2017-08-02 / Front Page

Commissioner issues stay to allow 6th graders to move into Berner

Massapequa School District in disaray over controversial issue

New York State Commissioner of Education Mary Ellen Elia has issued a decision today overturning, at least temporarily, the Massapequa School Board’s recent vote that would have kept the district’s 6th graders in an elementary school setting.

The vote was taken July 13 after newly elected school board member Brian Butler joined two other sitting board members to reverse the board’s earlier decision to put the 6th graders into a Middle School setting.

That board’s July 13 decision overturned an earlier school board vote in June that would have allowed the move to go  forward in September, but put the question to a public vote in January, 2018. It was a compromise move to address the tremendous controversy between the board and the residents on the question, board members said at that time.

The Commissioner’s decision today is the result of a petition filed by residents Amy E.  Kaufman, and others who the Commissioner did not name, but who challenged the July 13 decision. A spokesman  for the Commissioner said that no further details about why she decided to order the stay would be released since the petition is still under review.

But Board President Tim Taylor, a strong opponent of the Middle School concept for 6th graders, said that he and his fellow board members—Joseph LaBella and Butler—were concerned and very disappointed.

“We had almost everything back in place to keep the 6th graders in elementary school,” said Taylor. “Things were moving forward and now a decision by a Commissioner overturns the legal vote of an elected body—that’s concerning.”

Messages were left for the school district’s attorney, Eric Levine of Guercio & Guercio of Farmingdale who was listed on the stay, but he was not immediately available.

In related matters, petitioners who filed an appeal to the Commissioner in March to block the 6th grade move on the basis that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” continue to wait for the Commissioner to act. A spokesman for her office said two weeks ago that it was still under review.

The board will be meeting tonight at 8 p.m.

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