When will the A.B.C. get it? Their work IS appreciated, but, it IS only advisory..Please read the series of emails on this and FOI 1

From: Gale Toensing
To: Marshall Miles
Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Body with the Power to Act is the Region 1 Board of Education; The ABC Committee is Advisory Only

The 7000 Series is a policy shared among the six elementary schools and the high school. The policy says on page 4, under the heading “Governing Body”:
“The governing body of the Regional School Services Center [wrongly refered to as “central office”] is the Regional School District Number 1 Board of Education (the “Regional Board”), in accordance with Section 2 of Special Act 405 of the 1959 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. The Regional Board shall receive and may act on the recommendation of the All Board Chairs (ABC) Committee, an advisory committee to the Regional Board, in all matters affecting the Regional School Services Center.” The Series then goes on to define what “all matters affecting the Regional School Services Center” means.

What is so hard to understand about being an advisory board that can only make recommendations, but cannot act? That means it can only pass motions “to recommend” actions to the Regional Board. It cannot pass motions that are actions, such as the motion it passed on June 10 to refer a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint to the Regional Board’s attorney — a “decision,” by the way, that is totally questionable since the board attorney has already reviewed the complaint and discussed it with both the ABC Committee chairwoman and the superintendent on multiple occasions going back as far as March, according to legal bills for March and April. Why would they try to pass this motion off as a new “decision” when they’ve already referred the complaint to the attorney — without an ABC recommendation to the board or board approval? (I use the ironic quotation marks because, again, the ABC Committee cannot make decisions to act, they can only recommend.) These actions and expenditures are unauthorized and basically legally questionable. This is taxpayer money that is being spent without authorization by the body with the power to act — the Region 1 Board of Education. And it’s not the first time it’s happened.

Full disclosure: I filed the FOI complaint against the ABC Committee chairwoman for denying me access to documents relating to the superintendent’s evaluation. I asked the FOI Commission to determine if the denial of these documents is a violation of the public access law. Members of both the Regional Board and the ABC Committee have been repeating — as if in an echo chamber — that “45 board members throughout the district” gave the superintendent rave reviews. Maybe they did, but if so, why the secrecy? Why deny access to the documents? The fact that I’ve exercised my civic right to file an FOIA complaint seems to have generated some animosity. That’s unfortunate. I didn’t agree with Ronald Reagan about much, but I did like his statement, “Trust, but verify.”

So below is an email I sent to the superintendent regarding the ABC vote and proper procedure, a response from an ABC member, and a response to the ABC member’s response.

~~ Gale Courey Toensing

PS I offer this definition of ‘conflict of interest’ from the online legal dictionary at http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/conflict+of+interest:
Conflict of interest: A term used to describe the situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Gale Toensing
Date: Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Subject: ABC Committee vote
To: Patricia Chamberlain, Sam Herrick , Philip Hart , Jonathan MOORE , Marilyn Yerks , “W. Scooter Tedder” , Laura Freund
Cc: Pat Mechare , Lou Timolat , Ross GRANNAN , Rebecca HURLBURT , Brian Bartram , Electra TORTORELLA, Paul Cortese , Dolores Perotti , Gary Brochu abc_blocks

Patricia

Last night the ABC Committee voted — as if it had the authority to do so — to refer a Freedom of Information Act complaint to Gary Brochu, the board attorney for the Region 1 Board of Education. As you should know — since it’s been said repeatedly over the past several years — and should have communicated to the ABC Committee members, the ABC Committee is an advisory committee of the Region 1 Board of Education with advisory power only. It does not have the authority to act; it can only make recommendations to the Region 1 Board of Education. That means you should take no action regarding the ABC Committee’s vote to forward the FOIA issue to Gary Brochu. The ABC Committee should forward its request to the Region 1 Board of Education as a recommendation for action. To do otherwise is a violation of the region’s commonly shared 7000 series and of the statutory law that requires and authorizes only the Region 1 Board of Education to decide and act on such matters.

Thank you.

Gale

—– Original Message —–
From: Ross Grannan
To: Gale Toensing
Cc: Patricia Chamberlain ; Sam Herrick ; Philip Hart ; Jonathan MOORE ; Marilyn Yerks ; W. Scooter Tedder ; Laura Freund ; Gale C. Toensing ; Pat Mechare ; Lou Timolat ; Rebecca HURLBURT ; Brian Bartram ; Electra TORTORELLA ; Paul Cortese ; Dolores Perotti ; Gary Brochu
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 1:08 PM
Subject: Re: ABC Committee vote

Is this email as a private citizen or Region One representative from Town of Canaan?

Ross Grannan

Sent from my iPhone

—– Original Message —–
From: Ross Grannan
To: Gale Toensing
Cc: Patricia Chamberlain ; Sam Herrick ; Philip Hart ; Jonathan MOORE ; Marilyn Yerks ; W. Scooter Tedder ; Laura Freund ; Gale C. Toensing ; Pat Mechare ; Lou Timolat ; Rebecca HURLBURT ; Brian Bartram ; Electra TORTORELLA ; Paul Cortese ; Dolores Perotti ; Gary Brochu
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: ABC Committee vote

In either case Gail you do not speak for the regional board and you have a conflict of interest since you filed the FOI complaint as a private citizen, you must recuse yourself from any further communication or action.

Ross Grannan

Sent from my iPhone

—– Original Message —–
From: Lou Timolat
To: Gale Toensing ; Pat Mechare
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 5:59 PM
Subject: Fwd: ABC Committee vote

Gale, Pat:

I respectfully disagree with Ross’s “conflict of interest” assertion.

I argue that Gale’s personal interest in the general application of the FOI act, her official appointment as the Falls Village liaison to the FOI Commission, and her duty as an officer of the district board to know that the district governing board and its appendages obey the law, including the FOI Act are not in conflict. Rather, the respective interests (personal and public policy) are mutually, properly, and beneficially complementary. For Gale to “recuse” herself per Ross’s demand would be for her to abrogate her sworn duty and obligation.

Louis

Simple Question, Simple Answer…No, It’s Not That Simple… 1

Simple question asked at last night Region One Board budget hearing…

Question to Mr. Moore(Region One Chair):

Why is it that the Region has a weighted vote on the board and not during a region wide budget vote…

Answer: I don’t know….

Answer: Region One has a weighted vote for representatives that is based on the number of students in that particular town in a given school year, the region was set up by an act of the Connecticut Legislature….

In an election in America…the rule…one person, one vote.

’nuff saidmoore

Another Letter To The Editor on Misinformation on Region One Reply

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

LETTER ON REGION 1 CONFLICT WAS FULL OF MISINFORMATION

The magnitude of the misinformation, or even disinformation, of John Mauer’s May 31 letter regarding the request of the Region 1 Board of Education to the superintendent, assistant superintendent and business manager to consider reopening contract negotiations, requires immediate correction.

Mr. Mauer claimed the Region 1 board didn’t have the authority to take such action because the All Boards Committee had that authority.

The All Boards Committee is a committee of the chairmen of the local boards of education established by the Region 1 Board of Education. To state that a committee of the Region 1 board has such authority is utter nonsense.

While the committee might have been given certain tasks to carry out through a series of policies, it has absolutely no legal authority or power to act, only to recommend. The statutes reserve action for the Board of Education.

In fact, there is no provision for the Board of Education delegating its statutory requirements to a committee. No one should be under the mistaken impression that what Mr. Mauer has stated regarding the authority of the All Boards Committee vs. the authority of the Region 1 Board of Education is accurate. It’s not.

Mr. Mauer also mentions the lawsuit filed against Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain and insists any “responsible board should stand behind her (the superintendent) while the legal process plays out;” and that because the board “did not do so demonstrates a complete lack of integrity.” He then proceeded to claim the “board failed its test of moral character.”

I am no fan of most of the actions of the majority of this Board of Education, but Mr. Mauer’s assessment is not only unreasonable, but also dangerous.

I can’t imagine the board’s attorney wouldn’t recommend complete neutrality and non-involvement from the board as this suit works it way through the judicial system. To do what Mr. Mauer suggests, it seems to me, would cause the plaintiff to consider including the board as a defendant in the action, putting it in an untenable and likely costly position.

Further, it is the actions of all members of the Board of Education that determine its reputation, so it would only seem reasonable that Mr. Mauer should call for the resignations of all members rather than targeting just one.

Lastly, Mr. Mauer seems to delight in slamming board member Gale C. Toensing at every turn, but he really should check the minutes of the meeting because it wasn’t Mrs. Toensing who made the motion to ask the administrators to consider reopening their contracts; it was Marilyn Yerks. That is not to say it should make a bit of difference who made this very reasonable motion.

Patricia Allyn Mechare

Falls Village

Choo K. Singer’s Letter To The Editor Republican-American Response to John Mauer Reply

Dear Editor of the Republican American, Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This is in response to John Mauer’s recent letter to you regarding” Region One.” Mr. Mauer in his screed clearly demonstrates his ignorance of the facts surrounding Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain’s incompetence and abuse of power. Many citizens in the community including myself with solid credentials have made it clear that they can no longer allow the education of our students being jeopardized by an administration fraught with controversy.

In this questionable environment, why is Superintendent Chamberlain being rewarded with the three-year contract plus 2% pay increase each year? What does John Mauer know about how Superintendent Chamberlain runs the Region One? What does All Board Chair (ABC) committee know about how the Superintendent manages the personnel of schools/offices other than the one-sided report they receive directly from the Superintendent?

As former Region One Assistant Business Manager, who handled the funds accounting, investments, employee payroll and benefits for over nineteen years, I found this Superintendent completely lacking the skills and knowledge in business administration that her predecessors had. Furthermore, I often found her manipulating or bypassing proper procedures that did not serve her personal interest. Try to imagine this Superintendent negotiating eleven different union contracts. She didn’t have a clue. That’s why the school attorney had to spend so many hours during the contracts negotiating seasons when I was employed.

Also, I would like to point out to Mr. Mauer that the governing body of ”Region One” is the Region One Board of Education not ABC committee. As he himself mentioned, ABC is a committee not a Board of Education and therefore, a committee cannot be the governing body of a public school system. “Region One”, consists of three components, Housatonic Valley Regional High School; the Special Education Division of the six member town elementary schools plus the High School; and the Administration. The cost of the Administration is included in the Region One budget and therefore, Region One Board of Education is the employer who pays the Administrators and has the authority to negotiate their contracts, not ABC Committee.

Regarding Lucille Paige’s lawsuit against Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain, I believe that the Board should remain impartial and let the legal justice system play out its course. Remember in this case both the defendant and plaintiff are the employees of Region One. It is premature for anyone to take the side at this point and say that the Region One Board of Education should” firmly defend the Superintendent,” as if Lucille Paige’s allegations are groundless. Nobody knows the truth yet! Meantime, Mr. Mauer’s concerns should be our tax paying community who are footing excessive legal bills defending this misled Administration.

Sincerely,

Signed by Choo K. Singer

Sharon Resident/Region One Assistant Business Manager, Sept. 1991-Nov. 2010

From This Mornings Republican-American….. Reply

Region 1 parents worried

School budget has yet to be passed

BY LYNN MELLIS WORTHINGTON

Two Kent parents told the lo­cal Board of Education last week that they were concerned about the Region 1 district budget, which has been rejected in two referendums, and about the quali­ty of the six-town district’s regional high school.

A hearing on the proposed $14.7 mil­lion Region 1 budget for 2013-2014 will be held at 7:30 p.m. today at Room 133 of Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village.

Kent voters have sent mixed signals on the Region 1 budget. In the May 7 ref­erendum, Kent voted 59-43 in favor; on May 30 it voted 67-45 against. The third budget vote will be June 25.

Parent Athenaid Dallet told the Kent school board Thursday that parents are “voting with their feet” and making choices not to send their children to the regional high school. Without naming names, she said she knew families of graduating eighth-graders who plan to move to other towns, attempt home schooling or send their children to private school.

Of the 22 graduating eighth-graders this year, only 12 plan to attend Housatonic in the fall, Principal Matthew Harnett said. The high school has 413 students this year.

Dallet said two of the 22 could attend one of the town’s three private schools — Kent, Marvelwood and South Kent — tuition-free because their parents work there. She said two students were accepted at private schools, but the families can’t afford it and are “sending them to Housy with heavy hearts.”

She asked the Kent board to look into the declining enrollment. In the past, board members have concluded that the low enrollment rate at the regional high school has to do with the number of students whose parents work at private schools. The high school has tried to counter this decline by inviting seventh- graders and their parents to the annual open house. The principal has also made several visits to the local elementary school to meet with parents.

Dallet voted against the regional budget both times. She would like to see both the superintendent and assistant superintendent dismissed. She also objected to cutting summer work for the librarian and the plan to cut 4.4 teachers, saying that it adds to the poor perception of the high school.

Board Chairman Paul Cortese said 45 board of education members from the various towns in the region evaluated Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain, who received favorable comments this year.

Parent Fran Besmer told the local board Thursday that six of her children have graduated from Housatonic Valley, where she said there is “considerable discontent.”

“The deficiencies are glaring,” said Besmer, who is a former representative to the Region 1 Board of Education. “There is a huge disconnect in the central office between the student experience and the product that is being delivered.”

A.B.C. votes NOT to open administrative contracts at their meeting June 10 Reply

The purely advisory A.B.C. voted this evening NOT to re-open the administrative contracts

From The Republican-American

Re­gion 1’s All Board Chairman Committee voted Monday against asking the superin­tendent, assistant superinten­dent and business manager to reconsider the three-year contracts that give them 2 percent raises in each of those three years.
After the Region 1 Board of Education’s budget proposal for 2013-14 was rejected in two referendums, board members voted to ask the three top administrators to reopen their contracts in re­sponse to taxpayers’ con­cerns.
The board referred the is­sue to the committee, an advi­sory group made up of the chairmen of the region’s sev­en school boards.
That group makes recom­mendations to the board on contract issues.
During the meeting, which followed an executive ses­sion, Kent Chairman Paul Cortese said that because the committee negotiates the contract with the administra­tors, it should be the body to ask to have them reopened. The motion to do so was de­feated unanimously.
The vote came on the eve of today’s budget hearing at 7:30 p.m. in Room 133 of Housatonic Valley Regional High School, during which the board will seek comments from taxpayers on their rea­sons for turning down the budget.