BRATTLEBORO — A contentious exchange over coming into executive session was addressed by Windham Southeast School District Board President Kelly Young, who called on the board to better understand the rules of procedure and address a potential violation of open meeting law by raising an issue in public.
As a motion was moved for the board to begin its third executive meeting at its August 9 meeting, board member Michelle Luetjen Green raised a point of order. It’s “the official way council members can protest a motion and it’s part of Robert’s rules, which Vermont law requires to call a meeting,” Young said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“Robert’s Rules have been around for over 140 years and ensure meetings run smoothly and also ensure that every member has a voice,” she said.
Young recounted how Green considered the motion to be incorrect and that the board lacked the power to go into executive session. Green believed the council should state more specific conclusions before going into executive session. She called a second point of order when board member Liz Adams began shouting her name, which was not mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting.
BRATTLEBORO – Members of the Windham Southeast School District Board are at odds over how…
Green and Paul Smith, curriculum coordinator at the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, also pointed out that the board did not vote to go into executive session after the trade. Green, Young, and Adams had become argumentative over Green’s assertion.
“First, it’s possible, in the chaos of the moment, that the board didn’t actually meet in executive session,” Young said Tuesday. She also spoke with an attorney and said that if the board is found to have violated the Open Meetings Act, “I think that would be remedied by the board’s discussion of board formations.”
Later in Tuesday’s meeting, when the board discussed trainings in public session, Young said the executive session that caused contention was about “something that happened before VSBA.” [Vermont School Boards Association] coaching.”
“I can’t get into what actually happened, but the board had to figure out how they were going to move forward with that involvement and training,” she said.
Young called the agenda for the Aug. 9 meeting “questionable.” However, she noted that board members have the opportunity before the meeting to raise concerns since agendas are emailed 48 hours in advance.
“But there was also an incorrect assumption about a topic on the agenda,” she said.
Green had mistakenly thought that the council was going to discuss council formations which should have been a topic for the South East Windham Supervisory Syndicate Council to address. She chairs the supervisory board. The district is part of the supervisory union.
Continuing protests after a president’s settlement is a violation of Robert’s rules of procedure, Young said.
Under Robert’s rules, an appeal is a procedure that allows two council members who disagree with the decision to force a vote on it. A call should be made immediately.
Young said the VSBA urges board members to “personally reach out to other members to resolve questions and issues, and not do so at a board meeting.”
“It saves us all time because clarification is easier and more efficient offline,” she said. “It’s a waste of time. It’s a disruption. It prevents the council from doing its job. It also looks like a deliberate attempt to undermine the president.”
Young said Green may not have understood Robert’s rules or the bad precedent set when council members broke those rules.
“I regret not having considered this serious possibility and assure the board that I will do my best to assume a lack of knowledge and try to review Robert’s rules in the future if board members are out of service,” Young said. “However, I also expect board members to model lifelong learning and also recognize that I will follow that as well and enhance their parliamentary skills as a role model for our students.”
Young said she has forwarded several resources on Robert’s Rules of Procedure to all board members for review until a suitable training opportunity can be identified. Later, the council voted unanimously to purchase books on Robert’s rules for council members.
Smith had previously told the reformer he thought the swap had become controversial “because there are very different interpretations” of the law. He wanted the district and union supervisory boards to get legal advice on the proper procedures for going into executive session in order to have better clarity on the matter.
“I think it’s really everyone coming to a common understanding of what the law says,” he said.
Green previously told the reformer that she thinks “it’s fair and reasonable to explain to the public why you’re going into executive session.” For contracts, she said, the board recently learned it had to specify a reason for going to executive session.
“Sometimes it’s easy,” she says, like when a discussion requires confidentiality for an employee. “Other subjects are not so simple.”
Following the open meeting law is “part of our ethics,” Green said.
“It’s there for proper control and balance, and it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “Nobody [on the board] would intentionally violate the Open Meetings Act, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for growth and understanding.