Ripley School Board Is Putting Favoritism Ahead Of Students’ Best Interests

Remembering that tuitioning came about because the board could not financially justify a full high school staff, I have to wonder why Ripley Elementary has increased its staff size considerably (eight to one student-teacher ratio) since then. Now, the school that could not afford an adequate high school pours lots of money into an elementary, spending more per child than any other school in Chautauqua County yet with poor academic results. Sherman’s elementary ranked 54th in Western New York and Ripley ranked 183rd, according to Buffalo Business First.

State ELA and math test scores rank Ripley near the bottom of the county academically. This is what happens to schools when boards “play favorites.” I have seen Ripley board members for years hiring family and friends with no consideration to qualifications and/or who is best qualified for the education of our students. I do believe many positions were never even posted as required. If a large staff, costs and a compromised education were legitimate reasons to tuition the high school, then why not the same for the elementary?

Presently, Ripley taxpayers pay the tuition fees for children of non-instructional, non-Ripley residents and there is nothing right about that.

In reference to the newest “no confidence” vote, many in the community have been trying for years to make the town aware of the personal agendas of the boards and administration. Finally, the staff has had enough and is confirming the nepotism, cronyism, bullying, etc. that Jeff Buchholz has been writing about. What a shame they have been literally too afraid to speak up.

The board president is quoted in The Post-Journal that “such staff complaints are customary and usual with the difference between board and administrative leadership.” This is not the norm and is not an appropriate response. Personally, my vote of “no confidence” is awarded to the board of education, primarily those “long-term” members. Bringing in a mediator such as (John) Hogan’s firm will never work as there is (in my opinion) no possible way he can be impartial and unbiased as we remember he was acting superintendent at Ripley with (Robert) Bentley as board president. The only way a mediator could work would be to bring in someone unfamiliar to all the people involved (although I don’t see why we would waste the tax dollars). It is a shame what this board has done to tear this community apart and take our children out of the town. The school was what we had in common, bringing people together, bringing people home and bringing new families into town who wanted a small-town school.

I would ask why this country has a term limit for our President yet our school boards do not? The “abuse of power” is the reason we so need it. It is time to restore our school or sell that white elephant of a building and bring something into the community that does not cost the taxpayers to maintain the structure. Is this “so-called” school becoming nothing more than a day care/babysitting service at taxpayer’s expense? Sadly, there are those in the “system” at Ripley who know in their heart and soul that what is going on is wrong, yet they fear for repercussions and their job. When you have to guzzle down what they shote at you, is it worth it? I pray that the staff stands firm, as I feel they have been the scapegoat for the board and administration far too long.

We are long overdue to reclaim Ripley for what she used to be; a great community with a fantastic small town school.

Wanda Bentley is a Ripley resident.