CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The Chappaqua school board temporarily stopped its meeting on Tuesday night after a local critic repeatedly interrupted a board member's remarks.
The critic is Will Wedge, who has blasted the school district for its handling of the sex-abuse allegations surrounding former Horace Greeley High School drama teacher Christopher Schraufnagel.
Previous coverage of Schraufnagel can be read here.
Wedge, who has called for the resignations of Superintendent Lyn McKay and school board President Alyson Gardner, interrupted board member Jeffery Mester while he was giving a report on school facilities and the district's upcoming capital projects, the latter of which stem from a bond package that voters passed in June.
Mester gave the report because he serves on the board's facilities committee.
“Hey, Alyson!” Wedge blurted out, with a call to Gardner.
Wedge then got Mester's attention with a second interruption - he was irritated in response - and was able to throw him off track. Mester also asked Wedge to leave.
“I'm interrupting the meeting because you are not listening to the constituents who elected you!” Wedge said.
Wedge also accused Mester of not moving along in good faith towards the board's dedicated portion of the meeting that is set aside for public comments.
“We elected you and you're not responsible to us. You're filibustering the public comment!”
Video of Wedge's outburst is embedded in this article.
Wedge also blasted the board for a proposed vote, which was approved unanimously later that night, to hire School Construction Consultants, Inc. as the construction manager for the capital projects covered by the bond package. He criticized the deal, which is worth $1,298,400, because he felt that it should have gone to a lower bidder.
The board's gavel was banged repeatedly before members moved to stop the meeting and move into recess, to which Wedge responded with angry clapping.
Board members and district administrators retreated to a nearby hallway from the high school's Commons room, where the meeting was held. Moments later, two New Castle police officers arrived on scene while roughly 30 members of the public remained on site. Two more would join them later that night.
"Some of them feel physically intimidated by you," a policeman told Wedge, while board members and administrators remained in the hallway.
Wedge warned the policeman that he would potentially interrupt again if the meeting were to continue. The policeman told Wedge that, should he be asked to leave again in such a situation, then he could be removed on a charge of simple trespass, which is a non-criminal violation.
After police served in an ad-hoc diplomatic role between Wedge and school officials, the board agreed to reconvene its meeting. However, four police officers stayed in the room to watch.
Wedge engaged in several testy (but relatively less contentious) dialogues with the board once it officially moved to its public-comment portion of the meeting. However, board members did not ask police for Wedge's removal.
Wedge was not the only resident to criticize school officials; several voiced their frustrations over the district's handling of the Schraufnagel case.
Antigoni Kanaris blasted board members for what some of them wrote in a series of leaked emails that were recently published by The Journal News. The emails involved critical remarks about a few local critics of the district's approach regarding Schraufnagel.
“They have shamed Chappaqua."
Kanaris then called on board members to apologize.
Gardner, while apologetic of what was written, added that the emails were not obtained with members' consent, calling them "stolen."
“We were also victimized," Gardner said, referring to information that was thought to be private being obtained by a party without their knowledge.
The Journal News has not said who the source is for the emails.
Barbara Buxbaum argued that what was written in the emails could lead to a chilling effect, whereby community members may feel less inclined to voice their concerns.
“People might be afraid to speak up and complain to you.”
Raising the talk of whether McKay should resign as superintendent over the Schraufnagel case, Sanford Benardo asked her why staying on is in the best interests of the district's children.
“I'm not going to answer,” McKay replied.
In response, Wedge blurted out, "shameful."
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