School board member Laurie Downs at the July 6, 2021 meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

I’d first like to thank Ms.Lantz for speaking the truth. (“In the Riverhead school district, the teachers union calls the shots,” Oct. 30.)

Amelia Lantz and I sat together when I won my first term on the Riverhead school board.

She knew who she was sitting with. Unfortunately, she decided to leave just when she was needed the most.

When I ran the third time the teachers union approached me. I took their backing with one condition, that being I think for myself. They agreed and held to the promise. Of course they did — I was only one of a seven-member board.

See, a school board has only one employee, the superintendent. Every employee under the superintendent is his employee. They bring all the information to the superintendent. They bring their wants and needs, programs, changes that are needed, rules that need change, and so much more. This is when things get sticky because board members have personal agendas. If a board is in the pocket of a large organization within the buildings their agendas become the board’s agenda.

This has been a problem for years. Staff over the years have talked about it and because of it, we lost some really good administrators, teachers, and many other good people.

Ahh, the games people play. The majority of the staff doesn’t agree with the games. These games cause the revolving door. We had it years ago and that door constantly opening and closing is what made this district so out of sorts with grades and graduation rates. However, this board thinks repeating history works. Time will tell.

A good school board trustee knows or should know that the day-to-day operations of the district are the job of the superintendent, not theirs. Policies, vision, and the achievement of the students are their responsibilities, to name a few. When members are in deep pockets they misuse their jobs.

The safety of our students and staff is a huge responsibility and something they fell short of recently. They brought back someone under investigation before it was complete. Why? The majority of the board has a friendship with them and so does that huge group. Friendships are hard but you must be able to separate and do what you must do. I did and it kills you, but it’s your job.

Speaking of safety, the recent superintendent negotiated with Riverhead PD. At the start of this school year, he had two resource officers coming. One for the high school and one for the middle school. However, the board rejected it before being placed on the agenda that would have been voted on in public. The public had the right to see who didn’t want this. The money was coming from federal funds.

These are just a few examples of board members’ interference with the education and safety of our children and staff at the forefront.

Laurie Downs is a former trustee of the Riverhead Central School District. She lives in Riverhead.


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