Editor's note: Southeast resident Robert Cullen, a member of the Southeast Town Board, submitted the following.
I am writing this letter requesting the voters of the consider a fourth candidate for election to the school board on May 15. Currently there are three hand-picked candidates running for three seats.
In March, my wife, , was one of the candidates that interviewed for the open seat caused by the . She holds a master's degree in education, is bilingual, and was a longtime sub at various Brewster schools before she began to teach at Putnam Head Start, a preschool in Southeast.
When questioned about the school budget, my wife expressed concerns about the number of teachers being laid off, or made-part time. She is worried about larger classrooms and higher teacher-student ratios. was already deemed a school that needs improvement by New York State. Test scores are lower than other schools, which is mainly due to larger class sizes. Our two children attend Brewster schools. Liz suggested the board looks at other items in the budget to save money, and still stay within the tax cap, including the number of our highly-paid administrators, some who make more money than Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That was apparently the kiss of death. By a 6-to-0 vote, the board appointed someone else, a relative newcomer to our district.
Not one board member had the courtesy to call her and thank her for interviewing, or send a formal letter thanking her for applying, or encouraged her to run in May. The selected candidate was described as a "breath of fresh air" by a local newspaper, also insulting, since all my wife suggested was trying to keep class sizes as small as possible.
Over a month later, she did receive an email from one school board member, after I told him how hurt my wife was with how she was treated for wanting to volunteer and serve our community. In the email he did apologize for not following up, and encouraged her to run in the future, as he feels there is support for her platform.
It is too late for my wife to get her name formerly on the ballot, but with the newfound support from at least one school board member, I encourage you to write in "Liz Cullen" on May 15.
It's time for a new voice and watchdog for our children. We also need to have accountability for our district's finances. Recently, $130,000 was ... due to poor or no accountability by the district. Who in their right mind would allow three family members to run the program, and collect the money?
Problem administrators and teachers are allowed to resign and be someone else's problem, many know what I am talking about. This all happened under very long tenure on our school board.
This same school board also refused to allow our community members, use of the school locker room showers during the late summer during Hurricane Irene, when school was still closed, and Southeast residents had no power or water for days. People just wanted to take a shower. A former school board member was called a "loose cannon" by another board member for even suggesting the school allow taxpayer residents use of the school showers. The school board told the Town of Southeast to have residents go to the Putnam County Emergency Shelter in Mahopac, 15 miles away to take a shower. Meanwhile, New Fairfield [CT] schools were serving their residents three meals and providing shelter and showers to their residents.
I again ask residents to consider writing in "Liz Cullen" for Brewster School Board, a real breath of fresh air, and if you don't know anything about the other candidates, their beliefs, or platform, don't vote for them either.