Ripley Voters Need To Voice Their Concerns

It is time for the Ripley Central School Board of Education to begin mending some fences.

It could have been taken as a fluke that the district’s 2018-19 budget was defeated at the polls in May. That vote, which required 60 percent approval of the budget, was only approved 91-90. Last week’s revote, however, is a repudiation of district leadership. More than twice as many people voted in the second budget vote, defeating the same budget 264-106.

Taxpayers have expressed frustration over the district’s ongoing relationship with Chautauqua Lake Central School and the idea that Ripley could do better with another tuitioning partner. Teachers and district residents silently expressed displeasure with the treatment of teacher Lisa Sabella, who was put on paid administrative leave in November after allegedly having inappropriate physical contact when handling a student. A self-proclaimed whistleblower in the district has been writing books detailing what he says is a legacy of nepotism and cronyism in district decision making, then the district went out and hired a consultant as an interim principal and then hired that same consultant’s son to the same position on a permanent basis. Few seemed happy with Dr. Lauren Ormsby’s term as superintendent.

There are many reasons why taxpayers could be upset. It’s unlikely to get better with a slew of personnel and program cuts coming as the district figures out its austerity budget for 2018-19. Robert Bentley, board president, told The Post-Journal he was a “little bit lost” immediately following the budget revote. The public’s displeasure shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Bentley does have a point. Voting against the budget is anonymous and requires no explanation about what the district is doing that is upsetting voters.

Come next May, maybe some of those who are unhappy with the district’s direction should run for the Board of Education. Voting against a budget sends a message to district leaders, but the best way to effect change is to be involved in the district’s decision making.