Citing a number of alleged infractions, the Derry Area School Board on Thursday voted to formally “disapprove” of Sean M. Kemmerer as as a school director.
Kemmerer, a school board newcomer who earned a four-year seat in November’s general election, was accused of failing to adhere to a number of board principles. In a statement read during Thursday’s regular meeting, school board president David Krinock said those alleged failed principles included: Not promoting open, honest, respectful dialogue among the board, staff and community; not protecting board confidentiality, and not honoring the sanctity of executive session.
The statement of disapproval read by Krinock also claimed that Kemmerer breached the confidentiality of the board and administration on several occasions, posted confidential information on social media, had publicly stated he contracted with an outside vendor as an agent of the district, and did not abide by the majority decision of the board by holding a public meeting this month on the same date and time as a canceled school board meeting.
The statement concluded that while Kemmerer “may retain all of the rights and privileges afforded a duly elected representative, (he) does not speak for the majority of the Derry Area School Board or its administration, and (he) is not a spokesman of the Derry Area School District.”
Kemmerer himself seconded the motion and then addressed the matter through an online video chat.
“I’m disappointed with the board’s decision, but I do respect the majority coming to that conclusion. I’m disappointed we don’t have an opportunity to work in a more collaborative environment,” Kemmerer told the board. “... What I walked into is a school board that runs a million dollar-plus deficit, a school board that’s about to raise taxes for a community that is losing money year after year and is cutting programs year after year.
“What I’ve tried to do in my six months on the board is partner with people in the community. We’ve done some really nice things, and I wish there was an opportunity for me to do that in a more collaborative manner with my colleges on the board. Unfortunately, I’ve not been afforded that opportunity as of yet — I do want to reach out to my colleges to express my desire to work together moving forward.
“I apologize that I’ve ruffled some feathers along the way, but I assure you it’s (being done) with the desire to do good with those who have elected me. I accept your motion of disapproval and I will wear it proudly, and hope it further differentiates that I’m trying to do versus some of the things we don’t agree on. But I’d still like to work together.”
The motion of disapproval passed in a 7-2 roll call vote, with Kemmerer and Kevin Liberoni casting the lone dissenting votes. Liberoni told the board that Thursday was the first time he had learned of the planned motion to disapprove of Kemmerer.
“I’m kind of shocked by it, to be honest, and disappointed. Even embarrassed,” Liberoni said. “There are some things I don’t agree with (with) Mr. Kemmerer, but he is part of this board and this resolution is absolutely wrong.”
“It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Krinock said after the motion passed.
After the meeting, Krinock told the Bulletin that the motion of disapproval was done as a symbolic measure, as Kemmerer will continue to have all the rights afforded other board members.
“It’s symbolism, but it had to be out there because of all the stuff that has been going on,” Krinock said in a phone interview. “The reason it’s so hard for me is that I don’t have it in me to discredit someone, but the professional side of me (thought) it had to be done, and it was very difficult. It was a collaborative thing (amongst board members) ... I didn’t sleep well last night, I can tell you that.”
Krinock claimed the “last straw” that led the board to take action regarding Kemmerer was an alleged social media post about “contacting third-party distributors to work out of our cafeteria.”
“His vim and vigor is wonderful — to have someone who has that much excitement be on a school board. But if it’s not channeled in the right way, it can be very destructive,” Krinock said of Kemmerer.
“Since the (coronavirus) shutdown, all the (things) Mr. Kemmerer is doing — and I’m not saying it’s bad, he’s doing it with a goal in mind, and the goal is applaudable — he’s caused a lot of angst and anxiety in our administration. He’s caused inferiority complex in our administration and in some of our employees, because people who are paid big money to do very important things in our district feel Mr. Kemmerer makes them feel inept. It had to stop.”
Krinock said he hopes Kemmerer and the rest of the board will be able to work together more effectively going forward.
“If he can stay within the parameters of being a board member, Sean has a lot of great ideas and has a lot of excitement for what he’s doing. He truly does,” Krinock said. “But we can’t have it (like) he wants to do it. He’s an elected official — just do what you were elected to do.”