Lackawanna parents did not need the missing microphone to make their feelings clear to four Board of Educations members responsible for paying a lawyer $225 an hour in taxpayer money to investigate the new school superintendent.
Their voices, mostly in support of Superintendent Monica Kole, were loud and clear Wednesday although the public address system usually provided for public comment was absent.
"Nobody has given her a chance," said parent Anne Wrodarczyk. "You don't like what she is trying to do to get rid of your political garbage".
Although each board member had a personal microphone, the device usually available to speakers had disappeared. The name plate of every board member was in place, but the one that usually rests before Kole was not provided.
Arthur Gill addressed himself directly to the board vice president, John Makeyenko, blaming him for giving a job to a friend and costing the schools thousands of dollars when an aggrieved cook won an arbitration.
"We, the taxpayers, want to thank you for that," said Gill.
"You're welcome," replied Makeyenko, chairman of the Lackawanna Democratic Committee.
"Stop the frivolous spending, stop the ridiculous accusations, stop the political retaliation and focus on the educational needs of our children," said Judy Faircloth.
Makeyenko took issue with a parent's claim that children must share biology books, holding up a paper that he said shows Lackawanna spends 14 percent more than the state allows for such books.
"It's right here, baby," he yelled through his microphone.
When parents sought to respond, board President Kenneth S. Motyka shouted them down through his microphone, saying their 3-minute limit was up.
When Motyka tried to cut off Joseph DiCenzo, saying his time was up. The First Ward resident triumphantly held up an egg timer.
"No, they are not up," yelled DiCenzo, as the crowd applauded. "This next election is going to be the greatest turnout you have ever seen."
The terms of Motyka and M. Elaine Mandy end this school year and an election will be held May 15 to decide who will serve new three-year terms.
"Tell us about the California trip," DiCenzo challenged.
The pending five-day trip to San Diego of three board members and Hamburg attorney Carl W. Morgan, who represents the board, was not openly discussed. However, Morgan, when asked outside the meeting, confirmed the trip. Morgan will accompany Mandy, Makeyenko and Robert T. Friend to the annual meeting of the National School Boards Association.
Judy Faircloth, noting that high school clocks have not worked properly in three years, asked how the four board members can spend $225 an hour to investigate undisclosed allegations against Kole but cannot repair clocks.
Motyka responded that spending must come from funds assigned for specific purposes.
Denise Brill said the money that will go to attorney John M. Curran, hired as special counsel for the investigation, would be better spent to hook school computers to the Internet and provide students with college-level advanced placement classes.
At one point, Makeyenko defended his position as a public servant.
"We don't get no money," he said. "We get nothing but aggravation from people. (We) enjoy helping people."
In response, laughter filled the crowded high school cafeteria where the meeting was held. A parent shouting from the back of the room suggested that he could dance instead. Makeyenko in the past has publicly confirmed that, to make money, he appeared some years ago as an almost nude dancer at a party for teachers.
"I'd be happy to," said Makeyenko, who says his sole income is disability. "I make $750 a month."
Patty DiVito said money going to the Kole probe and other board investigations does nothing to help children's education.
In a related matter, the board, over DiCenzo's objections, voted to eliminate 18 polling places, leaving only a total of six, for a saving of $6,000.
Parent Mohamed Albanna urged the board to keep the past level of polling places, rescind the hiring of the investigating lawyer, and support Kole's recommendation to join the Board of Educational Services to save money on special programs.
"Can you explain to me about BOCES?" asked Makeyenko. "I don't know a lot about it."
Motyka called time on Albanna, who held up DiCenzo's egg timer to claim he had not reached the limit.
The deadline for joining BOCES is June 30, an administrator said.
In other action, the board appointed Francis J. Michaels Jr. as supervisor of building and grounds.