Horan tells board he was “elected fair and square”

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Timothy Horan

GUILDERLAND — Timothy Horan, the only newcomer on Guilderland’s board of education, got the reorganized board off to a contentious start when, during the sharing session at the end of the July 5 meeting, he expressed his distaste for what he called the “personal attacks” levied against him at the board’s May 23 meeting.

Horan told the board, “I was called a cheater, I was called somebody who thinks they’re above the rules, it was said that I should be disqualified.” He said that throwing out charges like that without having all the information was irresponsible and “poisons the well of the body politic and what we’re all about in our community, and especially as representatives.”

A week before the vote, Horan was sued in federal court by parents who say that their daughter, then age 7, fell from the zip-line on the Pine Bush Elementary playground last fall. She broke both her wrists, the suit says, but was not allowed by Horan, her second-grade teacher, to go to the nurse’s office or seek any medical attention for the remainder of the school day.

Horan, who was then still a teacher, set to retire at the end of the school year, got more votes than anyone else in the May school-board election, drawing 25 percent of the vote in his first run — a five-way race for three seats. Incumbent Allan Simpson was ousted. Horan was enthusiastically backed by the teachers’ union. The candidate with the next-highest percent of the vote was Judy Slack, a retired teacher’s aid, with 22.5 percent, followed by Christopher McManus, who works for the state’s budget division and is married to a Guilderland High School vice principal, with 19.5 percent.

At its May 23 meeting, several board members did raise questions about whether incidents from Horan’s campaign violated regulations. These were: whether the teachers’ association had been wrong to use school mailboxes to distribute a letter to all its members in support of Horan the day before the election; whether a photo taken at Pine Bush Elementary, of teachers supporting Horan, constituted electioneering since that school was a polling place; and whether Horan himself broke rules that had been laid out to candidates at a meeting days earlier, prohibiting them from giving speeches at PTA or other meetings. Campaigning is not allowed on school grounds or at school events.

Horan said he did not write the GTA letter or distribute it. He did not take the photo at Pine Bush Elementary, and was not in it, and did not post it social media. Finally, he was at the PTA meeting only because the usual teacher representative had asked him to substitute; he had been asked and had answered two questions there and had not been there to campaign.

Horan did not return phone messages asking specifically what questions he was asked and answered at the PTA meeting.

Horan said that it was irresponsible to talk about people without having “all the information,” equating this to “the fake news we hear about these days.” If you’re going to discuss things and put things out, he said, “especially to the public, you have to have all the information.”

He gave an example from his experience as a teacher. He said that one of his second-grade students went up to him early one morning, at 7:45 a.m. and stuck his hand in Horan’s face, with his middle finger pointing up. Horan was taken aback for a moment, thinking, “What do we have here? This is an interesting way to start the day.” But before Horan reacted, the child told him that he had a cut on his finger. He had needed more information, he said.

“I was elected fair and square to represent the public, and I’m actually pretty proud of that, and I take it very seriously, and I’m ready to go,” Horan told the board on July 5.

After Horan spoke, president Christine Hayes said that the board is a team and that all of the board members are looking forward to having a good year working with Horan and with each other.  

Asked for comment Wednesday about whether the board had been wrong to discuss Horan’s possible violations of campaign regulations, Hayes said, “Continuing to have this discussion doesn’t really do anything good for the board, and I’d rather just move forward.”

She said that she thinks everybody should have a chance to share their thoughts, and that that’s what Horan did at the July 5 meeting.

 

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