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Long Island

A fight for control of Westbury district, school board

A bitter battle has broken out in Westbury over control of the Board of Education and leadership of the school district, with two members claiming the board presidency and one saying there are competing boards of education.

Also, Superintendent Constance Clark-Snead, who had announced retirement and reportedly taken a job in New Jersey, has rescinded her retirement and says she will stay in Westbury.

It's the latest chapter in Westbury, where three board members were ousted from their seats in June for missing three consecutive meetings without a valid excuse, a move some called political.

Pless Dickerson - also the interim superintendent in Wyandanch - said Friday that he was named board president on July 7 by a unanimous vote of the four members present.

Dickerson was one of the board members who lost his seat, records show, but he had received a stay from the state education commissioner to keep it pending an appeal.

Dickerson is now in the majority, along with newcomers Rodney Caines, Leslie Davis and Siela Bynoe, who won seats in May's election.

But in a news release Friday, Karin Campbell said she remains board president and that "Dr. Dickerson has declared mutiny on the currently legally seated Board of Education and has publicly declared himself the de-facto leader of the Westbury Board of Education."

She said he held "rogue negotiations" with Clark-Snead and has "taken it upon himself to illegally swear-in the three new trustees-elect before the regularly scheduled legal reorganization meeting July 14."

Dickerson said the July 7 meeting where the board reorganized was legally sanctioned.

"There are not two boards," Dickerson said. "There is only one Board of Education for Westbury, which she is a part of. She is an elected trustee at this point."

In June, then-board president Campbell said Dickerson, Lawrence Zaino and Floyd Ewing were not removed but "vacated" their seats under state education law because they had missed meetings.

But Dickerson said Friday, "The evidence of the minutes will show that I did not miss three consecutive meetings without just cause. I missed two, and I was late for third."

Dickerson's term ends in 2012. The terms of Zaino and Ewing ended June 30. Zaino's request for a stay was denied.

Earlier this month, the district sent a statement to a local newspaper quoting Campbell and saying the board had hired a new superintendent, Valerie Henning-Piedmonte.

Dickerson said the former board named an interim superintendent, Mary A. Lagnado, the assistant superintendent for business, to start on July 5 but "of course, that would be null and void since the superintendent [Clark-Snead] did not leave." He said he believed the board never gave Henning-Piedmonte a letter of intent or signed contract.

Clark-Snead said Friday she was "never off the payroll."

Campbell said in her statement that Dickerson's action's have "brought this district to a state of emergency" with two board presidents, eight seated board members, three separate superintendents and "resolutions flying in all directions."

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