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Letter: ‘No Way to Treat a Champion’

The email in my inbox read, in part, “Chip stood up for all of us…now it is our turn to stand up for him.” I was one of the recipients of an email blast that was sent to some residents of Westbury on Tuesday, June 1, imploring us to attend a public meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. that day at the administrative building of Westbury School District, and which was allegedly called by the president of the school board to deal with matters pertaining to absence from board meetings involving three board members.

The three board members, Pless Dickerson, Floyd Ewing and Lawrence (Chip) Zaino, were not invited to be part of this meeting since its purpose was supposedly to decide on whether or not they should remain on the board. All three were sent letters signed by the president of the board informing them that their seats on the board have been vacated since they had missed up to three meetings without submitting reasonable excuses. Subsequent letters were to follow informing them of their right to provide reasonable excuses in writing.

My sense, based on the expressed outrage at the meeting, is that the public is not particularly angry at the board for abiding by its guidelines or bylaws, if indeed this is what it is bound by; but the fact that it chose to dismiss a 91-year-old veteran of the school district that has served on the board for a record 27 and a half years, being re-elected by his constituents a record nine times, and who did not seek re-election this time around, therefore having less than a month in which to finish his term with dignity.

Some people take a more cynical view of the board’s action, suggesting that Lawrence (Chip) Zaino was merely a sacrificial lamb in a ploy by the board to nullify the effect of the three newcomers that won in the recent school board election. In fact, a former school board trustee expressed the point of view at last Tuesday’s meeting that by getting rid of Dr. Pless Dickerson, and appointing someone of its choice to fill this position, the board would essentially maintain the balance of power as it was when Trustee Larry Wornum (who lost in the last election) was on the board. For the appearance of fairness, the board had to include Trustee Ewing, who also did not seek re-election, and who has less than a month to serve, since he too had missed three or more meetings.

Perhaps the most poignant part of last Tuesday’s meeting was Chip’s recollection of his 27 plus years on the board, and his undying love for Westbury, having left here only once during his service overseas in World War II. Chip later revealed to me that he also left for a few months shortly after he got married, but returned because he wanted to raise his children in Westbury. He also reflected on the cherished moments that he spent at Park Avenue School, his love for the “little ones” there, and that he looked forward to playing Santa Claus there for a total of 12 years during his early years on the board. On the question as to why he believes that he is being dealt the letter rather that the spirit of the law in this matter, he opined that he holds no bitterness, but he would not rule out the fact that his endorsement of the “516” team (the three people that won) in the recent school board election probably played a role in this decision. He also said that his letter of explanation that he submitted last Tuesday was not accepted by the board on the grounds that the deadline for response had passed.

I can therefore understand the people’s sense of outrage for this dishonorable discharge that is being leveled at one of Westbury’s senior distinguished citizens instead of the proverbial pat on the back that I believe he deserves.

Chester McGibbon
Vice President, Westbury PTA Council