Our story in today's paper referred to the lack of transparency in the hiring of the Interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn, but we simply didn't have enough inches to throw in the many comments of outrage and disapproval levied against the superintendent and board president for the way the vote went down.
As noted in our stories, former consultant Guinn was supported 5-3 by the board Wednesday even though several board members had no idea the issue was coming up. During a lengthy closed session at the end of the regular board meeting, Superintendent Pamela Brown and President Barbara Nevergold expressed their mistaken belief that the superintendent could name a deputy superintendent without board approval.
But outside education lawyer Karl Kristoff informed Brown and Nevergold during that private meeting that they were mistaken in their assumption, which they clearly didn't vet with Kristoff beforehand even though they knew Guinn's appointment was bound to be a controversial and high-profile matter.
We spoke with board members, community residents and PR folks about how Guinn was hired. We got an earful. Here is more of what they had to say:
- Board member Jason McCarthy, the board's vice president of executive affairs, was absent Wednesday night and said part of the reason no one knew about the Guinn matter before Wednesday night was because he was out of town.
McCarthy, who doesn't support Guinn, said he typically meets with Brown and the other board officers the Monday prior to board meetings to discuss upcoming board issues. He said on Thursday that he believes the superintendent and other board officers took advantage of his absence to secretly push this through.
"I got off an airplane from out of the country, and I got a text message that Mary Guinn was rehired," he said, referring to the 9:39 p.m. text message he received at JFK. "My vote wouldn't count but I certainly would have liked to have given my opinion on the matter."
- Board members James Sampson, McCarthy and Carl Paladino respectively described what transpired Wednesday night as "disrespectful," "deceptive" and "sinful."
" 'Last-minute' is not what happened," said board member Carl Paladino said. "It was done intentionally to avoid transparency, to avoid dialogue, to avoid public input, to avoid board input."
- Bill Collins, principal at Travers Collins public relations firm said it takes more than simply saying change is on the way to convince others that it will actually happen. A person has to physically make the change. And it doesn't take a PR expert to see that, he said.
Neither Collins or his firm has done any work for Brown and the school district, but after Wednesday night's heated debate over Guinn at the end of the business meeting, he said it seems that transparency may be an issue with Brown, Collins said.
"You can talk transparency all you want but actions speak louder than words," he said. "My guiding principal in terms of public relations is what you do, not what you say you're going to do," he said. "It's the foundation of effective PR and effective relations with your constituents."
- Resident Dwayne Kelly said that the way the Guinn resolution was brought up and voted on Wednesday night was "political suicide" and that it diminished any of Brown's hopes of gaining any more support from prospective board members in the upcoming elections.
"I think they just gave the election away," he said. "Now you've shown your opponents that you are as bad as they are," he said.
- Nevergold said she recognizes the deep divisions on the board and knows that this latest episode doesn't help breach the gap.
"The board is polarized and certainly, this is another wedge issue," she said, "but it seems that ... we continue to deal with issues between adults. We can disagree, but can we find some ways to move forward? It’s been very difficult."
Although board members' positions regarding Guinn had not changed over the past several months prior to Wednesday's vote, she said, "I do agree all the board members should have been aware of what was to happen."
Finally, we would note that we did reach out Thursday to other board members who voted in favor of Guinn's hiring, including Sharon Belton-Cottman, Theresa Harris-Tigg and Mary Ruth Kapsiak. They didn't call us back.
- Sandra Tan and Deidre Williams