LETTER: West New York BOE Trustee Castaneda has a selective memory


In a letter to the editor, West New York Board of Education Trustee Lorena Portillo wants to set the record straight regarding Trustee Jonathan Castaneda’s account of the October 5 meeting of the board. Lorena Portillo

Dear Editor,

I am also compelled to respond and correct Trustee Castañeda’s statements. At the October 5th meeting, the board president decided to change the order of the meeting while lacking the necessary votes to do so.

Trustee Cheng attempted to speak, and had his microphone shut off by the president, whom disrespectfully yelled, “this is my meeting.” Being that standard board meeting rules were not being followed, along with being deprived of his right to speak, Trustee Cheng walked out of the meeting.

As I was arriving to the meeting, I was informed of what had just transpired and to my surprise the auditorium was brimming with frustrated, and upset teachers.

I quickly realized that this meeting had been scheduled as an attempt to appear supportive and interested in resolving the teachers’ contract blank weeks before the election.
Having said that, let’s review the facts:

∙ At the April 13th board meeting, all the trustees (except for Mr. Rodas, Mr. Cheng, and I) voted against allowing the teachers to speak, knowing that the teachers had sat through a two- and-a-half hour ceremony.

After Mr. Cheng, Mr. Rodas, and I protested and threatened to leave the meeting if the teachers were not allowed to speak. The other trustees had to concede and allow them to speak otherwise there would not have been the minimum required number of trustees to continue with the meeting.

∙ As trustee Castañeda stated, “Our teachers show up to work every day to train our communities’ next generation of leaders.” Why then, should they be denied their right to speak? Why should they have to wait extra hours to get their word in?

∙ Next, the meeting in which we discussed the annual budget, the voting went similarly. All trustees except Mr. Cheng, Mr. Rodas, and I, voted against passing a budget that did not include a solution to the teachers’ contract.

Thus, we asked the business administrator to find a way to acquire extra money. Fortunately, he was able to attain an extra $850,000 that was used for the teachers’ contract.

∙ In regards to our shared agreements, we could have saved over half a million dollars had it not been for trustee Castañeda’s poor negotiating skills and conflict of interest. Instead, he suggested saving money by hiring retired police officers rather than keeping our respected WNY police officers in our schools.

∙ We have to ask ourselves, Who had been taking advantage of negotiations in order to fulfill their political agenda just weeks before the election?

What’s really a slap in the face to our “democratic values”? The fact that we walked out, or the fact that trustee Castañeda denied the teachers their right to speak until he was forced to do so?

Perhaps our president refusing to let trustee Cheng speak, going as far as shutting off his microphone? That was plainly disrespectful, petty, and quite unethical. Who is behind our “Democracy being held hostage?”

∙ Trustee Castañeda said: “But how do you forgive holding hostage the paychecks that feed our teachers, our support staff, our janitors, our bus drivers and their families? This was not only unethical but immoral.”

Unethical and immoral is putting your own interests, as well as the interest of the politicians you support, ahead of those who elected us to be their voice on the board.

∙ Trustee Castañeda stated “…we were able to approve an agreement thanks to the leadership of President Parkinson and Vice President Gonzalez.”

According to our bylaws and our board attorney, President Parkinson, is prohibited from participating in contract negotiations. In fact, trustee Rodas is the chairman of negotiations, yet does not seem to be receiving any credit.

We had an opportunity not to re-elect board members who have not done anything for the school district. Some of the recent actions taken by a few trustees were motivated by pure greed and fear of not being re-elected come November elections.

Having an opposing team essentially forces them to give the union a contract right before the election. The teachers have not been “led” to believe we are fighting for them. On the contrary, we have proven it.

It is quite clear who is doing their job and who is not. I’m sure the teachers, staff, and parents will remember who has supported them and who found the funds for their contracts.

There is no doubt in my mind that the teachers and the community will remember who fought for their interests and who fought for political interests.


Lorena Portillo

West New York Board of Education Trustee

Opinions are her own and not those of the West New York Board of Education or its other trustees; nor are
they the specific views of anyone affiliated with the Board of Education including but not limited to other
trustees, administrators, staff, or its’ contractors.

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  1. Lorena you shouldn’t have! How dare you come out and give the respect these people deserve? How dare you show some sort of ethics? I’m being sarcastic, thank you.

    It’s an utter shock that some members of this board have gone to such lengths to hurt fellow community members for their own benefit. Thank you Lorena for being a voice of reason. I think this election in all aspects has shown to local politicians (R and D alike) that the community is no longer niave. We have endless sources of good and bad information and now more than ever we are starting to sort through the bull.

    Congrats to the new members of the BOE and please stay the course you intended.

  2. Well said Lorena Portillo, the Roque controlled BOE Trustees (a number that seems to be shrinking) have always had the advantage in determining the outcome of those negotiations. The timing of the MOU, coming only a week or so before the election was nothing more than political gamesmanship designed to get more votes for a group of people who are politicians more interested in their own political futures rather than the future of our children and our school system.

  3. Unfortunately, dedicated citizens that are interested in the children may veer off course in their scripture. Fortunately for the children of West New York, Lorena Portillo has the interest of our children before the political hacks and their authors.

  4. Lorena, Shuerle, Navas and Morel cut a deal. Take out Herrera and Dean and bring new people . Parkison is out and so is Roque. You can’t win when your team mate is bullet voting and cutting out his team. Morel will be president and Chang Vice President and they will be running BOE, Munoz is back indictment indictment and empower your enemies and they will come back to kill you Politics 101. Joey Roque will be a convicted felon his whole LIFE and Munoz gets rewarded only in WNY. Blood is not thicker than water in WNY.