Beth Wilson-Fish and Deborah Kamat on Monday were named the new president and vice president of the Orange Board of Education, respectively. The elections, however, brought a contentious discussion among board members regarding the candidates and the transparency of the board.
Board member Rebecca Boyle stated that she had concerns with board transparency over the last year. Melanie Weltman served as president and Mrs. Wilson-Fish served as vice president last year. Dr. Boyle recalled last year’s close election and compared it to a similar situation this year.
“I was troubled by the leadership’s lack of any stated vision or transparency about the process. I was never contacted by some of the candidates to tell me that they were even running,” Dr. Boyle said. “I am disappointed to stand here again and be asked to elect a leadership without any clear road map for the future.”
Dr. Boyle said that she would like to see transparency regarding the board’s decisions come to fruition this year, and expects the board’s leadership to communicate with all other members of the board.
“It is my hope that Beth, you’ll hear my pleas for being transparent and having good, consistent communication with all the members of the governing body,” she said.
Board member Jeff Leikin agreed with Dr. Boyle.
“I continually asked all year long to collaborate and meet. I don’t remember any discussions between board meetings with this current leadership,” Mr. Leikin said. “I just don’t think we can effectively grow and I don’t really think that we’re being honest with the district without doing that.”
Ms. Weltman said that she worked to communicate with the board between meetings and listen to their concerns.
“I know I have made an effort biweekly, and I might have missed a couple times, to reach out to everybody and put out there as a reminder that if they had any issues that they wanted to propose for the agenda that they should bring them forward,” she said.
Mrs. Wilson-Fish noted that draft agendas were sent out in advance for all board members to be informed prior to the meeting.
Mrs. Kamat nominated Mrs. Wilson-Fish for BOE president. She was the only nominee and won in a 4-1 vote. Mr. Leikin voted no, but said that he looks forward to working with Mrs. Wilson-Fish.
Mr. Leikin nominated Dr. Boyle for vice president, and Ms. Weltman nominated Mrs. Kamat. During discussion, Mr. Leikin stated that he thought Mrs. Kamat should wait another year before running for vice president.
“I don’t question your integrity and I don’t question that you’re a nice person, but your attendance at liaison meetings has been poor if not at all,” he said.
Mrs. Kamat disagreed, stating that her attendance is a matter of public record. Mr. Leikin also said that she does not go to many extracurricular activities.
“Actually that is also not true. I’ve attended many things you haven’t attended,” Mrs. Kamat said. “I’ve attended Stagecrafters productions and diversity committee meetings.”
Mr. Leikin said that Mrs. Kamat would serve well as an officer if she waited another year to gather more experience with the school district.
Mrs. Kamat won the office of vice president.