Monroe school board appoints new member as controversy erupts

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2, MonroeNow, Oct 08, 2019

MONROE – The Board of education filled a vacant seat after facing criticism for only having one candidate in a town of more than 40,000 people.

Lou Masters, who heads a special school board committee and is running for a seat in November, was the only person interviewed and ultimately appointed at the Sept. 24 special meeting dedicated to selecting a new trustee.

However, resident Betty Saborido said she sent an application to the school district. Her application, the board said, was never received.

“I just wanted to express my disappointment. I sent my letter of intent and resume last Tuesday [Sept. 17],” said Betty Saborido during the public comment portion before board members were to interview the lone candidate, deliberate then vote. “Somehow it didn’t get to you and you only have one candidate. I find it very odd. It was a self-addressed envelope that the district actually gave me. So where this letter and resume went, I don’t understand.”

Board President Kathy Kolupanowich said after learning about the potentially missing application, the board offices and mail room were checked but Saborido’s packet was not found.

“But we all know that sometimes you can’t rely on the post office,” she said. “But this is a week since she said she mailed it, but we could have done, you know, certified mail. She could have texted the business administrator to see if he received it and knowing that maybe he didn’t, she could have forwarded it to him.”

The board’s legal notice seeking applicants required submission sent via mail to the district’s main office attention to the business administrator and board secretary, Michael Gorski, who was absent from the Sept. 24 meeting.

In an attempt to resolve only having one candidate being interviewed, trustee Michele Arminio emailed the board about allowing Saborido to participate that night.

To her dismay, she said, “Apparently, that is not going to be the case.”

The vacancy was created when Ken Chiarella resigned in August because of health reasons.

Per law, a school board must fill a vacancy when one is created. The board has approximately two months to make an appointment or the county superintendent of schools will hand-pick an eligible resident for the post.

During the meeting, Masters answered a series of questions and follow-ups from board members covering a range of topics, including why he wants the position.

“I think this is one of the most important things you could do especially when you consider that in the lives of the children this is where they’re at their most formative and what we do now, again, echoes years later,” he said. “So I think this is probably, and I will not have a problem saying this, this is the most important board that you can be on in this town. And that’s why I want to be part of it again.”

When Masters finished a response to a question about supporting board decisions it started a verbal exchange with first-term trustee Peter Tufano.

“Once it’s done, you’ve voiced your dissent and you support the board as a whole,” Masters said. “That’s what you’re here for.”

Tufano had issues with that response, saying “wow,” and then shortly added, “I’m amazed at that statement you just made,” after a comment Masters.

“I would love to hear this and you know what?” Masters said, and in the background, Tufano states “I’m good.” Masters continues, “You don’t have to address it. Let’s remove the formalities. You can put, what did you call me on Facebook yesterday?” While the two went back-and-forth, Kolupanowich tried to regain order.

Later in the meeting, Tufano and Masters would reignite their disagreements. Tufano also read a statement opposing the board’s closed session meeting where members further discussed Masters’ appointment.

Part of his statement noted that voters rejected Masters’ bid to the board in the 2018 November general election while electing two of his running mates.

He also cast doubts about the decision-making process.

“In my opinion, the vote tonight has been predetermined and may not be legal, but again, in my opinion, it is unethical,” he said.