The September 10 meeting of the Rye City Schools Board of Education, the first of the new school year, featured a mix of bonhomie, bromides, and a bit of intrigue.
By Sarah Varney
The September 10 meeting of the Rye City Schools Board of Education, the first of the new school year, featured a mix of bonhomie, bromides, and a bit of intrigue. Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez started the meeting by thanking the community, parents, and staff for helping to make the first day run smoothly.
As nearly every Rye homeowner knows, putting an addition on your house usually means angst-filled sleepless nights. But a short presentation by Triton Construction’s project manager Kevin Sawyer was blessedly void of any controversy. “We’ve accomplished $2 million worth of work over the summer,” he noted proudly. Sawyer’s presentation showed before-and-after photos of the locker room renovations, and the completion of the renovation of rooms 236, 236A, 238, 246, and 246A.
Except for a slight delay in receiving the actual lockers for the locker rooms, there are no delays. The lockers are expected by October 11. Sawyer noted that the placement of concrete footings and the foundation for the Science Wing are on schedule and that structural steel will be going up next month.
The audience was largely free of parents commenting on the April test coaching controversy, but that didn’t mean the subject was buried. As proof that the matter is still percolating, Board of Education President Laura Slack addressed the topic head on with a prepared statement aimed at quashing rampant rumors. Slack noted the rule that no hearings can be held in the summer and that no official charges have been filed yet. She also stressed that any final decision would be made by a majority vote and not a unanimous one. This was the first time the District and the Board have addressed rumors surrounding the case.
Then it was time for another first. Speaking on behalf of Gail Topol, local litigator David Schwartz-Leeper upped the ante in the alleged test coaching case. He strongly admonished the District and the Board to tread carefully in Topol’s case. “I have reviewed the evidence. Based on my review and on my experience, I don’t believe the District will be able to present conclusive evidence against Ms. Topol,” said Leeper-Schwartzr. He reiterated that he represents only Topol in this matter.
He cited Topol’s illustrious career at Osborn School and went on to suggest that the District carefully weigh its chances of success before deciding to bring charges against her.
As a former school parent and current community member, Leeper-Schwartz also stressed the overall futility of the pursuit. “My concern is that money and resources are being wasted on empty charges based on flimsy evidence,” he said. Speaking in general, he noted that lawsuits may well follow in the wake of any resolution. Actions could conceivably be taken to redress damage to reputations and to make right damages to students questioned improperly just after the exams were collected.
In addition to legal costs, Leeper-Schwartz cited the cost to taxpayers, and damage to the reputation of the Rye City Schools Department possibly resulting in decreased property values.
Just one parent followed Leeper-Schwartz to voice her dissatisfaction with the investigatory process.