To get the most out of this article, read it first then watch the video.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- At the first school board meeting since the reorganization meeting held on July 1, 2014, with new School Board President Lianne Merchant, Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and School Vice President Rachel Relkin seated in the center seats, I raised the issue of why David Lacher, the most recent past board member was seated in a center seat next to Merchant.
David Lacher sought and was denied a second year as Board President as a result of Talk of the Sound exposing his misappropriation of $13,5000 of district funds to pay for his personal medical insurance.
At the previous meeting, on June 24, 2014, Lacher announced he would no longer be Board President and declared that he would move from the chair of Board President to the chair to his right, a break with long-standing tradition that ex-Presidents move to the far end of the dais. Further, that he planned to remain in that seat until 2017.
...and now the time has come for me to relinquish the board presidency. I am going to fade over into Deidre’s chair for the remainder of my term…and I go from this chair in peace...
In my speech on August 5th, I noted that is has been the past practice of the board for many years that the exiting board President move to the far end of the dais, stage-right, facing the audience.
My remarks were later picked up by Jeffrey Hastie who has been relegated to the seat that rightly belongs to Mr. Lacher.
The following exchange occurred:
Jeffrey Hastie: I want to add I appreciate you Mr. Cox bringing up about Lacher I already did that with Liz when I walked into the room and saw the seating and your right the past practice has been that the ex-President sits here [seat at far end] so I already addressed that with Liz and that should be resolved by the next meeting
Valerie Orellana: That’s not true.
Jeffrey Hastie: That is true. That is true.
Valerie Orellana: No, its not. I saw there…
Chrisanne Petrone: No..
Jeffrey Hastie: Yes, it is.
Chrisanne Petrone: Dee Polow has sat there (point to seat occupied Lacher).
Valerie Orellana: I sat at that end before (sharing her head).
Jeffrey Hastie: Just after she left she sat there…
Rachel Relkin: Really?
David Lacher: (throwing up his hands, looking at Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne) What do you want us to do?
This is about as good an example of the deliberate, near-comical dissembling and willful forgetting by certain members of the New Rochelle Board of Education as one could hope to find and so we present it here as another example why, as a rule, board members are not to be believed when they speak.
The problem with the efforts by Orellana, Petrone, and Relkin to dismiss my remarks, and those of Hastie, and once again defend David Lacher, is that there is video tape.
As a result we can go back to a time just 14 months earlier when Chrisanne Petrone ended her term as Board President. The video is from July 1, 2013 and the new ex-President, Chrisanne Petrone, is seated in the far-right seat on the dais.
Deidre Polow and David Lacher address Chrisanne Petrone -- all three reference the tradition that the ex-President moves to the far end of the dais.
Polow goes first and specifically mentions her own experience taking "a new seat" while looking down the end of the dais towards Petrone.
Deidre Polow: I know, from my very good sources and my own experience, that you are going to enjoy taking a new seat and relaxing just a little but, just a little bit more however your participation as always will be right in the middle of us.
Lacher goes next and comments on Petrone now being "that cherished seat back at the end of the table" and her going "back down to the cheap seats" and that she will now "have a little privacy down at that end" where "nobody calls, nobody writes, nobody wants to talk to you any more".
David Lacher: to congratulate my friend and colleague, Chrisanne on the successful completion of her service how do we know that its a successful completion because you’re still here, another day to take that cherished seat back at the end of the table…nobody calls, nobody writes, nobody wants to talk to you any more…but after 2 years of serving in the position and serving with distinction as you have and any of the pressures you have certainly experienced it’s a welcome relief to go back down to the cheap seats and have a little privacy down at that end you know and to be able to participate as a board member the way that you came in.
And that's the point, really.
Lacher, having disgraced himself and the office of Board President, having been rejected for a second year in his term, simply asserts that he is going to retain a "power seat" in the center of the dais, directly to the right of the current Board President while his colleagues, who love to chirp endlessly about "tradition" when it means silencing dissent or suppressing speech, are suddenly so disinterested in tradition and past practice that they manage to lose all memory of their own roles in a board exchange just 14 months earlier.
I cannot decide what is more laughable -- that Valerie Orellana is seated directly between Lacher/Polow and Petrone while the 2013 "cheap seats" conversation occurs or that she grimaces and adamantly shakes her head "no" when Hastie is entirely correct or that Petrone is the subject of this entire discussion and presents herself as mystified by this "past practice" Hastie and I are referencing.
But of course, the winner, is Lacher himself, throwing up his arms in a sort of "who me" gesture and looking towards the other end of the table for someone to bail him out not fully processing that Relkin has already tried with yet another condescending remark directed at Hastie.
The only person on that dais acting like a child is David Lacher who, unable to show the good grace to simply resign from the board after being caught in flagrante delicto with his scheme to fund his personal insurance using taxpayer dollars, cannot even manage to move down to the end of the dais where, as he put it, "nobody calls, nobody writes, nobody wants to talk to you any more…"
UPDATE 9/1/14: The board is solving this issue by taking the extraordinary step of creating a seniority-based seating arrangements so that David Lacher can remain in the same seat. Anything to accomodate Lacher, apparently.