February 4, 2008

Superintendent of Ithaca City School District Pressured to Resign

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After months of criticism, Ithaca City School District Superintendent Judith Pastel may soon leave office. The Ithaca Journal reports that anonymous sources have confirmed that the ICSD Board of Education has held at least two meetings discussing Pastel’s departure.
The talks follow months of disapproval over the way Pastel has handled recent racially charged incidents in the ICSD. Ithaca resident Amelia Kearney is currently involved in a lawsuit against the ICSD for what she describes as the negligence the district showed her after her daughter was racially harassed in school and on a school bus.
The Sun previously reported that when Kearney went to officials such as Pastel for help, Kearney said, “They either ignored me or made it seem as if they were on top of things when they really weren’t because it went on for months.”
After Pastel abruptly left a press conference to discuss the incident, protesters called for her resignation, chanting, “Pastel must go!”
The chants were repeated at a Board of Education meeting held on Oct. 9 where many community members also encouraged Pastel’s resignation.
More recently, Ithaca High School student Bryce Houseal and his mother Keisha Hicks grad expressed anger at the ICSD following an incident where Houseal was called a racial epithet by a fellow student. Houseal and Hicks claim that Housel’s complaints were ignored.
A petition circulated after the incident declaring no confidence in the ICSD’s administration and calling for Pastel’s resignation. At the time, The Sun reported that when asked at a press conference if she was going to resign, Pastel said she planned to stay in office, yet refused to estimate what her approval rating might be in the community.
The Board of Education is also facing scrutiny for possibly violating New York State’s open meetings law. Public boards such as the Board of Education are permitted to hold closed executive sessions under eight circumstances, including the dismissal of an employee. However, to do this the Board must first hold a public vote to conduct the closed session and name the meeting’s topic of discussion — actions The Ithaca Journal claims the ICSD failed to follow.