibiting) the use of a device to be reasonable, according to judicial decisions

-- Anonymous, February 06, 2002

Online responses to the above article:

Name: Mavis Opuscula Date: Feb, 06 2002 There's the sudden announced sensitivity to flash, and those board meetings going on until midnight. Do you think he's sensitive to garlic too? Name: taxpayer and mother of children attending onteora Date: Feb, 06 2002 Wow.....will this nonsense ever stop long enough to get to the real issues???? What happened to the EDUCATION of our children? Maybe it's time for Joe to step down and let another less "photo-sensitive" person join the board and actually accomplish something!!! Name: onteora taxpayer Date: Feb, 06 2002 will these guys ever focus on education? Name: Onteora observer Date: Feb, 06 2002 Is this the same Joe Doan who sits under the hot lights of the public access TV studio to chat it up with the old guy on Sunday nights? He's not not so photo "sensitive" when hitting the softball questions on that program. Name: Bob Harderned Date: Feb, 06 2002 Mr. Doan seems to be more sensitive about getting his photo taken for a newsppaper than photosensitive. This is aptly demonstrated by his having the Middletown Times Herald Record as the Onteora districts official newspaper. Not only is this paper difficult to find in the district but it based in another county at least 30 miles away! Another of Mr. Doan's tricks. Let him wear sunglasses like most other photosensitive people.

-- Anonymous, February 06, 2002


Freeman MArch 13, 2002

Onteora trustee drops effort for condom distribution policy WEST HURLEY(Kemble) - Trustee Rose Ostrander has agreed to drop the demand for a policy that would prohibit condom distribution between students on Onteora school district grounds. The decision was announced during a Board of Education meeting Monday, when Ostrander said a program of information distribution would be established for parents through district health administrators.

"I don't think at this point we need a policy because we're not involved in the condom distribution program," she said.

Administrators and some members of the board have disagreed over peer- education activities by the student group Safe or Sorry for about a year, with Ostrander and Trustee Joseph Doan last fall seeking to have policy drafted based on a report about sexually transmitted diseases provided through a local registered nurse.

Ostrander said discussions with district Health Coordinator Robin Sears helped to change the focus from student prohibitions to an effort toward better communications with adults.

"I have talked to Robin about the possibility of setting up a program for parents that would educate parents about the condom availability program and give them some education on what's out there for the kids," she said.

Officials said schedules are being reviewed to determine when meetings can be set to establish the program. Ostrander recommended it include promoting a parenting workshop conducted by district health administrators.

"It's a wonderful workshop," she said. "They've had a lot of success with it. They've had a lot of people join the group ... and if we could do something like that with this topic, I think we're at least moving in the right direction with getting parents involved."

-- Anonymous, March 13, 2002

"Election objection: Onteora school board member opposes students' mock vote" Kemble, May 9 2002 BOICEVILLE - A request by Trustee Joseph Doan to call off an Onteora High School mock election for the Board of Education has been met with indignation by administrators and other trustees who would like students to continue the contest. Voting is scheduled in homeroom classes on Friday following a 10 a.m. forum for the six candidates seeking three seats on the board.

In a letter, Doan said the election should be conducted by a group other than the Student Advisory Council because that organization has family members involved in the actual election on May 21.

"This group is so biased that they actively campaign for a certain three candidates," wrote Doan, who is seeking re-election. He said student board representative Rachel Hernandez "has two huge (Trustee Marino D'Orazio) signs at the foot of her driveway. (Candidate) Neil Eisenberg's son is an officer at SAC, and other children in that organization openly endorse these candidates."

Doan, who is seeking his second three-year term as trustee, said the student vote could set a poor example.

"I feel that this is an affront to the dignity of the democratic process," he said. "If an election is going to be held at the high school, it should be run by an independent committee, comprised of all the different groups of children at the school. It is my belief that SAC does not represent a cross section of the student population and should not control such a political process."

Administrators said there are no plans to call off the mock election.

"This request really sends a very, very negative message to students," said district Superintendent Hal Rowe. "My position is that this is an overt indication from the author of the letter that he doesn't trust the kids."

School board President Martin Millman agreed students should be allowed to express their opinions through the vote.

"I believe the kids have a right to be heard and (have) an election in the school just to get a pulse of what the kids feel," he said. "I don't think they should be restricted or stopped from doing that. It's a democratic process and these kids have a right to have their voice heard."

-- Anonymous, May 09, 2002

"Angry words follow polite candidates' forum at Onteora"

Kemble Freeman May 11

BOICEVILLE - A verbal exchange between an Onteora school board member and the high school girls' softball coach left the coach in tears after a Board of Education candidates' forum on Friday, according to a student who witnessed the argument. Eleventh-grader Nick Eisenberg, the son of board candidate Neil Eisenberg, said the topic was unclear, but he said the coach, Doris Thomas, had to consoled by high school staff members after the exchange with Trustee Joseph Doan.

"She said that he lied about something and he spoke to her about that," Nick Eisenberg said. "She said, 'Well, you did lie. You said I wasn't invited and I was.' Then he said, 'You are going to have to live with that comment for the rest of your life,' like threatening her, like he's on the board and he's going to make her pay, or something like that, and she started crying."

Neither Thomas nor Doan could be reached for comment later, and high school Principal Barbara Ruben, who had Thomas in her office after the incident, declined to comment.

Onteora Superintendent Hal Rowe said information about the incident had not reached the district office but would be reviewed.

"Obviously, that sounds like a threat and we'll check it out," he said.

Thomas' input regarding construction of a school softball field has been debated by trustees at recent board meetings. Trustee Marino D'Orazio, who along with Doan is seeking re-election, said Doan has misrepresented the coach's involvement in the project, the cost of which increased from an estimated $10,000 to $38,500 after officials learned promised engineering work had not been done.

Six candidates vying for three seats on the Board of Education appeared at Friday's forum at Onteora High School: Doan, Eisenberg, D'Orazio, Robert Wilkins, Kathleen Hochman and Trustee Rose Ostrander, who was appointed during the past year to fill a vacancy. About 300 people attended the two-hour question-and-answer session, which was sponsored by the school's government classes.

A mock school board election - which Doan opposes because he suspects bias among the organizers - will be conducted at the school on Monday morning by the Student Affairs Council. District voters will elect trustees and decide the fate of the district's proposed budget on May 21.

With the exception of a three-page statement issued at the auditorium door by a student supporting Doan, there was no campaign material distributed during Friday's event, and students kept their opinions to themselves.

"I think this was very orderly, which is a lot different than a lot of board meetings that I attend," said Danielle Cardona, a 12th- grader. "One thing I think is very important is for boards to be able to just get along and respect each other. Then I think they can accomplish a lot more for the district."

Following Friday's session, some students said the quiet demeanor of candidates during the forum allowed reflection about issues instead of on the anger generated at meetings that sometimes have required a police presence to keep the peace. Still, some students were cynical about the responses, saying board members have engaged in heated arguments during the past two years.

"I thought a lot of it was fakeness," said 12th-grader Eliza Heppner. "What I saw here was a lot different than what I see at the board meetings, and ... it seems like they just aren't being honest."

article and letters in response

(there may be a heated debate in the letters, check it out)

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2002

Onteora election shuttle stirs concerns by Ariel Zangla Daily Freeman 5/12/02

WEST HURLEY - Three candidates for the Onteora Board of Education plan to provide voters with a shuttle bus to two district polling places - Phoenicia and Bennett elementary schools - during the May 21 election. At a school board meeting last week, Trustee Joseph Doan said he and fellow incumbent Rose Ostrander would join with candidate Bob Wilkins to provide a shuttle bus every hour on the hour from the Colonial Arms Motel in Pine Hill to Phoenicia Elementary School and from the Olivebridge Post Office to Bennett Elementary School.

He said the shuttles would run from 2-8 p.m. May 21. The polls close at 9 p.m.

Doan, who would not disclose the cost of the shuttles, said he has spent some time in the Pine Hill area and found some voters concerned about the distance to the polling place.

"A lot of people don't vote because it is so far from Phoenicia," Doan said. He said the shuttle service would help give those residents a chance to vote.

Doan said the district should look into having a satellite polling area in the Pine Hill area in addition to the polling places at Onteora's four elementary schools.

District residents will vote May 21 on a proposed $38,381,718 budget for the 2002-03 school year and elect three people to the school board from a field of six candidates.

Trustee Marino D'Orazio, who is seeking re-election, questioned the legality of candidates providing shuttle services to residents. He asked for the board's legal counsel to review the issue and render an opinion.

"I don't object to it, I just don't want you to run afoul of the law," he said.

Doan said he and the other candidates are acting as private citizens in this matter and do not make up a majority of the board.

In another matter, Doan questioned why the district was paying $2,000 to Motoko Dworkin for four days of work in elementary schools as an artist-in-residence and storyteller.

"I find it amazing that people are coming through the district and are being paid an exorbitant amount of money to do something teachers can do," Doan said.

Superintendent Hal Rowe said teachers and volunteers do not have the experience and skills that someone like Dworkin does. He also said the district is not throwing money away but is spending money to enrich children.

Doan said the district must concentrate on basic education needs and not spend its money on extravagances.

Bennett Elementary School Principal Laurie Cassel said Dworkin already has worked with the children at assemblies and with teachers in the classroom. She said Dworkin, and others like her, help students learn about other cultures as part of the social studies curriculum.

Cassel said there are standards and expectations that need to be met when educating students, including educating students in the arts. In addition, she said, many of the arts programs receive aid through fund-raisers and the support of the Parent-Teacher Association.

The board ultimately approved paying Dworkin, but Doan voted against it.


-- Anonymous, May 13, 2002

"Onteora clerk says school board member threatened legal action"

By William J. Kemble, Correspondent May 17, 2002

BOICEVILLE - Onteora school district Clerk Wendy Stefano feels like she's "walking on grenades" in dealing with the school board after a confrontation with an incumbent candidate earlier this week. Stefano said Trustee Joseph Doan, who is seeking re-election, threatened to press mail-tampering charges against her earlier this week.

"He walked up to me driving my car, flagging, waving me down," she said. "He said, 'You know, Wendy, you opened my mail and faxed it all over. You've violated a federal law, and I will have you prosecuted through the United States Postal Service."

Stefano explained a letter marked "personal and confidential" was opened inadvertently.

The district has routinely opened mail for trustees, Stefano said, but recent animosity among board members has given rise to concern over how mail is handled.

"I pretty quickly typed a memo and sent it out explaining what has happened," she said.

Doan declined to comment when contacted by telephone Thursday.

According to Stefano, Doan made the comments Wednesday after a school board executive session that he called to discuss the actions of a particular trustee.

The motion to exclude the public from the session was approved, 6-1, with Thomas Rosato opposed. Called into the 85-minute meeting were teacher Elizabeth Deak, aide Rebecca Kelly, aide Melanie Reynolds and typist Elaine Ostrander.

Trustees declined to reveal what was discussed in the executive session but said it was not related to an exchange between Doan and Trustee Marino D'Orazio's wife, Mary-Sue, last week.

In that incident, high school administrators had state police ask Doan to leave the school while three students were arrested in the theft of his campaign signs.

Doan told an audience of about 65 people at a board meeting Monday that one of the teen-agers was D'Orazio's son. In doing so, he made the comment, "Fruit doesn't fall too far from the tree."

D'Orazio, who also is seeking re-election, declined to respond during the meeting. Afterward, he said the matter was being handled privately.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, has said elected officials are not covered under provisions of the state Open Meetings Law that allow closed-door discussions of the "employment history of a particular person," as the board used to justify its executive session.

"It is noted that the (state) Appellate Division ... stated that the 'public body must identify the subject matter to be discussed and with some degree of particularity,'" Freeman said in written opinion about a similar case. "Additionally, the topics discussed during the executive session must remain within the exceptions enumerated in the statute, and these exemptions, in turn, must be narrowly scrutinized."

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2002


New Onteora Board withdraws probe

Kemble June 4, 2002 WEST HURLEY - Members of the Onteora school board's new majority Monday called off a new investigation into the district's administration. The suspension of the probe by a special counsel was approved in a 5- 1 vote that had board members Marino D'Orazio, Gregory Walters, Thomas Rosato, Kathleen Hochman, and Margaret "Meg" Carey in favor and Joseph Doan in opposition. Board President Martin Millman was absent. "My concern is that ... he is billing us at $165 an hour," D'Orazio said. "We're over $10,000 already and I think it's really the new board's decision as to whether or not we want to continue this or not."

Officials expect to discuss a final resolution to the investigation when Trustee-elect Neil Eisenberg is sworn in next month. He will replace Doan on the board, which saw its majority shift following the May 21 election in which appointed Trustee Rose Ostrander was also ousted by Hochman, the top voter-getter.

The investigation was initiated in January after Doan asked for a determination on the legality of the retirement package approved for former district employee Brian Lane; the discarding of 11,000 flyers prior to a bond vote; whether $24,000 to study building needs under was paid properly; and whether payments for a lease of modular classrooms were issued correctly.

A year earlier, Doan had requested an investigation that included some of the same issues but ultimately concluded only that district fund balances exceeded state recommendations.

Also suspended was legal work on a lawsuit against Poley Paving, which Doan contends constructed the Phoenicia Elementary School parking lot without following proposed specifications. Officials in March ordered a $2,000 study done on the project, which became the focus of litigation after the former school board declined to pay a $17,000 invoice.

"There is a strong possibility that the new school board will not want this particular law firm to continue working for this school district," D'Orazio said.

Doan defended the action and said his own private investigation has found the work was done incorrectly. "It wasn't until I went out to Phoenicia school and did asphalt (samples) that I proved that we got screwed royally by this company," he said.

-- Anonymous, June 04, 2002

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