Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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May 14th, 2023

Return Incumbents in Monticello School Board Race

One of the most important elections is coming up on Tuesday, May 16th. Simply put, School Budget and School Board Elections directly affect our most precious commodity – our future generation. That is why you must look hard at the facts and not at the rhetoric.

First, let me say thank you to the Sullivan County NAACP for hosting 3 Candidate Forums that were published as well as presented on WJFF- Radio Catskills. NAACP President (and retired school administrator) Sandra Johnson-Fields, asked meaningful questions, and moderated the forums professionally and fairly.

In both the Liberty Central School District and the Fallsburg Central School District, it appears that those on the ballot will become elected, so I have chosen not to address those races here. They are either the only one running or in the Liberty case where there are 3 seats open, three candidates running.

The same is not true in Monticello, which is why I am focused on this particular district race. There are three incumbents running to return to their seats: Helen Jersey, Adriana Mason- Greco, and Wendy Galligan- Weiner, with 3 opponents running against them: MaryBeth Bastone, Rose Berson, and Lisa Maranzana.

Now, let me first say that of all the elected positions out there, the school board is one of the most thankless positions. The only compensation is the joy of providing service to the students and community. It takes commitment, good work ethic, knowledge of more than just what goes on in a classroom, and an understanding of the role of a school board member. You see, there really isn’t much within the school district they have control over. They are tasked with 3 thing: Policy (most of which is dictated by the state); Financial Oversight (only control over local portion of the budget which is basically employees (faculty, administration, and staff), capital projects (always approved by the taxpayers), and extra-curricular programming); and Oversight of the Superintendent. Yes, just the Superintendent. The Board has no control over any other employee. Most of the others working in a district have oversight and salary constructs, which are based on union contracts, which are settled through negotiations.

Listening and watching the forum held by the NAACP, one thing was evident. The three incumbent candidates (Jersey, Mason-Greco, and Galligan-Weiner) demonstrated knowledge, understanding, commitment, and good work ethic. And isn’t that what we want in our school board members. The opposition speaks only about the teachers. Don’t get me wrong, teachers are the backbone of our entire public school system. But, so are the bus drivers, custodians, office staff, administrators, school nurses, and others. And, I am a very strong supporter of Unions and what they bring to their membership, but I only have respect for those in union leadership who are transparent and truthful in what they do and say. In the Monticello Central School District, this is not true. How, you ask?

First, the Monticello Teachers Association (the local branch of New York State United Teachers) used to always hold its own Candidates Night, allowing the opportunity for members of its bargaining unit along with community members to meet, greet and question those running for school board. AFTER the Candidates Night, the unit would then announce its endorsements based on feedback from the members who were in attendance. One would have to wonder why this was the first time in years when Candidates had opposition, that the MTA  endorsed only the three opponents without having a Candidates Night, or a full meeting for input from their members. Does NYSUT know that they are sponsoring social media ads stating the same without transparency in the process?

And could it be that the reason for this is that one of the opposition candidates running is the wife of the current MTA President? The wife who is angry because the school board members running for re-election supported the current Superintendent when he had to bring disciplinary actions against the union president’s wife on improper treatment of a student (You may remember the video circulated over a year ago on social media labeled “The Slap Heard Around The World.”) And, posted recently on Sullivan Post by Rosie Decker, a brave and forthright post about how this retiring teacher turned Candidate bullied her colleague(s) because she (the candidate) wanted her fellow teacher(s) to stop helping children and parents beyond the school day. Enough so that after 10 years in the district, the harrassment was so bad that Rosie made the decision to resign from the job she loved. Is this what we want in a school board member? On a side note, the candidate’s husband is not retiring and will remain the MTA president. It makes me wonder…

Another opposition candidate is a former teacher who is the MTA President and his wife’s neighbor and friend with common knowledge of their close friendship. Makes me wonder what might be behind that relationship of this decision to run. This candidate has been retired for many years, does not have any children or grandchildren in the district, and has not stayed active in any educational issues or programs since her retirement to my knowledge. Makes you wonder her connection and motivation to run now? The run should be for the kids, not for your personal neighbor and family friend support in garnering power.

Then there is the third opponent who walked around a year ago when she ran for school board on the platform that all School Board Members should be parents with kids currently attending school in the district and now is running on a ticket with two others who are not parents of kids in the district. (That shouldn’t matter ever, however, there is hypocrisy in this year’s run). More importantly, last year when she ran (and lost) she openly shared with people throughout the community (prior to the election) that she had been told by the MTA President (yes, the same one now) not to worry about her or her fellow running mates winning because they would be receiving the MTA endorsement. This took place even before last year’s Candidate Night which the MTA did hold. Her ticket did get the endorsement as promised with ads being purchased and paid for stating the same even before the candidate’s night took place. Curious on that relationship? Makes me wonder more…Oh, and by the way, this third opponent, is a community neighbor of the MTA President and his wife, too.

Listen, anybody is entitled to run. But, be honest as to your reason and intent!

I learned that the 3 incumbents have experience, knowledge, and proven outcomes to provide the Monticello students and community the best leadership. Helen Jersey works in a local non-profit agency handling budget and financing with clear knowledge and execution of grants, state aid, and local financing. Adrianna Mason-Greco works as an Assistant Dean for Dutchess Community College, clearly dealing with student achievement and needs, graduation requirements, staffing, and policy to serve the education population. And, Wendy Galligan-Weiner is a certified Special Education teacher who works as the Chief Court Law Clerk, who has intimate knowledge and clearly understands school law, state law, policy, and policy writing and implementation. And, all three are parents of students attending schools in the Monticello School District. In addition, two live in the village and one in Rock Hill (not so with all three opposition candidates being from one small area of the district – remember, they are all neighbors?) And, lastly, the incumbents have a proven track record on the Board, keeping your taxes at 0%.

Change is a good thing, but change is not always the right thing. Change just to change helps nobody. Do your homework… Learn who your leaders are and who  will serve best with the right intentions and focus.

Bravo Sullivan County NAACP. You stepped to the plate by giving us an opportunity to hear from the candidates. You did so not to endorse, but rather to inform and allow us to make our choices wisely and with facts, not rhetoric. That is what will provide us with the best school board members to help guide our schools.

So, listen to the forums (link below). Go out and support your school budgets. All have come in at or below the 2% tax cap. And then vote accordingly for school board members. For me, after listening and doing my homework, I would recommend voting in Liberty and Fallsburg for those who are on the ballot, even though unopposed. In Sullivan West Please Support Tammi Chaboty.

In Monticello,  support the incumbents, Helen Jersey, Adrianna Mason-Greco, and Wendy Galligan- Weiner. They will provide the students with the best opportunity for success while being transparent in their vision and mission to do what is always in the best interest of our future – our kids. And our kids deserve nothing less.

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