Dr. Garnell Bailey, Acting Superintendent. Friday February 25 2011.

Ben Fogletto

Pleasantville’s Board of Education suspended the district’s superintendent Tuesday night after a standing-room only audience waited for almost two hours during an executive session.

Board President Darleen Bey-Blocker said that there is an ongoing investigation regarding Superintendent Garnell Bailey, and for that reason the board also voted, in a second 5-4 vote, to hire an attorney outside of the board. No details were given about the investigation or the need for special counsel.

There was no public session after the board came out of the private session, and five of the nine board members voted in agreement with the suspension that puts Bailey on paid administrative leave. Patricia Sofia was appointed acting superintendent.

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Sofia is a former district employee, and was curriculum director, according to board member Jerome Page.

The dissenting members included Paul Moore, Ethel Seymore, Maria Vazquez and Ketsy Alicea.

Those voting for the suspension were Page, Joanne Famularo, Bey-Blocker, Michael Bright and Lawrence Davenport.

“The Sunshine Act has been violated,” said City Councilman Lincoln Green, who attended the meeting.

Council President Judy Ward said she was in shock.

“Nothing else was addressed at the meeting,” she said.

“I want it to be on the record that I do not know what is going on,” board member Alicea said at the time of voting.

Moore asked Bey-Blocker to explain why only some members of the board had information before the meeting about the situation.

He asked how Bright, who made the motion, and other members knew that this motion to suspend was going to be made.

Bey-Blocker did not respond. After the meeting, she said that Sofia had approached her about the position, indicating that rumors were spreading that Bailey was going to be put on leave.

The board president said she told her that if there was a need for an interim superintendent, that she would be considered.

Tuesday’s actions drew angry comments from the crowd, who attempted to interject amid the board proceedings.

Some approached the microphone in an attempt to get the board’s attention and demand a chance for the public to speak prior to the vote. Bey-Blocker ignored the outcries and instructed the board secretary to take the votes.

After Bailey was suspended, Bey-Blocker attempted to make a motion for public comment, but board Secretary Dennis Mulvihill interrupted her and said the next item needs to be voting on an interim superintendent.

“This is a perfect example of a civic lesson. See the process, let the process take its course,” Bailey said before she left the meeting.

Bailey made no other public comment.

“They don’t have a vested interest in our children’s future,” resident Sheryl Laws said about the board after the meeting. She said she wants to take her child out of the school.

“The next thing they are going to do is go into a lawsuit and have to pay for it. And they are going to start making cuts. And the employees are going to be walking on pins and needles because they have Jerome Page on the committee for personnel.”

Green said he was concerned about the image portrayed by the board at the meeting.

“City Council is doing everything they can to upgrade our city and bring in more people and bring in more ratables,” the councilman said. “But what the school board is showing the world is that they don’t care about our city. The school is the one that brings in the people to learn and work and play. They are just closing the door and making it hard for the city to work.”

To those who hadn’t voted, Green said, “This is what you get when you stay home and don’t vote.”

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