Former Mount Vernon City School Trustee Cynthia Turnquest-Jones has officially stepped down for the School Board effectively, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. At the Tuesday, June 21st School Board meeting Turnquest-Jones read in the record her statement for the residents of Mount Vernon to explain her reasons for stepping down. In the statement Turnquest-Jones cites, “a cycle of dysfunction,” “the abuse of creating a false narrative has plagued our city,” and “a constant syndrome of chaos and hoodwinking the people,” as reasons that led to her stepping down.
During the meeting whether intentional or due to technical difficulties, the sound on the live stream was muted and Ms. Turnquest-Jones’ comments could not be heard by the public. We received several calls to see if we knew anything about the loss in sound when Turnquest-Jones spoke and asking if Black Westchester had recorded the meeting. We were not present and did not record the meeting, but we have the next best thing, BW obtained a printout of Cynthia’s statement, which we are sharing below in its entirety.
Dear Mount Vernon City School District,
What inspired me to want to become a School Board Trustee is the passion I have as an Educator, Parent,
Citizen of Mount Vernon, and Activist. The conception was that I would be a part of shaping lifelong learners in the educational sector as we aim to increase student achievement, Parent involvement and fellow educators’ passions. Being involved in academic conversations for the parents and educators was satisfying. Aligning the budget to meet the need of the district and monitoring the expedition was a learning experience.
There is an organic relationship that forms when supporting our Young Learners and working side-by-side
with both the educators and parents. The bottom line is that we are on the road to raising lifelong learners which I love.
Nonetheless, sometimes it is best to walk away when the journey becomes clear that the mission is not for the increase of student achievement, Parent involvement and fellow educators’ passions. There is an ulterior-motive and ax-to-grind culture which makes the children of Mount Vernon sacrificial lamb. The abuse of creating a false narrative has plagued our city. The desire is for no one to not see in-between the lines.
Creating a constant syndrome of chaos and hoodwinking the people. Painting a picture that the Board is not doing their task, sharing of personal information, along with wildfire gossip, hearsay, tittle-tattle meshed with the word on the street. Giving individuals heads up about specific Trustees before being on the Board all for that Trustee(s) to be victimized without a chance. A syndrome that has worked very well. Like many disorders, chaos syndrome is self-reinforcing. It causes dysfunction, which fuels public anger, which incites disruption, which causes yet more dysfunction. The cycle of trauma is amazing to observe.
I was elected to serve not to be bashed, not to bash, not to be abused, not to abuse, or my heart set on fire. We cannot continue this definition of insanity where the bashing of the character of an individual is used for the benefit of one’s tally and continued mayhem to distract the good people of Mount Vernon.
I am very enthusiastic about the experience I can now use to empower our Young Learners. I will continue as an Activist in Mount Vernon. Effective, Tuesday, June 7, 2022, is my last day as a School Board Trustee in the Mount Vernon City School District. I dropped my iPad off to the district at 6:11am this morning and expect all communications to be disconnected. If there is anything I need to do, please contact me via personal email or by snail mail.
Educationally, Cynthia Turnquest-Jones
On May 17, 2022, the Mount Vernon City School District held a school board election. Four seats were available; the first three were for a 3-year appointment, and the fourth was for a one-year appointment. Trustee Melissa Muñoz Patterson won the 4th seat to fill the remaining term of former Trustee Brenda L. Crump who stepped down for personal reasons, but on June 7, Trustee Muñoz Patterson declined to serve for the upcoming year.
At the June 21st board meeting, Melissa Muñoz Patterson also read her statement in the record which you can also read below.
For the past almost four years, I have had the honor of serving the Mount Vernon community as a trustee for the Mount Vernon City School District. However, I will not be taking the one-year board seat.
Since the evening of May 17th, the board and the district have become more fractured and chaotic. In the best interest to be productive it can’t go on this way. The worst thing that could happen is that board or board/public dynamics district from the needed progress being made. I won’t be another voice in the chaos. Therefore, I feel it’s in the best interest of the district that I step down at the end of my current term. I thank everyone who supported me.
So now that’s two trustees who have stepped down citing dysfunction as reasons for stepping down. Which brings me back to my editorial, “Divided We Stand” where I asked the question, is there one institution in this city that is running smoothly, without dysfunction, finger-pointing, scandal, corruption, or alleged corruption, calls for federal intervention, division, lawsuits, and even a few federal investigations and indictments.
Without rehashing all of that – you can read my words in the November 5, 2021, editorial – where do we go from here. According to New York State School Board Association, Mount Vernon Board Trustees have four things they could do. 1 – Have an election that might cost between 40-50 thousand dollars. 2 – Leave these positions open until the next election. 3- Appoint two people to fill the open positions or 4 – fill these seats with the next highest vote winner, Warren Mitchell, and Marc Stukey.
During the Tuesday, June 7th School Board meeting, new installed President of the United Black Clergy of Westchester Rev. Dr. Stephen Pogue questions if the school board has a code of conduct and if not implores the board to create one. He sums up the level of dysfunction and behavior in leadership the two aforementioned former trustees describe as reason for them stepping down.
“I stand before you today because the nation is at a crisis, everywhere you look there are crisis. Most of the crisis are not unique to a particular town or a particular city but I’m afraid we have a particular crisis that is unique to us, that is behavior in leadership. It is so important that we as leaders model the behavior that we want to see everyone follow. It’s so important that our elected official model the behavior those who elected them expect them to have. So, it concerns me greatly that we have trustees that are not behaving properly. But then we have an expectation that students are going to behave properly. We have an expectation that what we elected you to do is to have proper behavior not just in classrooms and not just in leadership positions in schools but leadership on this board… If there is a code of conduct, I suggest that the code of conduct be printed and published on the district website, where everyone can see what the code of conduct is. In addition to that to make sure there’s some bite to the code of conduct. That is someone breaks that code of conduct, the people who elected them should be able to hold them accountable if they break that code of conduct. I would suggest to this board of trustees that you create one if you don’t have a code of conduct. And if you do review it with the United Black Clergy and the community so we can have a real code of conduct that everyone who runs for school can understand what we expect of them and what that code of conduct is… that’s basic, we should never have to worry about our trustees not behaving properly. We should never have to worry about trustees cursing our other trustees, we should never have to worry about infighting, because when infighting becomes a problem now you can’t do what we elected you to do. And that is to run our schools… we can’t expect it at the principal level, we can’t expect it in the classroom, if we don’t expect it from you…”
Black Westchester has gotten plenty of calls and emails about one trustee or group of trustees or another. We are not here to single out any trustees in particular but to say we the residents or Mount Vernon demand better. We need you all collectively to do better. I know I will get calls from certain trustees or their representatives asking me if I am talking about them. There is a saying if you throw a rock at a pack of dogs the one who screams is the one you hit. But to clarify this is to all the trustees and persons of leaderships in our school district.
We are losing good people. I personally have seen Cynthia Turnquest-Jones advocate for our youth and champion childhood literacy. She has been a lifelong educator, and I’m sorry to lose people who care about our children like Cynthia, like Brenda L. Crump who stepped down and others. We need all who are elected to serve on the school board to work together, check their egos at the door and do the work to better our school district. Not only because we expect that of you as the ones who voted you in, but because our children deserve better.
A lot of our leaders are quick to talk about how our youth are out of control, where do you think they get it from? We cannot expect them to stop gangbanging when our leaders are adult gangbanging trying to politically decapitate each other. This is bigger than Cynthia and Melissa stepping down as Rev. Pogue stated we have a problem of the behavior of those in leadership position and not just on our school board!
I end this with what I said in the previous editorial, and I say this out of love for my city, there isn’t one institution in this city that is running properly, without dysfunction, and everyone needs to do better!!! It’s time for some REAL TALK!!!
Look for interview with Cynthia Turnquest-Jones this Sunday, June 26th at 6PM.