Community Members Form Pleasantville Schools Committee

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Pointing to the recent upheaval in the Pleasantville School District, a group of community members have formed a group set to work with the board of education and administration.

During an Aug. 6 board meeting, a representative from Community Advocates for Pleasantville Education (CAPE) made a statement that vowed to cultivate an ongoing relationship with district leadership and remain an independent body from the administration and other site-based committees that are part of the schools. With the recent and controversial resignation of former high school principal Dawn Bartz, a group of about 30 community members came together to push for a better educational system in the district.

“Currently the board is faced with a number of challenges, not the least of which is managing the crises resulting from the departure of our high school principal,” Lisa McPartland said in a prepared statement. “In theory, the board can choose to do nothing and simply hope that with the passage of time and the hiring of a new principal, frustrations will ease, people will forget, and all will eventually be fine.  Please do not continue to underestimate your community.”

Kathy Palmer, co-founder and one of the chairs of CAPE, said the organization has community members with different areas of expertise that can help contribute to a positive, ongoing dialogue with the school system.

While Palmer said the group was established in the last month as a direct result of Bartz’s resignation, she said that all community members are welcomed to join, regardless of their point of view of Bartz’s departure.

“We’re not a pro group, we’re not a con group,” Palmer said. “One of the things that our mission statement is pretty clear (about) is the fact that we just want to build a constructive dialogue.”

At the meeting, McPartland requested that the board issue a statement to PHS students “to alleviate any anxiety they may have over returning to a school where the leadership is in transition.”

Dr. Daniel McCann was named the new principal for PHS, serving on an interim basis.

McPartland also said CAPE wants the board to clarify the process community members should follow in order to make suggestions and how recommendations can be discussed with district leadership.

CAPE would be sharing proposals and concerns over the coming months, including the district’s compliance with open meetings and freedom of information laws, McPartland added.

Palmer said the group has parents from all three schools involved, and even a few community members who no longer have children in the district.

Board president Shane McGaffey said he was encouraged by what he heard from CAPE during the meeting.

“They want a voice and we, as a board, want to give the community a voice,” McGaffey said. “We, as a board, want community input. We don’t want to be making decisions in a vacuum. We want to make them in tandem with the community.”

Besides Palmer, Marianne Aponte and Lori Stockel are the other co-founders and chairs of the organization. As of Aug. 9, 17 new member inquiries have been sent to the group’s email,

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