Social media has taken up a discussion of the fight Mrs. Steenson chose to pick with me (Sept 3 meeting) over seating at the board room table, so here is what happened in more detail.
At the August 27th school board meeting, I arrived to find my seat at the end of the boardroom table. I asked Mr. Spero if he wouldn’t mind changing seats with me as I was uncomfortable at the end of the table. He most graciously agreed, though he expressed concern that Nancy would not be happy about it. Nancy was absent for that meeting. Mr. Bealo chaired and we had an exceptionally productive meeting with a most positive tone. Many who saw the meeting that evening remarked to me that Mr. Bealo ran a very professional meeting.
Why did I ask to change seats? In truth, I find my posture not the best when re-watching the meetings and I feel a gentleman is more suited to being captured from the side during long meetings. I explained this to Mr. Spero.
On Sept. 3 there was a Policy Committee meeting at 5:30 pm in the small meeting room beside the SAU boardroom. This ended around 6:45 – I don’t remember the exact time – but because of being there for this meeting, I was quite early for the school board meeting which starts at 7:30 p.m.
When I took my seat at the boardroom table, I sat in the same chair I had previously arranged with Mr. Spero, and switched the name plates to so reflect this. Nancy Steenson asked me to sit where she had put me. I calmly but firmly said that I was not moving. She didn’t ask me why, she simply insisted I move because Mr. Spero, being a new member, should not sit at the end. That was her full rationale.
When I was firm, she said, “This is why no one likes you.” I shot back with, “This is why you are a poor chairman.”
I’m not sure of the order of events but she moved the name plates back herself. I suggested she call the police. She left the room in a fury saying she just might do that.
When she returned, more of the members were presented and seated, though not Mr. Spero. Mrs. Steenson asked Mr. Sapia to sit at the end seat. He did not move either. Mr. Spero arrived quite late to the meeting and had no idea what had transpired in his absence. He sat at the end of the table and did not seem to suffer any harm from it.
Why It Happened
Under bad leadership, everything becomes a political struggle. Seating at board tables is normally based on years of service on the board; however, only the chairman and vice-chairman have formally designated seats in most boards that I’m familiar with (and have sat on a few boards prior to this one).
At our board, seating, like our minutes, has become highly political as evidenced by Mr. Sapia’s front and center seat though he is a relatively new member to the board and has less service than I. Mrs. Steenson picks her favorites and places them to her advantage. She would seat me in the parking lot if she possibly could. Timberlane has no stated policy and I always believed Nancy Loiselle (formerly Danahy) determined the seating when she put out the name plates because that is what she told me once.
Mr. Collins’ explanation on Facebook (Friends of Education at Timberlane) that new members are placed between more experienced members as a practice is completely unsubstantiated and makes no sense on the face of it because there is no talking during meetings. Do you ever see Mrs. Steenson talking privately to Mr. Sapia during meetings? Of course not. There is no talking among ourselves at meetings except on rare occasions and for fleetingly brief moments.
Mrs. Steenson’s move to put me on the end was a power play and I was not going to put up with it. Shouldn’t it be enough for a board member to say they do not want to sit somewhere for that to be respected? Her response was extreme and beyond anything sensible.
My stubbornness may seem petty, but I am not about to compromise my comfort at meetings for Mrs. Steenson’s ego. If truth be told, the superintendent should be sitting at the end of the table because it is a board meeting — not a meeting of the board with the administration, which is what it seems more often than not.
A creative problem solver suggested we all draw names out of a hat for our seats. When there is a complete breakdown of rules and respect, it is sad to say, this is the best solution to the seating drama.
How have the rules broken down, you ask? The disrespectful discourse Mrs. Steenson permits and seeming encourages from the administration on down has infected our meetings to such an extent that it is becoming an obstacle to getting business done. Others have shown themselves able to conduct a professional meeting. Mrs. Steenson should resign as chairman for the good of the district.
Here’s just one clip from the Sept 3 school board meeting.