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Letter: Campbell Comments on District-Wide Letter

Over the past few months there has been considerable reporting regarding “political fighting” within the Westbury Board of Education. As an elected trustee and recent president of the Westbury BOE, I think it is imperative that the record be set straight and the truth is told.

Recently the “new President of the Westbury BOE” Dr. Pless Dickerson and the majority he now controls sent out a district wide letter. This letter does not reflect my feelings nor the feelings of some of the other members of the Westbury Board of Education.

This recent district-wide letter, along with recent media coverage, is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. I believe that Dr. Dickerson, and those that have helped him here, have perpetrated fraud against the people of Westbury and are trying to confuse the real issues at the heart of the problem.

The real issues at hand in the Westbury BOE have nothing to do with whether the three new board trustees, Sielia Bynoe, Rodney Caines and Leslie Davis were legitimately elected. No one has ever denied that they were. This is not, nor has ever been, the real issue that has now divided our school board as some would have you believe. The real issue here is that Dr. Pless Dickerson who now claims to be the president of the Westbury Board of Education, vacated (lost) his seat on the Board of Education under NY State Education law and is now illegitimately seated on the board of Education.

To be very clear and to help you understand what happened, please allow me to explain the facts. Rather then representing the people of Westbury where he was elected to serve, Dr. Dickerson was representing the people of the Wyandanch Public Schools where he is now employed as their interim superintendent. This is also very concerning because Dr. Dickerson voted on the Westbury BOE for a contract that may have potentially benefited the Wyandanch School Board President, and thereafter Dr. Dickerson was hired as the Wyandanch Superintendent. This does not look good. As public officials we are placed in a position of trust and must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Were rules broken? I think an investigation is prudent. The people of Westbury and Wyandanch should be asking questions regarding this matter.

However, the real issue at hand in Westbury is really very simple. Dr. Pless Dickerson organized a coup to take over the Westbury BOE for his own personal gain. That’s the real issue at hand, and the issue that is being ignored! Dr. Dickerson’s seat on the Westbury Board of Education was legally vacated (lost) because of his multiple and consecutive absences to Westbury Board of Education meetings where very key votes were cast. The people of Westbury vote for board trustees that will represent only them, and should expect that their representatives are present when it’s time for that representation to take place. The fact is Dr. Dickerson failed in that representation by not showing up for the job. He was not present to represent the people of Westbury, because he was representing the people of Wyandanch. This along with Dr. Dickerson’s attempts to subvert the law, regain his seat and control of the board are the true issues that are being covered up and under reported.

The claim in this recent district wide letter by the Board of Education, that the New York State Education Department has recently taken action in this matter is patently false. There has been no official exoneration, nor decision regarding the legal vacating of Dr. Dickerson’s seat on the Westbury Board of Education. All legal papers regarding this matter were due in NY State Supreme Court last week and a response is expected by the end of the month.

It is important to note here, that the NY State Education Commissioner does not decide on the vacating of the seat. The board seat was automatically vacated by Dr. Dickerson’s consistent absences, and the BOE took appropriate action based upon the law. Dr. Dickerson had the right to appeal the board’s decision, and he did so. The only thing that the Commissioner can do is decide whether Dickerson’s appeal is legitimate. That is why a temporary stay was issued, so that the commissioner could hear the legitimacy of Dr. Dickerson’s appeal. The stay was not in any way an act of exoneration, nor a ruling on the vacating of Dr. Dickerson’s seat. It was simply a temporary action “to allow sufficient time” to study the appeal and decide if it was legitimate. This is very important to understand, because Dr. Dickerson took advantage of that “sufficient time” by subverting the rules and the law through a loophole. He did this by swearing the three new trustees elect in early, ahead of any decision, so that he along with the new trustees could then assume an illegal majority for the sole purpose of voting to erase Dr. Dickerson’s legal dilemma. Basically, they turned back the clock and voted to accept Dr. Dickerson’s invalid reasons or excuses for missing board meetings. It should also be noted that, education law does not allow Dr. Dickerson to vote for himself in these matters, but that did not stop him from doing so. Again, Dr. Dickerson broke the rules to protect himself.

It is also important for you to note, that while Dr. Dickerson publicly supported the candidacy of the these three new board trustees, Selia Bynoe, Leslie Davis and Rodney Caines, Dr. Dickerson did not have the right to swear them in early. This is the role of the president of the BOE and he was not the president at the time; I was. He acting alone, and without my knowledge nor the rest of the BOE, secretly brought his personal attorney along with the three new trustees-elect to the district office and swore them in early, before the official and legal reorganization board meeting. This again was an attempt to seize control of the board in order to beat the decision of the commissioner.

Once Dr. Dickerson swore in the new trustees gaining control of the board, he then immediately voted to reverse all past board decisions, make himself the president and erase his own legal problem (the vacating of his board seat.) Hence, he turned back the clock on the BOE. Once that was complete Dr. Dickerson contacted the commissioner’s office to quickly withdraw his appeal that was still pending before the commissioner. Remember, the stay that temporarily returned Dr. Dickerson to his board seat was only issued so that the commissioner could review Dr. Dickerson’s appeal. After seizing control of the board and voting to erase the vacating of his board seat, Dr. Dickerson then withdrew his appeal … before the commissioner could make any decision. Now without an appeal, there was virtually nothing for the commissioner to decide on, so the case was closed ... or at least that was Dr. Dickerson’s apparent intentions. What Dr. Dickerson has attempted to do here is cheat the system, and trample the rule of law. We cannot stand for this!

Many people have contacted me with regards to this matter, and the calls continue to come in everyday, but we need more then that … we need a call to action. The people of Westbury need to stand up and start asking tough questions and start demanding honest answers from their elected school officials. We cannot sit idly by and allow things like this to happen. We have reached a tipping point in the Westbury School District, and unless we all get involved, ethics, truth and the rule of law may suffer a serious blow. It is critical that you come to the board meetings and make your voice heard. The elected board members are supposed to work for you. This is your BOE and it is your hard earned money … your tax dollars that make up the budget. More importantly, we cannot send the message to our children, that breaking the rules or finding loopholes around the law is the way to get out of trouble and get through life.

Our society is sending the wrong message to our children. The foundational lessons of life … the difference between right and wrong and good moral character are under attack. Without this as our foundation, reading, writing and arithmetic alone will not bring our children to true success in life. We are truly at a crossroads in our society, and our leaders are failing us everyday. With political corruption and corporate fraud becoming the norm in American society, we desperately need to teach our children the lesson of obeying the rule of law. If we fail to teach them this very basic foundational lesson, even by our own example, then the lesson we have taught them is simply … there are no rules at all.

Karin B. Campbell
Westbury Board of Education