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Superintendent Survives

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Burlington School Board votes 9-5  to extend contract of embattled superintendent.

I made a motion to remove executive session from the agenda that failed 6-8 then the motion to into executive session itself failed 7-7.   My argument was as follows:

“There are valid legal and fiduciary reasons that make executive session in the pubic interest, and it’s the public interest element of such things that justifies the secrecy and gives it its philosophical girding- contract and real estate negotiations, personnel issues, incidents that put us in legal jeopardy.

The appointment of the superintendent is the primary responsibility of the school board and we are a public, political body- This appointment is not the same as personnel issue- The superintendent is a public official, who is up for election among 14 voters. The process by which we arrive at our votes should be public.

It can never be overstated that sunlight is the antiseptic of democracy. We hope for openness and transparency in Damascus and Beijing, in Washington- yet even at this tiniest level of community service we fear it. Think about it.

Our own goals call for transparent, data driven decision making, but going into executive session without a compelling moral justification for secrecy is a mistake. Courageous conversations are out in the open.

If we don’t have to go into executive session for a financial or legal reason, then we should not.”

The board then spent several hours agonizing about parliamentary procedures and about various proposals to fire Collins, then ask her back or some such thing.  In the end the one such proposal by Paul Hochanadel made it to the floor where it clung through lengthy wrangling, then failed something like 9-5.  Paul is a very smart man for whom I have tremendous respect, but I had to vote with the majority on that particular propsoal.

Then in the end Kathy Chasan, the venerable ‘eyes and ears’ of the institution of the school board and, I believe, second in longevity to only Kieth Pillsbury as a member - made a positive motion to extend the superintendent’s contract for 2 years.  I seconded the motion and it passed 9-5.  Congratulations to Superintendent Collins, and to all the members of the school board on a healthy respectful debate.

The meeting including last night’s start at Hunt School from 7pm to 10:45pm , plus tonight’s conclusion at BHS from 7pm to 12am was a cumulative 8.75 hours long.  That’s like a full extra work day.  Why am I on the school board?  Why am I still awake at 2am?

6 comments

1 Amy Werbel { 06.14.12 at 4:53 am }

Why? Because some of us care that much about kids and democracy. Fantastic work Haik — congratulations and thank you! And as far as Beijing — boy have you got that right. Even people in the party here have no idea what’s going on, or who makes the decisions. The pall of disempowerment that is cast extends to every street corner and living room. Because of people like you, in Burlington at least, democracy thrives.

2 Haik Bedrosian { 06.14.12 at 7:37 am }

Aaaaw shucks. Thanks Amy! And China is lucky to have you there.

3 George Cross { 06.14.12 at 8:05 am }

Good work Haik. Nine members of ther Burlington School Board got it right. Now everyone needs to work together to ensure that all of Burlington’s children get the best possible education. Burlington has a great school district and the strengths will shine through as you all work together.

4 jonas { 06.14.12 at 9:13 am }

Good work.

5 Paul Decelles { 06.16.12 at 6:41 am }

Thanks for the hard work Haik!

6 Haik Bedrosian { 06.16.12 at 1:37 pm }

Thanks George and Jonas.

Paul- I had you in mind the whole time on the executive session thing. I seem to remember you walking out of one not so long ago to make a point. It’s a good point. Secrecy is antithetical to democracy.

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