WPCNR Morning Sun. May 21, 2002. 10:40 AM EDT: Dr. Saul Yanofsky, responding to characterizations on the part of Stephen Sules and Larry Geiger, Board Members, that he was “ambivalent” about continuing as Superintendent of Schools one year ago contacted WPCNR Monday to clarify his letter appearing in the local Journal News He acknowledges that his February 20, 2001 letter expressed he was “ambivalent” towards renewing his contract.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Saul Yanofsky talks frankly with WPCNR.
WPCNR File Photo
He acknowledged to WPCNR Monday afternoon in a telephone interview, that his letter to the Board of Education of February 20, 2001, required by his contract to announce his intentions of whether or not he sought an extension of his contract, did say he was “somewhat ambivalent” about continuing as Superintendent. This fact was left out of his letter to the Journal News
Yanofsky in talking with WPCNR Monday, characterized his ambivalence, (defined in Webster’s Dictionary as simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from an object, person, or action,), as “related to a relationship to the Board (of Education),” but told WPCNR he was not ambivalent about continuing as Superintendent of Schools.
Wanted to be Superintendent. The Board of Education was what caused his “ambivalence.”
“The ambivalence wasn’t related to doing the job of Superintendent,” Yanofsky said. “The ambivalence was related to a relationship with the Board, doing that. That’s what my letter (to the paper) says. That’s not what your article says.”
“If you read my letter (to the paper), John, I tried to make that distinction which the board member clouds up,” Yanofsky said. “and you reinforce the clouding up of that distinction by reporting that the way that board member said. What useful purpose is served?”
WPCNR asked if he would make public the February 20, 2001 letter the board member speaks about. Yanofsky said he had no problem with that:
“What difference does that make? The key part you quoted. The rest is all bureaucratic stuff. I don’t have any problems (with showing you the letter), but I don’t think that makes any difference. You quoted the key statement which is accurately quoted, I said I have some ambivalence about continuing, and what I continued to say to the Board was my ambivalence has to do with the way you (the Board) and I interact with each other.
I never suggested and I’d be interested if anybody claims otherwise that I was tired, frustrated or disillusioned with the role of superintendent. I never said that. I said my ambivalence has to do with my relationship with the Board, not with running the district. That’s what my letter in the paper Saturday says, that’s the distinction I was trying to make and you cloud it up by quoting all this garbage from this Board Member.”
What the Yanofsky February Letter Told the Board.
For the record, the text of the key statement in the February 20,2001, to the Board of Education, stating his intentions reads although I must admit to being somewhat ambivalent about it, I would be willing to entertain an offer to renew my contract beyond June 30 of 2002 if the Board so wishes.
February 20, 2001 Yanofsky Letter Expected Discussions
Yanofsky described the contents of the February 20, 2001 letter to the Board of Education for WPCNR:
“The whole first paragraph just quotes from the contract about the timelines for notification, then basically I said, well, I’m somewhat ambivalent about it, I’d be willing to entertain an offer to continue. I assume you’re going to want to have to spend some time talking to me about it, so let’s look at the agenda and we’ll make what changes we can. That was the whole letter. It was written 14-15 months ago and I figured there’d be lots of opportunities for conversation.”
Asked how many conversation opportunities presented themselves, Yanofsky said, “ I don’t want to even rehash that. That’s not the point.”
Letter to paper was to clarify his ambivalence.
We pointed out to Dr. Yanofsky that his letter to the Journal-News implied that he was at no time ambivalent about continuing as Superintendent of Schools. The actual quote from Dr. Yanofsky’s Journal News letter says “Larry Geiger and Stephen Sules said that I was ambivalent about continuing as superintendent of schools, suggesting a lack of interest/and or commitment to the district. This is simply not the case.”
“What does the letter say, John? I said at no point did I state any ambivalence about my substantive role as superintendent.” Yanofsky explained. “That’s the whole point of the letter (to the paper), because these guys, including comments on your website, were implying that I had lost interest in being superintendent. That’s a hundred percent wrong. I told you before, I’m not just telling you now.
“I told you that when you printed Lewis Trippett’s letter, how wrong it was. And you kept on printing that. I don’t understand why you continue to print things that are just not true. You’re printing stuff that has inaccuracies and I’ve told you they are inaccurate and you keep on printing them.”
We asked what was inaccurate about Monday’s article
Yanofsky kept on talking: “Basically it reinforces this notion that I was ambivalent about continuing as superintendent, in doing the job of superintendent, that I had lost interest. That’s what these two board members (Sules and Geiger) have been saying. And I put up with it during the debate.
“I didn’t say anything when you printed Geiger’s comment about the CEO who’s lost interest in the job. But, when they say it to the Journal News Editorial Board, and it gets printed all over Westchester County I felt I had to respond to protect my reputation. All of that you could have known if you had given me a phone call before you printed this stuff.”
WPCNR asked why he had not made this clear a number of months ago.
Yanofsky said, “Because I didn’t have to say it. I wasn’t going to respond to Trippett. Trippett’s letter was so vicious, so full of inaccuracies, I wasn’t going to respond to it, because I thought it was all over. Until these guys (Sules and Geiger) started making a campaign issue out of it.”
Not the first time ambivalence brought up.
WPCNR pointed out this was not the first time he has been portrayed as being ambivalent about continuing. Yanofsky again said, “No. No. No. What is ambivalent. That’s the point, John. Listen to me. What is ambivalent what I said, what I meant, what I clarified was that my ambivalence was in continuing the role vis-à-vis the board, not that I was ambivalent about serving as superintendent. That’s what the letter to the paper said. That’s a distinction that’s critical. Read the letter over. I don’t know how to make it any clearer.”
WPCNR asked Dr. Yanofsky, “Did you say you did not want to work with them (the Board) any more?”
Yanofsky said, “Did I say that? I said I was ambivalent. That’s exactly the word I used.”
WPCNR asked if he told them he was willing to come back for a period of about two years or so:
“It never got to a point where we talked length of term,” Yanofsky confirmed. “John, you’ve got stuff up there that’s just wrong that misses the whole point of the letter that was attempted to be very explicit. Read the letter over. I tried to make a distinction because I was getting criticized publicly based on the implication I had no longer cared about the district, that I had lost my interest in the district, there’s not a shred of evidence that I have (lost interest). I’m doing everything I ever did before and probably a little bit more now that we start running out of time.”
WPCNR Not Fair.
“By printing this thing you reinforce all the wrong messages. It’s just not fair journalism.” Yanofsky charged. “You’ve only printed their side. You’ve distorted the public’s understanding of the issues. Because you didn’t talk to me. I would hope that if you talked to me you would have written something different.”
Not contrived to influence election.
“The implication of what they said to you, and this is perhaps the most damaging, that this was all part of a contrived strategy to influence the election. I was on your television program for a half an hour the other day, and if I wanted to influence the election, I would have said something at that time, and I would have had a television audience that would have heard it. I stayed away from it. I had absolutely no intention of having any role in this election whatsoever, until I started reading about what they were saying about me. I would not allow my reputation to be damaged because two people want to get reelected.”
Why he did not set the record straight in December.
WPCNR asked why Dr. Yanofsky didn’t call them on this last December when Mr. Trippett had said the exact same thing: “Because they said it and it was over. I mean, I don’t want this thing to last all year.”
WPCNR asked why he would write the letter to the Journal-News at this time: “Because they were saying publicly that I had lost interest in the district that I didn’t care about the district. That’s the implication of what they were saying. I didn’t want to go out having people think that. I’ve invested twenty years in this district, more than both of them combined. I thought it was over. They made a campaign issue out of it.”
In wrapping up our conversation, Dr. Yanofsky said, “The point is there is an important distinction to be made. The important distinction is if you focus on the word ambivalence, that my ambivalence, as this letter says so clearly, was about a relationship with the Board, not about the substantive role I perform day-to-day as superintendent. I never was disinterested in that. I never lost energy. I never lost enthusiasm. If anybody claims otherwise I’d like to hear the shred of evidence behind that.”
Board’s Mind Made Up?
WPCNR asked Dr. Yanofsky, if when he sat down with Board members to discuss his status, if he felt their minds were made up that they didn’t want him. Yanofsky said, “No. I felt that some of their minds were.”
“I don’t want to rehash all that. There’s no useful purpose. All I want is my reputation not be damaged because a couple of people want to get reelected, that’s why I wrote this letter. I wrote it reluctantly. I was not prepared to write it. What they said to you and which you repeated was the implication that I did this deliberately to swing an election, which is absolutely irresponsible.”
Why he wrote when he did.
WPCNR asked him why he wouldn’t hold off writing the letter until after today’s election.
Yanofsky said, “Why? Because it was off to an editorial that was printed a few days ago. First, I had no idea when this letter would be printed. I wrote it in response to an editorial because they quoted in the editorial the fact that the two candidates said I was ambivalent about staying on the job, and I wanted to distinguish between the two very different kinds of meanings, one of which is true, the other which is not.”
WPCNR had one last question, we presented to him that by telling the board he was ambivalent about working with them, but wanted to do the superintendent’s job, that he was presenting the board with a dilemma, which was a subtle way of saying he was not interested in the job. WPCNR asked, “That says you were not interested in the job. The letter in the paper leads (the reader) to believe you never said you were ambivalent, while your letter (of February 20, 2001) said you were ambivalent. You can’t be ambivalent about one thing and be pro about the other thing. You either like the whole package (Board and the Superintendent’s job) or you don’t.”
Yanofsky took exception to my characterization of the Board’s dilemma: “Think about what you just said. It makes no sense. I was ambivalent about continuing a relationship with the board that was getting worse, I was not ambivalent about performing the responsibilities of running this district. That’s a very clear distinction. It’s not a whole package. It’s a very separable package.”