A recent marathon school board meeting in Rampo Indian Hills erupted into chaos, as members debated for hours over a motion to remove the board president, Judy Sullivan.
The nearly 4-hour meeting of the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District Board of Education grew heated shortly after routine opening business. Board member Dr. Aaron Lorenz introduced a motion to oust Sullivan as president, stating “I don’t make this motion lightly. Please do not construe this as being something that I haven’t pondered.”
Central to the contention was a series of allegations against Ms. Sullivan, including her alleged public admonishment of Superintendent Rui Dionisio, unauthorized use of board letterhead, and the potential incurring of a yearly $500,000 legal bill without full board discussions.
The motion was seconded, but Sullivan argued it was out of order: “You can’t just do it—I’m entitled to a trial and a hearing.” Extensive debate followed on proper parliamentary procedure, with Sullivan insisting removal requires formal charges and a “fair disciplinary process” under Robert’s Rules.
After conferring with attorneys in a recess, the board was advised that state statute allows removing the president by majority vote, without a trial. However, counsel warned “the board could be challenged” by Sullivan through an appeal to the Commissioner of Education.
Debate continued on the motion’s merits. Board member Vivian King defended it, stating: “It’s time for a change. It’s time to bring some calmness back to this board. It’s all for the students.”
In response, member Doreen Mariani criticized the attempt, saying “It’s disgraceful to me that someone can be accused of all of this by people who didn’t want her as president in the first place.”
A focal point of the night’s deliberations was a letter Ms. Sullivan had sent to the community without full board consultation. While she defended her decision and highlighted that board counsel, Ms. Wright, approved of the correspondence, other board members argued that such decisions required a collective board agreement.
There was also substantial discussion surrounding legal bills attributed to Ms. Sullivan’s tenure. She contended that she wasn’t responsible for approving these bills and emphasized the key roles played by the superintendent and the business administrator. As tensions simmered, Ms. Sullivan implored the board against her removal, spotlighting her experience and warning of potential repercussions, especially given the board’s ongoing process of hiring an interim superintendent.
When it came time to vote after hours of debate, the motion to remove Sullivan failed 5-4. Sullivan expressed relief, declaring “I remain your president.”
Despite the outcome, a deep rift on the board was clear. As attendee Rachael Couture stated afterwards: “What we have witnessed tonight is further evidence of the continued erosion of confidence in board leadership.”
The meeting also included planning for interviews to hire an interim superintendent. However, debate over hiring a professional search firm was tabled.