As she watched the Glen Cove City School District’s proposed $78 million bond fail on Oct. 22, Maria Venuto said, she decided she had had enough. Venuto, a former member of the district’s Board of Education, expressed her frustration with the failure and said that changes needed to be made in order for the district to pass a significant bond that would help end the state of disrepair plaguing the school buildings. Among those changes, Venuto said, was for Board of Education President Gail Nedbor-Gross to resign.
“She doesn’t support anything substantial,” Venuto said. “We wouldn’t be here if the bond wasn’t put off for all these years.”
A few days after the bond failed, Venuto started an online petition demanding Nedbor-Gross’s resignation. At press time, the petition had more than 200 supporters, and was a few dozen shy of reaching its goal of 250 signatures.
Nedbor-Gross did not return the Herald Gazette’s request for a response, and the district said it would not comment on this issue.
In her petition, Venuto said that while Nedbor-Gross has been with the board for years, she never felt that Nedbor-Gross worked proactively to secure the bond, unlike the other board members who were active during public tours and information sessions. Michelle Chalfoun, who signed the petition, remembers seeing Nedbor-Gross pass her by when Chalfoun was volunteering to spread awareness about the bond during the city’s summer concert series. While she received help from other parents and board members, Chalfoun said she felt snubbed by Nedbor-Gross.
“As president of the Board of Education, how can you just walk by when we’re working there for the school,” Chalfoun asked.
She and other district parents are increasingly worried over the state of disrepair in the schools. Throughout the district, stairwells lacked fire safety doors, while other doors have breakable glass within reach of the handles, and some exit doors have handles that could be chained together, a serious safety issue. Ceiling tiles also sag and fall. In 2018, nearly half of the library’s ceiling tiles collapsed. The tiles are so old that they are not even made anymore in the U.S. While the fallen library tiles were replaced with new ones, the old tiles are still up on the other half of the library, which houses the student’s seating area. The school also has outdated central cooling and heating systems, along with cracking floors.
With all these issues ongoing in the district, Maureen Jimenez, another local parent who signed the petition, said the district needed a leader who could counter the spread of misinformation, which she said contributed to the bond’s failure.
“I don’t think someone who can’t champion the bond should be leading the Board of Education,” Jimenez said. “I don’t feel it’s personal against her, and a way for her to support it would be to step down.”
While Nedbor-Gross showed no signs of wanting to resign, she will continue to work with fellow board members, school officials and parents to form the next bond proposal, which could be introduced as soon as Jan. 8.
Because the second bond proposal failed, the district cannot put a third proposal up for vote until a year after the first one, which means a new bond referendum will not be up until March 2020.