PLEASANTVILLE — A Board of Education meeting Tuesday turned into a shouting match, with police intervening twice and a pen being thrown across the room, as tensions flared between the board and the union over a lack of a contract.

For the second meeting in a row, the aligned teachers and staff of the Pleasantville Education Association packed the school board meeting. The union’s approximately 600 members have been working without a contract since June 30, 2016.

Public comment was dominated by teachers and staff talking about the lack of a contract or being paid fairly by the district.

Jean Hovey, vice president at-large of the union, questioned several agenda items, including the hiring of a new coordinator of guidance, Kelli Best, at $111,500 per year prorated to fill the position vacated by Michael Pilate, who pleaded guilty last month to his role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud the state’s health-benefit system. Best, Hovey claimed, was related to members of the board and was not even one of the top five candidates considered.

Hovey also asked why two secretaries were being paid $10,000 each to take over duties normally performed by Assistant Superintendent Garnell Bailey, who is out on leave.

“If we have a certificated person available in district, why are we not using them? We actually have three,” Hovey said.

As Hovey was finishing her comments, Board President Carla Thomas interjected that Hovey’s allotted speaking time of three minutes was up. Hovey declined to stop speaking, and Thomas called over police to remove her from the microphone. The officers stood by Hovey but allowed her to finish her comments.

At that point, Thomas began calling other names signed up for public comment, speaking over Hovey’s comments. Other union members who had signed up to comment attempted to cede their time to Hovey, but Thomas said that was not allowed.

Toward the end of public comment, Atlantic City resident Craig Callaway lambasted the teachers as undeserving of their salaries.

Callaway called Pleasantville schools a “dumping ground for people who couldn’t get a job anywhere else.”

“Bring your children to this district and let your children be taught by some of these teachers,” he told the audience.

The audience began shouting at Callaway and the board, and someone threw a pen across the room in Callaway’s direction. Two members of the Police Department intervened and pulled Callaway aside as the room began chanting, “Time is up.”

Thomas attempted to gain control of the meeting, asking the audience to be respectful, eventually closing the public portion so the meeting could continue.

After the meeting, Thomas said she was unhappy with the fighting.

“Show people respect, show each other respect,” she said.

Thomas said she hopes to have the contract negotiations resolved quickly.

“We want to get it resolved as bad as they want to get it resolved,” she said.

PEA President Tim Newkirk said Tuesday evening’s interaction showed that “clearly things are getting heated.”

“I think the staff is fed up with their shenanigans,” Newkirk said of the school board.

While police are regularly assigned to the school board meetings, Chief Sean Riggin said Wednesday the two officers present Tuesday were not briefed on protocol and should have intervened during Hovey’s comments as they did with Callaway, as they act at the direction of the school board.

Riggin said he plans to increase the police presence at future board meetings and screen all entrants at the door.

In other business, the board awarded a contract for elevator repair at Pleasantville Middle School to Levy Construction for $343,700.

In addition, the board awarded a $177,650 contract to Nickolaus Construction for improvements to the high school and middle school tennis courts and $131,941 to McClosky Mechanical Contracts for HVAC service and maintenance.(tncms-asset)6551a650-16d9-11e8-a1fd-00163ec2aa77[4](/tncms-asset)

However, there was no action to swear in James Buford, who was elected to a one-year unexpired term in November. His swearing-in had been delayed three times since January’s reorganization meeting as the board awaited his background check and fingerprints. Business Administrator Elisha Thompkins said Tuesday after the meeting that Buford has still not completed those requirements.

While the board has nine seats, only seven have been filled since January. While Hassan Callaway was sworn in in February, filling one vacancy, the recent death of board member Ethel Seymore opened another. Both seats would have to be advertised before the board votes on candidates to fill them, Thompkins said.

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe