‘Heated’ exchange interrupts Penfield Board of Education meeting

Education

PENFIELD, N.Y. (WROC) — The Penfield Central School District responded to an incident which happened at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

In video of the incident, a man off screen can be heard saying, “Be respectful. You’re an elected representative to represent us. This is isn’t about you, bud.” A board member then calls the man an expletive, and multiple people move toward the stage.

We spoke with a Penfield parent, Rich Tyson, who said he was the man who approached the stage. He tells News 8 the confrontation with board member William Yaeger was over a school contract issue. He acknowledges he yelled at the board member, telling him to “be respectful” and saying “this isn’t about you bud,” and that’s when he says the board member escalated.

“He started kind of motioning for me to come toward the stage, which I did start walking, then he dropped an F-bomb on me,” Tyson said. “That’s when I walked and jumped up on the stage, not to be physically confrontational, but I wanted to address it with him face to face. By the time I got there he had become essentially unhinged. The superintendent, Dr. Putnam, and a few other board members were basically having to restrain him. He was like, you know, ‘I’m going to take you outside’ kind of stuff. And I just basically went up there to tell him ‘you’re not being respectful, you’re not representing us, and get the hell out of here, get out of this board meeting.’ I’m a passionate parent and there were many others in the room and we all felt kind of disrespected by his cavalier attitude toward our comments.”


WATCH: Video of the incident


“I was just disgusted by the behavior of some of the people tonight,” said Laura Zwick, who was at the meeting with her daughter for a scheduled robotics presentation.

The district issued a statement Tuesday evening, saying:

“The Penfield Board of Education holds a public comment period at each meeting. This is a time for residents to share comments and concerns with the Board. Following the public comment period at tonight’s meeting, an exchange between a resident and a Board member became heated. The situation escalated and the meeting was immediately recessed. Since all meetings are also streamed and accessible online, the public was cleared and the meeting was reconvened in a virtual format so that the Board could complete its business.”

The district issued a following statement Wednesday afternoon, saying:

In the Penfield Central School District, we believe in dignity and respect for all students, parents and community members. At last night’s Board of Education meeting, tensions were high following the public comment period and Board member William Yaeger engaged in a heated exchange with a parent. Mr. Yaeger addressed the parent using inappropriate language, which led the parent to jump onto the stage in the auditorium where the meeting was being held. The behavior of both parties was unacceptable.

“On behalf of the Board, I want to publicly acknowledge that Mr. Yaeger’s behavior was completely inappropriate,” said Board President Mark Elledge. “As a Board, it is our job to listen and to treat our community with respect,” he added.

In turn, the District is asking community members to present their comments and concerns in a peaceful manner and to treat the Board members with respect.
As a follow-up to this situation, the District and the Board will review protocols for Board meetings and the public comment period. Mr. Yaeger’s term ends on June 30, 2021 and the Board does not meet again until July.

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