Rush-Henrietta teachers condemn RHCSD for law violation, demand transparency
CONTACT: Sheila Sullivan Buck, President RHEA Teachers Email: firstname.lastname@example.org FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Rush-Henrietta teachers condemn RHCSD open meetings law violation, demand transparency HENRIETTAFeb. 9, 2021 — The Rush-Henrietta Employees' Association Teachers’ Chapter is demanding greater transparency from the Rush-Henrietta Board of Education and district administrators following a recent court decision that found the board broke the state Open Meetings Law last year. The union’s representative assembly unanimously approved a resolution Monday evening taking a stand against the board’s actions and calling for an independent review of the board’s policies and votes taken while in violation of the Open Meetings Law. The resolution comes after a Jan. 29 ruling in the case of Douglas Rivers v. Rush-Henrietta Central School District Board of Education and Rush-Henrietta Central School District, in which state Supreme Court Justice William Taylor found that there is “no material dispute” that the district and board violated Public Officer’s Law during their June 9 meeting when they sought to discuss in executive session the use of school facilities by the Town of Henrietta for summer camp but failed to follow the transparency law both before and after the private session. It was an alleged violation of this illegal executive session that was used as the pretense for Rivers’ removal from the board last year. “It’s time the district apologized to students, staff, families and taxpayers for its egregious violation of Open Meetings Law,” said RHEA Teachers’ Chapter President Sheila Sullivan Buck, who also plans to speak out at Tuesday evening’s board meeting. “Judge Taylor’s decision lays out in black-and-white the opaque behavior we’ve been asking district leaders to correct. It’s time they stepped up and finally acted in good faith.”
The union’s resolution notes that this is not the only time the board has acted in an opaque manner. Other instances include failure to livestream meetings for months at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the elimination of the district’s director of music and visual arts position while not live streaming meetings. The resolution not only seeks greater accountability from the district, it also seeks Rivers’ reinstatement to the board. The full resolution is below: WHEREAS the RHEA Teachers' Chapter stands for the children of R-H and have a desire to be a part of positive change in the Rush-Henrietta Central School District; and WHEREAS the parents, teachers, students and community need a Board of Education that can lawfully execute their office to provide proper oversight of the educational process in Rush-Henrietta; and WHEREAS in order for the voices of all stakeholders to be included and heard, there must be transparency in decision making; and WHEREAS the Teachers of Rush-Henrietta have placed our trust in our elected officials; and WHEREAS a recent decision by the Honorable New York State Supreme Court Justice William Taylor confirms that the District did indeed violate the NYS Open Meetings Law, resulting in the exclusion of public discussions and critical information being negotiated illegally behind closed doors; and WHEREAS any decisions that are made without the proper public conversation are in violation of the law and harm the community by limiting their access and impact on important community decisions; and WHEREAS the Association is aware that decisions were made without proper transparency such as: I.The executive session on June 9 found to be a violation of the law in NYS Supreme Court II.During the shutdown when the District failed to livestream meetings until the end of July after several requests by the Association to comply with the law III.The elimination of the position of the Director of Music and Visual Arts IV.The removal of duly elected Board Member Doug Rivers; and WHEREAS Rush-Henrietta has been denied the representation of a duly elected board member; and WHEREAS the RHEA Teachers cannot condone illegal actions; be it therefore RESOLVED that the RHEA Teachers' Chapter takes a moral stand against this behavior and publicly calls on the District to apologize to the students, families and staff for their wrongdoing; and be it further RESOLVED that the RHEA Teachers' Chapter calls for an independent investigation from New York State’s Committee on Open Government and/or New York State Education Department to review all board policies, legislation and votes taken while the BOE was in violation of the Open Meetings Law so that the impact of these decisions may be made known; and be it further RESOLVED that the RHEA Teachers' Chapter is in support of the reinstatement of Doug Rivers immediately by the Rush-Henrietta Board of Education; and be it further RESOLVED that the RHEA Teachers' Chapter, if the Rush-Henrietta Board of Education fails to act, supports Doug Rivers' appeal to the Commissioner of Education for reinstatement.
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