Letter on the SAU Chairman Resignation

For those  interested in the underpinnings of the SAU chairman’s resignation, here is a letter with my opinion published in the Eagle Tribune on June 19, 2014.  You will see that I take issue with a widely held misconception concerning non-public meetings.  It is one of many salvos to come in my long-standing crusade to get the rules related to non-public meetings changed in order to prevent unnecessary secrecy in public business.  You will also see in a post later today that the school board chair thinks I owe the district an apology because of this letter and many other alleged transgressions.

Dear Editor:

     Thank you for Dustin Luca’s  coverage of the resignation of SAU 55 Chairman, Jason Cipriano.
To my mind, the controversy concerning Mr. Cipriano’s resignation comes down to two issues:
  • the reasonableness of disclosing information/conclusions of a non-public meeting;
  • the accountability of elected officials to voters through communication with the press.
    Although this distinction seems to have dwindling acknowledgement, not everything in non-public is necessarily confidential.  If it were, there would be no public minutes.  The fact that SAU 55 non-public minutes have one or two topic sentence descriptors with no discussion content whatsoever shows how the board is failing to distinguish between what should be confidential and the happenstance of non-public discussion.
     Conclusions leading to action made in non-public should be made public. That, at the very least, is what the public should demand.
     To my mind, Mr. Cipriano not only did nothing wrong, he should be praised for respecting the voters enough to communicate to them through the press what was owing them of their elected officials. The idea that absolutely everything said in non-public is a big secret to be kept forever when the minutes are not sealed is ludicrous and harmful to the public interest.
    Since this issue involved the performance review of the superintendent and as such was a personnel issue, the board as a whole should have issued a press release in consultation with the superintendent out of courtesy.  That the board neglected to do this put the chairman in an awkward position but he nevertheless rightly felt the voters were owed some comment.
    Mr. Luca’s article quoted me as saying I think superintendent reviews should be conducted in public and that is correct, but in that I am very much an outlier and my assertion is much more a philosophical position than a practical objection to our proceedings. Just because the law allows non-public for certain topics doesn’t mean that every discussion of those topics should be done in non-public.  This is another distinction that is increasingly seldom made.
Donna Green
Sandown representative on the Timberlane School Board and SAU 55 Board

5 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

5 responses to “Letter on the SAU Chairman Resignation

  1. Peter Bealo

    I was the only other person present with Jason and Dr. Metzler when the review was presented and discussed. At the end of the discussion Jason suggested writing a press release. Dr. Metzler countered with suggesting the SAU write one, have Jason review & authorize it and then release it to the press. All three of us agreed to that course. As I awaited one the next day I read the ET article heavily quoting Jason that basically short circuited that process, At that point the train derailed and no release was ever sent, but by no consensus or conscious decision that I am aware of. So, in my opinion, the Board didn’t put the Chair in an awkward position: the Chair put the Chair in an awkward position.

    • Very interesting. Once again, the SAU board as a whole was left out of this discussion/decision. My statement in my letter to the editor is factually correct. The SAU board did not write a press release. Why on earth would the SAU board let Dr. Metzler write his own release about his own review and not vet it with the entire board?

  2. Peter Bealo

    You were aware that Jason and I were to give the review to Dr. Metzler. It was discussed in an SAU meeting you attended. Your letter states that the actions of the Board put the Chair in an awkward situation, this is false. The Chair put himself there by his unilateral actions after agreeing to an entirely different course of action. As long as the Chair and Superintendent agree on a release, there can be a press release. The Chair has the authority to speak for the Board in instances such as this.

    • Again, very interesting. Not a word of this private arrangement between Jason, you and Dr. Metzler was mentioned in the subsequent SAU meeting when Jason was told by Rob Collins to resign. Private side agreements do not invalidate my point about the necessity of a release by the board and would have avoided the whole sad situation. Why wasn’t this private agreement between you three mentioned in the SAU meeting?

  3. Peter Bealo

    You mischaracterize in a derogatory manner. Just because you had no foreknowledge does not make it a private deal, just a legitimate agreement that didn’t involve you. It was an agreement between the two people who can make such an agreement, and I was there to concur.

    I was very late to the subsequent SAU meeting, but have been told my multiple attendees that Jason did indeed mention the facts I wrote. And while I can’t speak with authority to any comment Rob may have made without me present, I do know he is experienced enough to know that he can suggest a Chair resign but cannot tell him to do such, he does not have the authority.

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