The Bedford Central School District met virtually for its annual organizational meeting to elect board officers and finalize committee and liaison assignments Wednesday. 

“Welcome to everybody to a new school year, I’m excited to be back. I can’t believe I said that under the circumstances, but I am,” Interim Superintendent Joel Adelberg said via Zoom.

Joining the Board of Education for the first time was newcomer Alexandra White, a Bedford Village resident with a background in educational development and fundraising who led this year’s election with 2,892 total votes. Seven-year board member Ed Reder returned after being reelected to another term with 2,782 total votes. The board proceeded with the annual election of officers, during which time 2019-20 President Colette Dow nominated Mr. Reder to resume his role as vice president. 

“He’s an amazing partner,” Ms. Dow said. 

He was unanimously reelected for that position, as was Ms. Dow to continue serving as board president, a role she has held since 2018.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say Colette’s leadership was integral to helping us navigate this past year and she’s earned our respect on so many levels,” Mr. Reder said. 

Also attending Wednesday’s meeting were board members Michael Bauscher, John Boucher, Jessica Cambareri, and Beth Staropoli. They were joined by new student representatives from Fox Lane High School, Will Krasnow and Ellie Cummy. 

The board approved nearly all of the organizational and consent agenda en masse. The board voted separately on items related to the hiring of health consultant services with Willis Towers Watson and a food service contract extension with Aramark.

Mr. Boucher had to abstain from the votes on both items, citing a work conflict. Both of those items were approved.

Another agenda item related to the rehiring of internal auditors was pulled from the agenda because, Ms. Dow noted, the district is required to reevaluate its contract every few years. 

Taking notes of the meeting proceedings took longer than usual without the guidance of longtime district clerk Carole LaColla, who retired at the end of June and who was an expert in Board of Education procedures. “We’re all learning without Carole here,” Mr. Reder said. 

The new district clerk is Sandra Speyer.

The board then moved on to a discussion of committee assignments. The following assignments were approved:

Communications: Mike Bauscher, Jessica Cambareri, Alexandra White.

Curriculum and Instruction: Jessica Cambareri, Ed Reder, Alexandra White.

Facilities: John Boucher, Ed Reder, Beth Staropoli.

Finance: John Boucher, Ed Reder, Beth Staropoli.

Audit: Mike Bauscher, John, Boucher, Jessica Cambareri.

Policy: Mike Bauscher, Beth Staropoli, Alexandra White.

Negotiations: Mike Bauscher, John Boucher, Colette Dow.

The board also made the following Liaisons appointments:

BOCES: Alexandra White.

Health/Wellness: Beth Staropoli.

Safety: Jessica Cambareri.

Student Achievement Advisory: Jessica Cambareri, Beth Staropoli, Alexandra White.

Tingley Scholarship: John Boucher.

WPSBA Delegate & Legislative: Mike Bauscher, Ed Reder.

Anti-Racism: Mike Bauscher, Alexandra White.

Local Community Advisory: Colette Dow.

At the conclusion of formal organizational activities, board members also resumed the discussion of expanding public forum options at BOE meetings this year. Currently, community members are permitted to deliver remarks at a meeting only if the session has scheduled time for public comment. Under this rule, board members do not respond to any remarks that are made under public comment and instead wait to address constituents until conducting new business, if at all.

The practice has at times upset community members and district leaders, who say they desire a more immediate exchange of ideas. 

“It’s sometimes frustrating because I don’t want people listening to think that by our lack of response they’re right, because sometimes they’re not,” Mr. Adelberg said. 

The board stated it will continue to reassess how and if it should revise the way public forums are conducted during board meetings. 

Members also took time to reaffirm the district’s commitment to address racism and bigotry. The superintendent said the district’s administrative team had recently met for a work session dedicated solely to this topic and will soon launch a districtwide task force to tackle the issue. 

“This has to be a fully supported approach that all stakeholders are involved in,” Mr. Bauscher said, adding, “We need to be making sure that every student in this district feels protected and safe when they go to school.”

The board faces the challenge of meeting the district’s educational goals in the midst of both an ongoing pandemic and calls to address systemic racism. Its resources will be constrained somewhat by virtue of an adopted budget of $139.7 million, a $1,185,185 increase over last year’s budget, or .86%. Impacted greatly by the COVID-19 crisis and reductions in state aid, the budget also reflects reductions in staffing, sections, bus runs and other areas. 

For more information, visit bcsdny.org.

Jackie covers town government, business, culture, and community happenings in Pound Ridge, as well as the Bedford Central School District. You can send tips and dog photos to her at jroman@record-review.com

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