ITHACA, NY -- At an Ithaca school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26 marked by tension between what is private and what is public, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Luvelle Brown announced that he would not formally resign his position. This reverses an announcement he made at the Jan. 12 board meeting, where he said he was to become the head of equity, diversity and inclusion for Discovery Education, a global education company.
Before Brown made his new announcement during his superintendent’s report, two student representatives from Ithaca High School had already asked the board or Brown to explain the rumors that were circulating about Brown at the school and in the community.
Emma Zanen, an Ithaca High School student representative, asked someone to explain what the district was doing in response to the allegations about Brown that had been made public.
Instead of making a response, the board proceeded to speak about the possible restarting of athletic programs and the difficulties of evaluating student academic performance during the pandemic. Student representative Adam Saar interrupted the meeting to request that someone address Zanen’s questions. Ainslie promised they would be answered during the superintendent’s report, after the board discussed and voted on their consent agenda.
In his remarks during his report Brown gave a partial answer. He said he had planned to “transition in February, but that’s not going to happen. I will stay in the community and continue the work.”
Board president Rob Ainslie followed up by explaining that, according to state law, to resign a superintendent must send a letter to the board president. “That never happened,” he said. “After a series of talks, we gave him the opportunity to change his mind, and he did.”
Addressing Brown directly, Ainslie said, “You have a contract and we’re going to hold you to it.” Ainslie said he was open to talk about anything “as long as it has to do with the school district.”
The board then plunged into a presentation by the district’s chief operations officer Amanda Verba about the recent release by the governor of preliminary budget runs. Board member Ann Reichlin then spoke about the possibilities offered by the many waivers of state policies during the pandemic. In the future, when the district proposed something innovative that ran counter to a state policy, they could point to having continued to function well in its absence.
With the elephant still in the room, board members Erin Croyle and Nicole LaFave both reminded their fellow board members that the students’ concerns had not been fully addressed.
“There are still unanswered questions,” Zanen said. “How do we move on from that?”
“I don’t want to get into a personal matter in public,” Ainslie said, before he gave a summary of the district’s response to the allegations against Brown, which had included longstanding and grossly inappropriate use of public office and authority, but also accusations regarding his treatment of his now ex-wife, Anjanette Brown.
Ainslie said that he had met with a community member in September 2020, who brought the issues to his attention. “The private items are not our place to get into,” he said. A 200-page document was delivered to him around Thanksgiving, and he asked the school district’s attorney to read it. By Christmas the attorney had gone through the documents and given his evaluation to Ainslie. The attorney found that there was no justification for the allegations and that there was no impact to the district.
“There are things, Emma,” Ainslie said to the student representative, “that are private and within a family, and we have no wish to go there.” Ainslie said he refused to address anything that was circulating on social media.
Zanen said with some hesitation that she was satisfied with his response.