BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Bedford Central's school board members unequivocally declared their support for Superintendent Jere Hochman as controversy over his proposed, but cancelled diversity workshop , has been ongoing.
At their Wednesday, Dec. 3, meeting , all seven board members voiced support for the superintendent, who has been with the district since 2008.
Controversy has been brewing since the board's Oct. 8 meeting, with community members voicing displeasure. The event would have been facilitated by Educational Equity Consultants (EEC), which has been blasted by some locally for its race relations stance.
Board President Susan Wollin said, “we acknowledge missteps, which I have in the past.” She noted private conversations that were had with Hochman. Wollin defended his overall record.
“That said, when I look at the, the work that Dr. Hochman has done here in the seven years, nothing’s perfect, nobody’s perfect, but we’re further ahead in terms of a lot of really good things for this district,” she said.
Vice President Eric Karle acknowledged that he and Hochman may disagree on politics, but touted his record.
Board member Jennifer Gerken said, “Despite any differences of opinion, I have never questioned Dr. Hochman’s dedication to our children, our district or our community.
Board member Edward Reder sympathized with concern raised about EEC. However, he spoke with Hochman and he felt reassured “that his intent was not to make any judgements about our community.”
“Nor do I believe Dr. Hochman views every educational issue through the lens of race and ethnicity," he added.
Colleagues also touted Hochman's record on academic achievement and on district budgeting.
Public comments at the meeting were mixed on Hochman's action.
Critics took issue with the term "white privilege," which has been noted by EEC.
“White privilege is hate speech that not only victimizes children, it also robs parents of their own individual stories dealing with adversity," said Bedford Hills resident Sal Di Carlo.
Di Carlo also called for Hochman to resign, shouting, “Step aside for our children!” He was also met with groans from the Hochman supporters when he started discussing the superintendent's compensation.
Pound Ridge's Debra McDermott, who was not opposed, in general, to having a diversity discussion, was critical of how the cancelled one was to have been arranged, such as the use of taxpayer dollars and political balance. She also gave several criticisms of the district, ranging from treatment of special-education students, to Pound Ridge's school-tax burden.
“The school system we researched and thought we learned about is not what Bedford Central has become, in my opinion.”
MaryAnn Carr, Bedford Hills, argued that white privilege is real.
“It does exist,” she said, adding that to deny it is to deny that slavery existed.
Carr, who is black, described hardships her family endured, from her grandparents being denied an education, to her needing National Guard escorting to a white public school.
“So, we’re not blaming you for it, but to deny it is a very, very narrow vision," she said.
Becky Sussman, Bedford Hills, argued that she has witnessed white privilege in her career. She also voiced her support for Hochman and has been “baffled and saddened" by comments she heard and read attacking him.
Hochman has also received support from various prominent community members, including elected officials and executives with prominent local organizations. A copy of the Dec. 2 letter is available here.
Hochman was asked about the reactions after the meeting.
“I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to own up to them and then we’re going to keep moving forward," he said.
A video of the full meeting is available here.
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