Another Board of Ed Trustee Resigns in Brewster

The Brewster Board of Education will be losing another member with Daniel Heintz submitting his resignation on Sunday, citing a demanding work schedule as the reason for his decision to step down.

In the same letter to the community on Monday where Heintz’s reason for leaving was cited, the Board of Education noted “we would like to acknowledge him for his service over the past two years in our district and for the difficult decision he made in stepping down.” 

Heintz’s departure comes at a tumultuous time for the Board of Education. Just last week the board offered departing Trustee Glenn Niles the seat left open by the resignation of Krista Berardi but Niles declined the offer. Berardi submitted her resignation on June 12 amidst a backlash over social media posts she made endorsing the idea that George Floyd’s murder was staged and a separate racially-charged Facebook message where she said protestors should be “hosed.”

“With Mr. Niles’ permission I can share that the board offered him the seat left vacant by Ms. Berardi’s resignation and he respectfully declined,” Board of Education President Sonia Mesika said in a statement last week. 

Niles lost his board seat in the June 16 election. With three candidates running for two seats on the board, incumbent Kerry Cunningham was reelected but Niles lost with challenger Francine Santos securing the second-highest vote count. Niles, who was elected to his first three-year term in May of 2017, discussed racial issues in a statement of his own. 

“As a community we have a lot of work ahead of us as it relates to diversity, racial inequalities and equity,” said Niles, who is black. “I feel it’s the biggest challenge that will prevent this community from moving forward; it must be addressed. How do we start having the uncomfortable conversations? How do we support our students of color? What changes can we address that will bring immediate impact? The divide in the community may be difficult to mend, but with desire, commitment, and courageous dialogue, it is possible.”

An online petition demanding Berardi be removed had been created by a Brewster High School student and was signed by thousands. Also, about 50 people, many of them students and other young people, gathered in protest on June 12 outside the Brewster school district building following Berardi’s comments and before Mesika and others publicly called for Berardi’s resignation.

“Just look at the amazing students who were and continue to be empowered to take a stand against racism; that is inspiring,” Niles also said in a statement. “I implore the board and district leadership to support staff, students, and families by providing the necessary resources and tools that will allow us to bring about much needed, long overdue change. I feel wholeheartedly that we need to do better going forward; we owe it to our children — all of our children.”

Given the racial context of Berardi’s departure, The Putnam Examiner asked the board if maintaining diversity was taken into consideration in asking Niles to fill the slot.
“The board offered Mr. Niles the vacant seat because of his experience on the board, the time he committed to the process of reelection and his commitment to the children of this community both as a board member and a volunteer coach,” Mesika replied. “In light of Mr. Niles’ decision to decline to fill the vacant seat, we are mindful that the board does not currently reflect the diversity of our community. The board will be convening a work session to determine how to best address the vacant seat.”
Mesika, responding to a question from The Putnam Examiner through the district’s communications specialist, said Heintz’s decision to resign was “not connected to Berardi.”
“Heintz had many work conflicts this year and foresees the same for next year,” the email also stated. “Since the board was already meeting to determine what to do about Berardi’s seat and since a schedule change is unlikely, Heintz thought it best to give the board the opportunity to have the conversation once.”

On a section of the district website with information about board members, Heintz explained that his decision to join the board “grew out of a belief that a school board must truly represent the community.”

“It is important to ensure that school boards don’t become onesided in their thinking,” Heintz is quoted as saying on the website. “I bring a different point of view to any discussion, and I will always hold everyone sitting at the table accountable.

The board will be convening a work session Tuesday evening to “discuss our options with respect to the two vacant trustee seats,” the Monday letter to the community explained. After the meeting, another letter will be sent to the community “relaying its decision as to how it will proceed.”

A request by The Putnam Examiner to interview Heintz was declined through a district communications specialist.