As a retired teacher and Hamburg resident and in light of the recent extensive, and largely negative, press coverage of the Hamburg school board, I attended the first part of the open meeting on Tuesday, June 10, to view firsthand the board in action. The Board subsequently went into closed executive session and did not reconvene in open session until later that evening.
I was not impressed. Indeed, for a group with ultimate responsibility for a more than $60 million annual budget, I was concerned by their overall lack of apparent professionalism. No name boards identified the individual members, but the tension between three women on the board and the other members quickly became apparent. This hostility on the part of the majority clearly had no relevance to the issues being discussed, with respect to which the women appeared involved, informed and providing valid input and comment.
The topic under consideration was, ironically, amendments to the school’s code of conduct.
While the focus was on the code as it relates to the conduct of students, the board’s own recent behavioral issues were not, unsurprisingly, open to discussion. This seems even more ironic since the Buffalo News’ June 11 reporting of the later session that evening included a direct quote from the local attorney who has prominently supported one faction of the board, calling the female members of the board “knuckleheads.”
My concern is, how can we expect our young people to understand the rules of a civil, respectful and democratic community when the adults act in such a manner?
A teacher, who I have known for many years, has often said that today the adults act like children, while the children are expected to act like adults. The board’s conduct befits the first part of this adage.
Hamburg residents deserve a civil and respectful open forum, if they are to make an educated assessment of this board’s activities and its conduct.
The subsequent state supreme court decision (June 11) that the board has illegally, incorrectly and undemocratically attempted to hold its own “disciplinary” hearings of a board member, freely elected by the community, behind closed doors, brings further shame on this body and its advisers.
As a community, we deserve better.