Two weeks after Derry Area School Board approved a motion to formally disapprove of him as a school director, Sean M. Kemmerer fired back at the board during Thursday’s regular meeting.
In a lengthy statement read near the close of Thursday’s meeting, Kemmerer said he was “blindsided” by the board’s actions last month and admitted that the disapproval was difficult for “both myself and my family.”
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 the May 21 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.”
The motion of disapproval passed in a 7-2 roll call vote, with Kemmerer and Kevin Liberoni casting the lone dissenting votes.
“It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Krinock said after the motion passed.
Following last month’s 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.
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.”
In the statement read to the board on Thursday, Kemmerer accused the board of “bullying” and challenged school directors to “produce any written evidence of a contract or agreement that I supposedly entered into with a food service company, as they have alleged. Failing to provide any such proof, I demand an immediate and complete retraction of my motion of disapproval that was passed and a public apology from this board.
“I have been advised of my rights and this type of slanderous and defamatory attack on my reputation and character will not be tolerated. My colleagues are entitled to their opinion and don’t have to agree with the way I do things, but they are not allowed to spread falsehoods designed to solely damage my reputation as a newly-elected board member.”
Kemmerer also alleges the board used “derogatory language” toward him, that they consistently refused to engage him on “issues and concerns I presented to them.” He also suggested that board members continually “stonewall” him regarding board-related issues and added that they have not operated “in good faith” toward him.
When reached by phone after Thursday’s meeting, Krinock denied Kemmerer’s bullying allegations.
“Everything he said (Thursday) is not entirely true,” Krinock said. “Does he have the right to say what he did? Absolutely. Are we bullying him? Not at all.”
In his statement, Kemmerer challenged fellow school board members to “evolve” and to “work with me, not against me when I present a new idea.”
“I challenge the school district and the administrators to stop giving reasons why (things) can’t be done and partner with me to find ways things can be done ... finally, I challenge this board to be more transparent, more accessible and more accountable to the taxpayers.”
Krinock also took issue with Kemmerer’s claims that the board is not being transparent to district residents.
“He talks about transparency, but you can’t get any more transparent than the school board I sit on,” he said.
Krinock added that he has no personal beef with Kemmerer, saying, “I have no (ill feelings) toward that man. I don’t know him well enough.”
Despite the recent turmoil, Krinock maintains that Kemmerer can be an asset to the school board going forward.
“We all feel — and know — that Sean has great ideas. He has tremendous ideas. I don’t know how we can’t get him to understand how it works through. You don’t get a pulpit as a board member.”
“He has great ideas, but this is not a self-promoting job,” he said. “There is no self-promotion being a school board member. We won’t tolerate it, and I don’t know many school boards that would.”
“I do agree wholeheartedly with one aspect of the board’s motion of disapproval against me,” Kemmerer relayed to the board during a portion of his statement. “You are correct, Mr. Krinock, that I do not speak for this board.
“I speak for the taxpayers of the Derry Area School District who see their school taxes going up year after year with no end in sight. I speak for the teachers, PCA’s, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, nurses, guidance counselors, and every dedicated (district) employee who are constantly asked to do more with less. I speak for the parents who shouldn’t have to decide between paying the electric bill or paying the phone bill because times are tough and they could use a hand. I speak for the kids, who should not need someone to fight for them to get healthy meals over the summer, but they do. And I speak for myself, the son of a mill worker who knows firsthand that when times get tough and the mill closes down that the only place you can get a healthy meal is in the cafeteria at St. Bart’s.”
After Kemmerer finished reading his statement, school director Nathan Doherty closed the meeting by saying, “Mr. Kemmerer, you are right — you do not speak for the board. Motion to adjourn.”
Also during Thursday’s meeting, a number of motions bought forward by Kemmerer were voted down.
Kemmerer made a motion, citing the state’s Sunshine Act, to record and broadcast Thursday’s regular meeting and all future meetings “through the appropriate media outlets and to have those meetings archived online for a period of no less than five years.”
The motion was seconded by Kevin Liberoni, but Doherty subsequently made a motion to table the item, citing potential costs and the need for further review. The vote to table passed, 5-2, with Kemmerer and Liberoni casting dissenting votes.
Seeking improved online learning options for district students and citing data that shows most community members access the district website using a smartphone or other mobile device, Kemmerer later made a motion to amend the 2020-21 budget to include an additional $8,000 toward the technology department “to upgrade and update” the district website.
While the district revamped its website several years ago, Kemmerer said some community members reported that the site crashed during last month’s regular meeting.
The motion for the extra technology funding died for lack of a second.
Another motion by Kemmerer sought for district personal care assistants to be paid for the weeks ending June 5 through June 12 at their current pay and benefits. That motion also failed by a 5-2 vote.
“All personal care assistants are getting paid accordingly through Senate Bill 751, Act 13,” Derry Area Administrative Assistant for Business Affairs Joe Koluder said. “They are getting paid for all those contracted days. We’re paying what they should be getting paid.”