School Board Member Maria Anerio (center)
School Board Member Charlie Stern (above far right)
Last night was a heated school board meeting at the Board of Education. Over 100 residents were in attendance to protest the school district’s recent decision to reassign A.B. Davis School Principal Ralph Burts. Before the public speaking session began, school board trustee Maria Aneiro read aloud a list of unconstitutional rules of conduct to the audience. Aneiro presided over the meeting in Trustee President Derrick Claye’s absence. One resident in attendance spoke of how this reminded him of slavery when people were told when to speak and told when to be quiet.
Parent after parent, resident after resident went up to the podium to seek answers on various issues affecting the community and their children’s’ welfare. Speakers were allowed to speak for only 3 min and when the buzzer sounded Trustee Aneiro would rudely interrupt the speakers as if she had no home training. It was as if information presented to her went into one ear and out of the other. These actions displayed by an elected official are disheartening and disrespectful. This behavior is common with elected officials throughout the City of Mount Vernon.
One speaker, Samuel L. Rivers, seemed to strike a nerve with Trustee Aneiro. Mr. Rivers asked school board members about the contradictious statement about Ralph Burts made by spokesman Desiree Grand in The Journal News. Ms. Grand stated that it is the school districts policy to remove “threats” from schools when it involved incidents such as the one with Ralph Burts. Mr. Rivers referenced an incident at the high school last year in which allegedly the Principal slapped a student in the face, an event witness by several students. Mr. Rivers then addressed Trustee Aneiro and Trustee Stern directly about allegations of them wanting to open up a charter school while they are still sitting board members. Trustee Charlie Stern is the husband of Debra Stern who unsuccessfully ran for City Council last month.
When it came time to respond to comments from the audience, Trustee Stern confirmed to the residents in attendance that the allegations are true. Stern said he does have plans currently under way to open a charter school. Stern’s response drew heavy reactions from the audience and from several of his fellow board members. Trustee Aneiro turned red in the face and was in total disbelief that her partner in crime even addressed the allegation in question. One parent reported to Mount Vernon Exposed that she overheard Trustee Aneiro ask Stern in the hallway during recess why he answered the question. Trustee Goozeit and Trustee Ben-Reuben asked Stern about his intentions and why hasn’t he disclosed his intentions to the Board. School Board Attorney Jennifer Arditi, of the law firm Aiello & Cannick was seen shaking her head as that was a notion for Stern and Aneiro to shut their mouths.
The crowd demanded answers and wanted a full explanation because Trustee Stern had already confirmed the allegation. Trustee Goozeit told Stern and Aneiro that they ran on a platform of transparency and that their current platform is opaque. Trustee Ben-Reuben then followed stating that Aneiro and Stern are undermining the superintendent by going directly to the State Board of Regents to submit their application. Trustee Goozeit insisted that this was a conflict of interest especially because charter schools receive public funding approved by the school board. Trustee Aneiro then went on to mention that a presentation would be rolled out to the community in the near future. Trustee Goozeit stated that the future is now. He immediately put in writing that at the next school board meeting scheduled for January 7th, 2010 that Trustee’s Aneiro and Stern and any other culprits involved must disclose their interests, and make a full disclosure and presentation to the community. The crowd applauded and thanked Trustee Goozeit for doing what he was elected to do; serve the people.
After the meeting several people approached Mr. Rivers and thanked him for raising the issue about the charter schools. Several parents informed him that they knew about this for a long time and that they even heard of Debra Stern taking a trip to Washington D. C. for a workshop on charter schools. Rivers was also told that Mayor Young and Superintendent Dr. Sawyer are all in on this plan to establish a charter school and that the Mayor even has property set aside for their venture. This is all political payback for the Stern’s and others in their immediate circle support in the 2007 mayoral election. Trustee Stern and his wife Debra along with Trustee Aneiro are all Democratic district leaders in Mount Vernon. Devereau Cannick who is the Chairman of the Mount Vernon Democratic City Committee has reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars as the school board attorney. Cannick and his associate Jennifer Arditi, had to pay back $75,000 to the NYS retirement pension system for being improperly listed as employees in the Mount Vernon City School District.