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Thursday, December 18, 2014
Guest Column
We must preserve integrity on our school board
By Abel Feldhamer
Abel Feldhamer

I have had the privilege to serve on the Lawrence school board for the past four years, and while I am not a candidate in the upcoming election, I am grateful for the opportunity to offer my perspective and hopefully some clarity regarding the recent Number Six School referendum, and the need for school board trustees who will continue to exercise the best of judgment in carrying out their duties.

As a board trustee, I was one of the two members of the Board who voted against the proposed sale of the Number Six School property to Simone Development at the school board meeting on Jan. 14. But although I voted “no” at the meeting (in the hope that there could be a more open discussion with the community before a vote was held), I understood the school board had no choice but to award the contract to Simone Development, since it was the highest bidder.

In evaluating the various bids for the property, we received consistent and unambiguous guidance from our attorneys at every step of the process. A school board’s rights and responsibilities with respect to the sale of school district property are governed by NYS Education Law, Section 1709(11). In accordance with this law, the standard applied by the Commissioner of Education is that “a school board has a fiduciary duty to secure the best price obtainable — in the board’s judgment — for any lawful use of the premises. Although this analysis may take into account certain ancillary financial considerations such as tax consequences from a proposed sale, it is clear that state law does not permit a board to consider non-monetary factors, such as the best interests of the community.

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