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Saturday, October 25, 2014
Malverne school budget sparks racial dispute
Black faculty cut incites public outcry at board meeting
Herald File Photo

The Malverne Board of Education faced major discord at its March 11 meeting over the school district’s planned layoff of a black teacher in its 2014-15 budget, and the meeting concluded with one fewer board member in the room.

Beatrice Bayley, president of the Lakeview branch of the NAACP, said at the meeting that the district’s proposed spending plan, which was introduced at its Feb. 25 budgetary session, included cutbacks to the business program that would reduce its faculty from 1.8 to 1.0 full-time teachers. The projected .8 staff reduction, according to Bayley, represents Sherwyn Besson, an African-American teacher who was first hired as a high school guidance counselor in 2004 and later sued administrators, alleging racial discrimination. Besson, Bayley said, is the last black male educator hired by the district in the past 10 years.

“What you are doing is retaliating against someone who has always spoken up for the sake of offering a true and lasting education of our children,” Bayley told the board. “We are asking that you restore the business department that is much needed for global competition and recruit for teachers that more closely resemble your student population.

“I was told that the black kids don’t volunteer for leadership positions,” she added. “Is it because they are not exposed to blacks in leadership positions? Well, of course it is! Kids mirror what they see. If they cannot see it, they can’t be it. Simple as that.”

Bayley also said the district did not reserve funds for business electives or a black history class in next year’s budget, but instead allocated money for other courses, such as a half-year astronomy class.

In response to Bayley’s statement, Trustee Jack Tulley said he did not see any reason for the district to fund a black history class in its spending plan, and suggested that members of the Lakeview NAACP offer such courses while administrators educate students in other subjects.

Tulley also said that Malverne High’s Black History Club consists of a minority of young black men, its membership currently standing at about 29 female to 3 male students.

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