The Brookfield school board meeting started promptly at 6 p.m. Wednesday, but board members did not address an agenda item before they retreated behind closed doors to dodge a barrage of questions from angry and frustrated residents.

Tracey Obermiyer, who has two pre-school aged children in Brookfield, was the first to step to the microphone and address the board about its impending decisions to save more than $1 million in the next year to avoid being placed in fiscal emergency.

As Mrs. Obermiyer reached the end of her allotted five minutes for questioning the board, she and board president Joseph Pasquerilla squared off.

“I just have a couple more questions,” she said, trying to continue.

“No, I don’t think you understand,” Pasquerilla told her. “We’re calling someone else. We’re calling someone else. You’ve been over five minutes. You’ve been addressed that by Roberts Rules (of Order).”

“I asked you a question,” Mrs. Obermiyer continued just as board member Dean Fisher made a motion to adjourn into executive session to discuss collective bargaining with employees.

“That’s what you get,” Mrs. Obermiyer replied. “That’s your answer.”

After approving Fisher’s motion, the board walked out of the cafeteria to boos and shouts that showed the extent to which the community has become divided over its school district.

“All the cheapskates in town voted for you because they didn’t want to pay any more money,” Gwen Martino, a parent who lost a run for a school board seat last fall, yelled to the board as they walked out of the cafeteria.

More community members had signed up in advance to address the board.

Board members Fisher, Pasquerilla and Steve Varga were elected by an overwhelming majority last fall on a platform that they would not seek to increase taxes for operating expenses.

Varga’s wife, Tammy, then tried to step to the microphone and comment. She was greeted with screams of “you can’t talk!” and boos thrown in her direction compelled her to sit down.

Not long after the board adjourned into executive session, three uniformed Brookfield policemen entered the cafeteria in case tempers escalated even further.

The board abided by the state’s Sunshine Law for the reason that it adjourned into executive session. Boards are permitted to meet privately to discuss union contracts, but the timing of the move went against the campaign promises of the three newly elected board members.

In a campaign letter distributed to the community before the November school board election, Fisher, Pasquerilla and Varga pledged that, if elected, they would be more open with the community than the previous board during its meetings.

“It is unjust (and illegal at times) for the Board to meet secretly or on the spur of the moment, excluding the people who elected them and to whom they are responsible, when spending their tax dollars and making decisions that affect their children,” their campaign letter read.

Before he was elected, Pasquerilla questioned the previous board at length on several occasions, prompting board members to stop his questioning of their actions.

Superintendent Michael Notar explained after the board returned to regular session more than 90 minutes later to a mostly vacant cafeteria that it planned to go into executive session at some point during the meeting to discuss collective bargaining.

When tempers escalated and shouts rang out among the crowd that was so large many had to stand, Notar said it was an appropriate time for the board to meet privately.

Board members did not hear the pleas for maintaining a quality education that followed.

The high school band director, Rocco Criazzo, is one of those employees who school officials said will be laid off.

Nearly the entire high school band stood up in front of the crowd in defense of their leader before their scheduled concert Wednesday night in the high school auditorium.

High school junior D.J. Martino was the first who tried to speak, but he was overcome with tears and remained silent.

Sarah Bates, a 2004 Brookfield graduate who is attending Youngstown State University on a full scholarship, spoke instead.

“Several students want to pursue a career in music, but if Mr. Criazzo leaves, many students will have shattered dreams,” Ms. Bates said.

Notar later dispelled rumors that band will be cut and said all music programs will remain intact.

Parents, employees and students then continued to talk among themselves with some admitting that their comments were falling on deaf ears as they lambasted the board.

“Those kids stood up and had more guts then our school board,” one parent yelled from the back of the cafeteria.”

When she was permitted to speak to the crowd, Mrs. Varga pledged unity among the community so it can work through the district’s financial troubles.

“We need to pull together as a community all the way around,” she said.

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