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Westbury school board battle heats up

Five members of a group battling another for the right to claim it is the real Westbury school board met for 17 minutes Wednesday and announced they had hired an attorney, blasted the rival faction in a statement, and scheduled another meeting for Thursday night.

The group led by Karin Campbell, a trustee who claims she is president of the board - a title also claimed by elected board member Pless Dickerson - met outside Westbury High School because it was locked out of the building.

The group, composed of Rocco Lanzilotta, Stanton Brown, Larry Wornum and Rod Bailey, blamed the lockout on Constance Clark-Snead, the superintendent who announced last month that she was retiring but changed her mind, one of several decisions that contributed to the dispute over who runs the district.

Clark-Snead and Dickerson's actions "have put the current state of our school district in serious jeopardy, along with potentially disrupting our most precious responsibility, the education of our children," Campbell read from a statement.

About 20 members of the public watched the group try to conduct business al fresco as they vowed to work on behalf of the district's children.

"We're going to do the business of the board of education until a legal authority tells us otherwise," said Lanzilotta, a board member who is also district clerk.

In addition to Clark-Snead's reversal, the schism widened last month when three trustees - Dickerson, Floyd Ewing and Lawrence Zaino - were removed for missing three consecutive meetings.

Dickerson appealed and the state Education Department ordered a stay to allow him to remain. Zaino rescinded his appeal Wednesday, an Education Department spokeswoman said, and Ewing had never filed an appeal.

The conflict comes two months after newcomers Rodney Caines, Siela Bynoe and Leslie Davis were elected to the board. They were sworn in by Lanzilotta on July 6. But they were also sworn in on July 7 at a ceremony where Dickerson was elected president - but where Campbell, Lanzilotta and Brown were absent. Caines was named vice president at that time. At Wednesday night's meeting, the board faction led by Campbell also announced it was hiring attorney W. Charles Robinson to handle the dispute on their behalf. Westbury resident David Braham, 65, called the factional fighting "nonsense," adding, "This is going to cost the district a lot of money, money that it needs to educate our kids."

Mable Jo Robinson, 70, of Westbury, a former elementary school teacher, said she attended meetings by both factions.

"I'm supporting what is right for the children," she said. "This is petty. The school board has become something other than what it is supposed to be."

Wednesday night's meeting, which was supposed to be a reorganization session, was recessed until 8 p.m. Thursday at Westbury High School.

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