At least two topics are sure to be raised at the Board of Education meetings lately — coronavirus and the now-infamous comments made by board member Jessica Cambareri. This week’s meeting on Wednesday began with the former.
Superintendent Joel Adelberg provided an update to the Board of Education this week on the district’s first month of hybrid learning. Despite recent setbacks involving off-campus parties, Mr. Adelberg said compliance with the new health and safety protocols remained strong overall. Since welcoming students, staff and faculty back to school in September, the district has only experienced one case of coronavirus, according to the New York State COVID-19 Report Card.
Next week will be the first time students who have been learning remotely can opt-in to the hybrid learning model, or vice versa. Families will be asked to confirm their children’s learning model on a monthly basis. This time around, Mr. Adelberg said there were 147 students districtwide whose parents requested for them to return to school either via in-person learning or hybrid-learning. The district has been able to accommodate all of those requests in accordance with the health and safety policies currently in place.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work to make it happen and I think it’s a testament to what some families have heard that so many want to return,” Mr. Adelberg said.
The superintendent added the district also received “a little over 100” requests from parents asking that their child be allowed to switch from a hybrid-learning model to full-remote. Most of these requests involved secondary school students, he said, surmising that the reports of recent off-campus parties “gave some families pause about sending their kids in.”
Mr. Adelberg also gave an update on the ongoing inclusion work of district committees, such as the Curriculum Council. In addition to their focus on curriculum, instruction and assessment, this year the council will also be finding ways to bring anti-racist pedagogy into the classroom.
The tone of the meeting changed once the public comment portion of the meeting began. For the third meeting in a row, members of the community called for the resignation of board member Jessica Cambareri.
“The past six weeks, conversation still continues to swirl about the failure of this board to recognize the disruptive situation you created when you stood by and condoned a dismissive and hurtful comment by one of the board members,” said parent Joseph Filippone.
The complaints against Ms. Cambareri stem from remarks she made at a board meeting Aug. 26, during a discussion about cleaning equipment and procedures for the year. At the time she inquired, “Is there an opportunity to utilize students ... through BOCES, who are interested in this type of potential career? That maybe we can utilize them to help us with the cleaning.”
The Boards of Cooperative Educational Services is a program of shared educational services for New York public school districts. BOCES serves special education students in a variety of ways in alternative school programs, but it also provides general education programs for a wide variety of vocations. There is no janitorial or custodial education program through Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES.
In a change.org petition calling for Ms. Cambareri to resign, members of the BCSD Special Education Parent Teacher Organization describe her suggestion as “unthinkable” and “demand her resignation in the interest of keeping our district focused on education and the safety of all its members.”
Ms. Cambareri has issued an apology for her comments and did so again this week, stating she was “wholeheartedly sorry that it’s come to this.” She did not indicate any intention of resigning.
Representatives of SEPTO said they will continue to raise the issue at public meetings until the board rejects Ms. Cambareri’s remarks and she steps down.