July 16, 2012

In My Opinion: Public comments always welcome


---- — A recent letter to the editor (“Grossly Unfair” July 7, 2012 by Arthur J. Gilman) prompts us to provide some insight into the great work going on at the Northern Adirondack Central School District and some of the decision-making that helps get us there.

We also feel it is necessary to respond briefly to the false claims in Mr. Gilman’s letter.

The NAC Board of Education and superintendent often face difficult decisions related to finances, personnel and programs. Students’ best interests are foremost in our minds when making these decisions. We act to ensure their health, well-being and strong education. This can be a challenge, but it is one that board members and the superintendent willingly accept.

When examining issues, the board consults educational experts and legal counsel. As the public readily knows, we hold hearings on budget matters and always provide time for public comment at board meetings. When it comes to personnel, we want the best and always ensure staff is provided proper representation and afforded all legal rights.

The effectiveness of our decision-making is evident in our great employees, sound fiscal management and continued improvement of our educational program. All of this is possible because the board and superintendent thoughtfully, methodically work together for the best interests of our students and community.

Mr. Gilman’s letter misses all of this. He makes false comments, not based in fact. He ignores our deliberative consideration and makes statements so inaccurate they could be tantamount to libel. 

Out of respect for the legal rights of our staff and in accordance with our policies, we do not discuss individual personnel matters. The NAC community can rest assured employees are always afforded their full rights under the law: Education Law, Civil Service Law and the Constitution.

The NAC community should also know the district has not denied the legal rights of employees or any members of the public. Staff members are always permitted the right to counsel. They decide if they want one or many attorneys. When matters settle without a formal hearing, this is a joint decision by the district and the employee.

Mr. Gilman’s statements about an employee not being provided the right to counsel or the chance to speak are false. Mr. Gilman inaccurately claims a hearing officer was a member of the school administration. This is untrue. And notably, while New York State Civil Service Law permits hearing officers to be members of an employers’ staff, NAC has elected not to do this.

Sometimes the board and superintendent face challenging decisions with multiple priorities. We react to these in a balanced manner, which ensures legal rights are adhered to and provides the best possible education in a safe and effective learning environment.

We welcome and thank the community for its productive discourse on matters of public concern. Mr. Gilman’s factually inaccurate, absurd statements do nothing for the students or the community. They are, to quote Mr. Gilman, “grossly unfair.”

Ron Tomo is Northern Adirondack Central School Board president, and Laura Marlow is the school superintendent.