Here is my email back to the BOE chairman after he tried to tell me that me asking to meet with him was illegal and therefore refusing to meet with me. So here is my reply. Would have come out sounding much better if I could have said it in person, but oh well:
Thank you for the information. Is there somewhere online perhaps where the by laws are which I can see just for future reference? I also was not really suggesting meeting with the board informally, but with meeting with another human being over coffee just like I might do if I met someone in a grocery store and offered to meet over coffee. I am having a meeting with Marilyn and totally understand what you are saying but I have to think that there is some way to ask questions that are not allowed to be asked at special meetings. For instance, if I wanted to bring up with the board the region’s bullying policy (which I do), how would I do so? I believe there has to be some way to speak to not only one person who has only one vote about something very substantial otherwise it is a very flawed system and is certainly not the way other BOE are run. If you would please apprise me as to how I would go about doing this, I would gratefully appreciate that.
I do wish you would understand that I am in no way, nor have I ever been, trying to say that the BOE job is easy, I am just frustrated because it is becoming increasingly apparent that things are being done to make sure that what the public says doesn’t matter. I feel it would be incredibly important to have a way for community members to speak freely with the board, not pertaining to just the budget, so that it doesn’t become a situation where I can only speak to my town representative, but she only has one vote, while other board members do not take the time to listen to their employers and speak their own minds. This to me seems like a very unproductive way to do things and it is outrageous that it seems that there are only two board members who are really listening and realizing that it is not at all about the number but instead is about the ethics behind everything. This entire situation is going to just continue to be awful for everyone involved as the budget will get voted down again. The board is clearly frustrated, the public is frustrated and it is an all around bad situation. When those votes come in each time, while board members and administrators are calling the voters dumb and saying that we don’t know what we are doing, the voters are ten times more frustrated that their voices are not being heard. All we are ever taught in school is that you must speak your mind if you want change to happen, and no, it doesn’t always work, but in a small matter like a budget, it should not be that the people who are making choices that will change the lives of all past, current and future students as well as the staff members and teachers, are not listening and understanding what is best. If the board members keep saying that the voters don’t know what we are talking about, then please, tell us, because we aren’t getting any answers and that is just wrong. Knowing that in just one year my little cousins will be coming to HVRHS one year after the other, and knowing the hostile environment in the high school, in the central office, on the board and between the community and the board, makes me feel as though they should not go to HVRHS. I wish that the board, the next special meeting, would actually listen to what people are saying, not come into the meeting already knowing what they are going to do, or having certain board members already have met with other board members in an informal meeting, but to come with open minds and LISTEN and after listening, then decide, for yourselves, not for anyone else, but decide what you think is actually best for the students and everyone else involved.
I would also just like to mention to the board that at HVRHS.org, there is a calendar with the list of events during the school year, and that as board members who again, make decisions that change the students lives, it, to me, is your responsibility to be at school events. I understand having a conflict here or there, but the fact that I came from Boston several times throughout the school year to support the students, and at most events I saw not one single board member. That is a disgrace. At the 2013 Senior Awards Ceremony, did you know that the largest amount of scholarships was given out to “your” seniors? Over $300,000 was given out, and I did not see a single board member at that assembly.
Once last unrelated question. On the board is there someone who is in charge of Parliamentary Procedure? I know there is a person in charge of the finances and someone goes to takes notes, like a secretary does, but is there someone to make sure that the Parliamentary procedure is correct? My FFA officer, Robert’s Rules of Order mind thinking.
Thank you again for your consideration and I am sure that we will all meet again in the library in a month or so.
Jonathan Moore(left), John Mauer (center)
and Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain (right)
walked to the high school library for the Region
1 Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, July 10
after apparently holding a meeting-before-the-meeting
in the superintendent’s office. Meetings before
meetings are allegedly often held there with the
board members who usually vote in a
block majority — the chairman from Kent and the
representatives from North Canaan and Cornwall.
Wouldn’t that be an illegal meeting according
to the Freedom of Information Act?
How is this for arrogance….The Region One Board will send the exact same budget back to the taxpayers again..a budget that was defeated in all six towns. Watch the video, Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” has nothing on the Region One Board.
Click link below to watch meeting
Has there been a coup in Region 1?
The public needs to take back the Region 1 Board of Education
By Gale Courey Toensing
Ruth Epstein’s story and comments on the Region One Report at http://bit.ly/16QT9Lv have taken the Region 1 story a giant step forward.
It is becoming increasingly clear with every new story that the Region 1 Board of Education — the body with the statutory power to act on behalf of the towns it represents – has been locked out of the decision-making process by the board chairman and majority in collaboration with the top two administrators.
Below is a series of four emails that would normally not see the light of day (because no one has asked for them) — but they are public documents and I’m making them public because even though the public proved it has a pretty good idea of what’s going on by voting down the budget three times, it’s time to shine an even brighter light on what the board leadership and the top administrators are doing with taxpayer money and the decisions they are making behind closed doors. The final straw prompting this posting was Chairman Jonathan Moore telling the board on July 2 (bottom email) that “there is no action [in the lawsuit] to update” – a clear lie given Ruth Epstein’s revelation that Lucille Paige’s administrative leave has been extended. Thank goodness for our still independent media!
These emails and Ruth Epstein’s story leave me with these enduring questions:
• Since Lucille Paige’s administrative leave and its extension were never presented to the board of education, who agreed to put Lucille Paige on administrative leave and who authorized its extension?
• Who authorized the payment of Lucille Paige’s full salary, benefits and board clerk stipend while she’s on leave?
• Who signed the inevitable documents memorializing the agreement for Lucille Paige’s leave until June 30 and its extension until October 1?
• If the documents were signed on behalf of the Board of Education without board knowledge and approval does that void them as unauthorized or even fraudulent? (To be clear, this is not about the merits of the leave; it’s about the board’s legal authority being improperly – perhaps illegally — taken over.)
• What other legal documents have been signed without board knowledge or authorization?
These unauthorized actions by a board chairman acting unilaterally, as did his predecessor, with the support of two other board members who unquestioningly support the administrators, may put the board and the school district in a vulnerable situation legally especially with one lawsuit already pending. The taxpayers and citizens of the region may have to do more than vote the budget down; they may have to create their own virtual Tahrir Square here in Region 1 in order to take back their school board.
—– Original Message —–
From: Gale Toensing
To: Phil Hart(Reg1) ; Scooter Tedder ; Marilyn Yerks ; Marilyn Yerks ; Laura Freund ; Jonathan Moore
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 9:56 PM
Subject: Administrative leave
I got your phone message from Friday saying that Lucille Paige has been put on administrative leave. Who made the decision to put Lucille Paige on administrative leave? Who decided that she should go on administrative leave rather than the superintendent, who is being sued? Even if Lucille Paige agreed to the leave, this could give the appearance that the board is taking sides in the litigation, which we are not supposed to do.
The decision to put an employee on administrative leave is one for the board to make, not for you or any individual to make. This administrative leave should have been a suggestion for the board to consider. It should have been discussed by the board and ultimately determined by the board. You have once again exceeded your authority by acting alone and leaving the board out of the decision-making process, and by doing so you have deprived every town in the regional school district of its right to equal representation and participation. It is simply not acceptable for you to continue to act unilaterally in this way.
(The ellipses represent a redundant section that I redacted):
—– Original Message —–
From: Gale Toensing
To: Jonathan Moore ; Laura Freund ; Marilyn Yerks ; Scooter Tedder ; Phil Hart(Reg1)
Sent: Monday, May 20, 2013 12:33 PM
Subject: Re: Administrative leave
I just received a phone call from Phil Hart in response to my email below [my email above of May 19]. In essence, this was the conversation:
He said that I have to stop doing what I’m doing — meaning stop expressing my opinion and writing emails.
He said it wasn’t his decision to put Lucille Paige on administrative leave, that it was an arrangment made by the lawyers and that Lucille Paige had agreed to it. I said regardless of whether Lucille Paige had agreed to it, the proposal to put her on administrative leave was a decision for the board to make, not him or laywers, and it should have come to us.
He said Lucille Paige was being paid her salary and also her board clerk stipend. I said then it was especially important for the board to discuss and approve the leave since it’s an expenditure and that he had exceeded his authority by making the decision without the board.
He said again that he didn’t make the deicison, that it was an administrative decision, and that only the administration could put somone on administrative leave. I asked what he meant by “an administrative decision” and he replied the superintendent. I said the superintendent does not have the authority in any case to put anybody on administravive leave without board approval but especially in this case when she is the subject of the lawsuit and the person put on administrative leave is the person suing her. He then said maybe she delegated her authority. I said she doesn’t have the authority to delegate authority that she doesn’t have.
I repeated what I said in the email — that he has no right to act alone and by acting alone he deprived every town of its right — by law — to representation and I told him my town leaders will not be happy to hear this.
. . . .
. . . .
What is actually dangerous — as is proven by the current situation — is not the exercise of my right to express a dissident opinion, but efforts to hide and/or obscure information from the board and the public. What’s dangerous is the way important board decisions are made by a single individual or a few individuals in the dark behind closed doors rather than the entire board in transparent public votes as required by law. It’s beyond time to stop this foolishness and for the board to reclaim its rightful role and responsibilities.
—– Original Message —–
From: Gale Toensing
To: Scooter Tedder ; Marilyn Yerks ; Phil Hart ; Laura Freund ; Jonathan MOORE ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Gary Brochu
Sent: Monday, July 01, 2013 3:07 PM
Subject: agenda additions, pending litigation — this email is a public document
Are we meeting on Wednesday, July 10 at 6 p.m. as suggested? When will the meeting agenda/warning be sent?
Please add to the agenda the following two items:
— election of a board vice chair
— update on pending litigation
With regard to the update on the pending litigation, I believe we — the entire board — need to closely monitor the pending lawsuit brought against the superintendent in order to perform our fiduciary duties and statutory function in service to the Region 1 School District. Toward that end I request that our board attorney ask the lawyers representing all litigants that he be kept apprised of factual developments in the case and to share that information with the entire board under reasonable and usual nondisclosure arrangements. I believe it’s in the interest of the litigants to cooperate with this request as the complaint alleges matters involving work relationships in the Regional School Services Center and both parties are employees of the board.
I request that our board attorney brief us — the entire board — in executive session at the beginning of regular or special board meerings and at other times he deems appropriate and share any information that has been provided to him including documents, deposition transcripts, oral briefings and other information. I also request that our board attorney advise and update us to the best of his ability at these sessions on his view of the possibility of the Region 1 Board of Education being included as a defendant.
As the Region 1 Board of Education, we must do everything possible to protect the school district from damages and costs that may arise from litigation now and in the future. We also must ensure a proper work environment. Accordingly, we need to monitor this litigation closely and stand ready to take whatever actions may be necessary to protect the integrity of our school system, the Region 1 work environment and our constituents.
Gale Courey Toensing
Falls Village representative
—– Original Message —–
From: Jonathan Moore
To: Gale Toensing
Cc: Scooter Tedder ; Marilyn Yerks ; Phil Hart ; Laura Freund ; Gary Brochu
Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 12:04 PM
Subject: Re: agenda additions, pending litigation — this email is a public document
I have not added either item for the following reasons: First, the agenda was formed and then sent. In any case, the secretary is the acting vice chair as per State statute and Robert’s rules. Any election should wait until the yearly election. As for the litigation, Mr. Brochu is not available on the 10th. Furthermore, there is no action to update . So, it would be wasteful of the region’s money to have him come and tell us nothing. Both attorneys will contact us when there is a decision to be made. Until then it is in their hands in terms of the process.
The administrative leave given to Lucille Paige, the executive secretary to Region 1 Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain, has been extended to Oct. 1.
A leave until June 30 was granted to Paige in May with full wages and benefits.
The extension of the leave was approved by both parties. Her salary and benefits will continue to be paid in full, he said.
In early May Paige filed a lawsuit against Chamberlain, claiming she was denied her right to free speech, disciplined in retaliation for taking part in an investigation of the school district and its administration and physically assaulted during a confrontation over her private email. Paige, in the lawsuit, claims she has been unfairly treated because she participated in an independent investigation of the school district after Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s top two administrators left just before the start of the 2010 school year. She alleges Chamberlain considered the participation a betrayal and “developed and implemented a systematic course of intimidation and retaliation to punish, discipline, penalize, and otherwise humiliate and bully” her,
alleging she was told to stay out of the high school section of the building. The central office is located in a wing of the building, Page was the only administrative secretary issued such a restriction. She said she was also ordered to cease all communications with school board members. The document also states that in December 2011 Chamberlain ordered Paige to open up her email account, believing she was hiding communications with board members and when the account was opened Chamberlain approached Paige’s chair and physically pushed her out-of-the-way to view the computer screen. Paige, who has held her position in Region One for 20 years, said up to that time two years ago, she’d rarely, if ever, received reprimands or written warnings, but now there are a number of negative evaluations in her file.
Paige, 68, has had some health issues since the controversy arose and in 2011 was on sick leave for two months for hypertension and acute anxiety.
WATERBURY — The search has begun for a new principal and assistant principal at Walsh Elementary School.
At a community meeting Tuesday night, School Superintendent Kathleen Ouellette announced that former Principal Erik Brown and Vice Principal Maria Zillo will not return to their previous positions at Walsh. Ouellette said the two administrators would be reassigned to different positions within the district.
The decision comes almost four months after Brown and Zillo were placed on administrative leave following allegations that they bullied and intimidated staff.
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