Bedford Central School District Board of Education member, Jessica Cambareri, faced staunch criticism this week for comments she made at a prior meeting, with one parent even calling for her resignation during a tense public forum Sept. 9.
“There are hundreds of people in this community who are furious,” said Bedford Corners resident Laurel Rossi. “What you said was unthinkable, and frankly, I think that you should resign.”
The disapproval stemmed from remarks Ms. Cambareri made at a board meeting Aug. 26, during a discussion about cleaning supplies, 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.”
Ms. Cambareri was referring to the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, 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 very wide variety of vocations. (There is no janitorial or custodial education program through Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES.)
This week Ms. Cambareri said, “she was sorry for offending those who took my question as meaning something other than intended.” She also expressed regret for “not knowing the extent of BOCES course offerings.”
Board of Education President Colette Dow later showed support for her board colleague, adding, “I hope if I ever have the unfortunate circumstance of misspeaking, that perhaps I am taken at my word when I say I did not intend to offend anyone.”
Earlier in the evening, board member Michael Bauscher read a statement on behalf of the BOE developed as part of the district’s anti-racism initiative. In it, the BOE pledges a commitment “to providing an environment in which every member of our community feels safe to learn and work, free from any form or expression of discrimination.” It goes on: “To the Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color within our BCSD community, we say unequivocally that your lives matter. They always have and they always will.”
Mr. Bauscher presented several recommendations as part of the district’s anti-racism initiative. The first involved asking the Student Achievement Advisory Committee to focus on anti-racism initiatives for the 2020-21 school year. This committee already contains a diverse group of teachers, students, parents and staff. Mr. Bauscher also suggested that the Curriculum Council focus on this topic, finding ways to bring anti-racist pedagogy into the classroom.
The student body will also be involved, as described by student representatives Will Krasnow and Ellie Crummy. They plan to develop a student anti-racism committee called Fox Lane Anti-Racism Environment — or FLARE, for short — and to break the group into several delegations. FLARE will support the efforts of the Student Achievement Committee, advise the BOE on tentative policy statements, and work with district staff, among other activities.
“We’re very excited to affect and tap into the social momentum we see among the student body,” Mr. Krasnow said.
To read the BOE’s full anti-racism value statement and for more district information, visit bcsdny.org.