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Letter: Some in Community Rushed to Judge Dr. Licopoli, Dr. Nagler

At the July 9 workshop meeting of the Mineola Board of Education, I was pleased to hear the announcement of the resolution of the lawsuit against the Mineola Public School District, Dr. Licopoli and Dr. Nagler. I was also pleased to read the coverage in the Mineola American (July 15) because I hope as many people in the district and elsewhere who knew of the suit will find out that it has been dropped without any settlement or admission of wrongdoing on the part of the school district, Dr. Nagler or Dr. Licopoli.

Now that the suit has been dismissed, there are many reasons to put it behind us and move on. However, there are some things I hope that this community and the current board of education will not forget.

Although the suit was “dismissed without cost,” we should remember that the taxpayers have paid the cost of defending the school district against this lawsuit. More importantly, this community paid a significant cost in time and attention taken away from the district’s goal of improving our children’s education. There have been other costs to the district such as division on the board of education, division among school district employees and division in the community. That there have been personal costs to those named in the suit goes without saying.

This community and board should not forget that there were many people, some of them leaders in our school district, who rushed to judgment. There were people who sought media attention to our district to publicize the suit, regardless of the cost to the reputation of our school district (not to mention the reputations of Dr. Licopoli and Dr. Nagler). Someone committed the reprehensible act of making sure that our high school students were exposed to the details of the suit. Several community members publicly accused Dr. Licopoli and Dr. Nagler of being dangers to the children and accused the board of failing to protect our children because it did not take the proper action against them.

Contrary to those accusations, the board took appropriate measures to safeguard our school district. Those measures did not include action based on unsubstantiated allegations, which could have cost the district more taxpayer funds in the long run.

It is important to remember that most members of the board of education at that time (John McGrath, Steve Siwinski, Lisa Lao and myself) did not act hastily in response to public criticism and outcry and also resisted the bullying tactics of Laraine Salvatore, who petitioned the commissioner of education to discipline her fellow board members for not taking action against Dr. Licopoli and Dr. Nagler.

However, it is most important to remember that there were many members of our community who called for patience and respect for our legal system and cautioned against jumping to conclusions before the facts could be ascertained. I hope we have learned from their example.

Mary Ellen Williams

(Mary Ellen Williams is a former trustee of the Mineola Board of Education. She decided to retire from the board in 2008.)