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Lew-Port school board president seeks amity on budget after earlier huff Says drastic proposal was for shock value

Unlike last month, Board President David S. Schaubert did not walk out of Tuesday's board meeting in a huff.

He did not follow through with his threat to strangle district programs by asking the board to adopt a $30 million budget for next year, about $8 million below the current $37.8 million school district budget.

Instead Schaubert had the board kill that budget proposal and set up a series of budget workshop sessions for Feb. 6, 20 and 27 to help the board come up with a rational budget for the 2007-08 school year.

Last month's outburst was done because he felt the family of a teacher, Richard Sweeney, who has been at odds with board member Leonard Palumbo, had Palumbo arrested last fall on a stalking charge. He felt the charge was a "political" move because certain factions in the district had lost control over the decision making for the district. For example, Sweeney was not appointed to a soccer coach position, a post he had held for several years, and believed Palumbo influenced the board not to return him to that position.

As for the radical budget proposal, Schaubert said, "I put that item on the agenda because it was part of my statement. It was a metaphor that shows what could happen if everyone is at odds with each other, like things used to be in this district, and fail to work together. It was designed to provide a little bit of a shock factor and let everyone know that this has to stop."

He said district employees have to get together and work to improve the district and police individuals so they don't go out and create a lot of unnecessary animosity by doing extreme things, like having Palumbo arrested.

"It's destructive and counter to what the district's here for. Employees as a group need to police themselves because we don't want things to be the way they used to be. We should work together and not go to war. . . . We have to put an end to this type of thing and work together. To continue on this way could open a new front and it needs to be stopped."

Palumbo said the charge against him is "completely false." Sweeney's wife, Katherine, has alleged Palumbo was stalking her by stopping in the middle of the road while she was
walking down the street. Sweeney has claimed Palumbo has been stalking his family for several months. Palumbo said he has never stalked Sweeney and his family. He said if they see him at times it's because they only live eight doors apart.

"This has gotten very serious," Palumbo said, noting he does not feel it's funny to be charged with something he hasn't done.

In other business, the board approved a motion that would prohibit other activities to be held in the campus Community Resource Center during annual board elections.

Board member Edward Lilly made the proposal because he said five years ago one of the voting machines was removed from the voting room during an election and still had almost as many votes recorded on it as the three other machines that were in the main room where voting took place.

Board member Louis M. Palmeri said eliminating all other activities will ensure that future votes are "clean" and not subject to the results being questioned.

The move eliminated student elections in the Community Resource Center. Student elections will now be held either in each school building or in one of the district's four school buildings.


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