Majority decision draws backlash at board meeting
The approval of the minutes is usually a routine and rather monotonous part of any board of education meeting, but at last week’s action meeting of the Westbury School District Board of Education, it was anything but.
Tensions and tempers rose several times as community members came to the high school little theatre to find out why board majority members appointed Eudes Budhai as superintendent of schools during a special meeting on Tuesday, June 13, instead of doing a national search to fill the position. Board members Sherley Cadet, Pedro Quintanilla, Karin Campbell and vice president Stanton Brown voted to have the interim superintendent take the position.
The approval came just a little more than a month after the board published a letter, both on the district website and in The Westbury Times, saying that they would “Conduct and complete an appropriate national search for superintendent of schools.”
Dr. Betty Hylton referenced the letter, asking why there was a rush and no community input in the decision.
“Selection of a superintendent is one of the most important decisions made by a community. It should be given appropriate time and the selection process should be inclusive and solicit input from all interested parties,” Hylton said. “I am shocked this board would move forward in this matter, disrespecting the district, disrespecting the students, disrespecting everyone, and just moving ahead.”
The appointment of Budhai as superintendent was not on the agenda for the June 13 meeting, however, Brown said he brought the recommendation to the floor because he did not feel confident other board members would conduct a proper search.
“In my estimation, we would not have had a proper search. We would not do the correct thing to engage the community,” said Brown. “It wasn’t going to happen the way I had envisioned. Knowing I had someone well qualified to do the things I wanted a superintendent to do, I brought that to the floor and the three board members agreed with that vote.”
Quintanilla echoed those sentiments, saying he didn’t feel confident a proper nationwide search would be conducted and that after the board changed on July 1, with Rodney Caines taking Campbell’s seat, he “would not have a voice.”
Due to a “glitch” in the system, the minutes listed John Simpkins and Pless Dickerson as approving the resolution, however Simpkins was not at the meeting and Dickerson left the meeting before the vote. Robin Bolling said she also had to leave the meeting prior to the vote being taken. Dickerson said the resolution to appoint Budhai as superintendent came up as an additional topic not originally on the agenda for June 13, however, Brown noted that pertinent issues must be discussed even if they’re not on the agenda.
“Let’s just be transparent. A meeting happened after the meeting,” Simpkins said. “It’s not the firs time, but I have a feeling it will be the last time, come July 1.”
While many spoke to the merits of Budhai, residents expressed frustration at the way he was appointed.
“What is the urgency? You could have presented this tonight. He may be the best one but we deserve to give our opinions,” said resident Jackie Caines. “If he’s the best candidate, so be it, but this nonsense has got to stop.”
Simpkins said he was supportive of Budhai, but that what the public had been told was that SCOPE would start the search.
“I’ve had no deliberation regarding the appointment of a superintendent,” said Simpkins. “What went out to the public was communication that we were going to use SCOPE to begin a search. I would never want a candidate to start their role this way. The board has done Mr. Budhai a disservice.”
The discussion had echoes of a contentious discussion from just a few months prior, where the board majority voted to approve the Chandler Law Firm to oversee the election, a move that minority members said they were not aware of being on the agenda.
Budhai’s appointment was effective June 14. According to the resolution, the contract was to be finalized by June 30, and Brown said the approval will be voted on in a public meeting.