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Category — School Board

When The Levee Breaks

So in my last post, I resigned from the school board.  For very personal and painful reasons I am living in ward 3 as part of trial separation from ward seven, and can’t hold the office anymore legally.  There are a number of other reasons.  My father, God bless him, is like 103 years old or something.  I’m sensing I need to clear the decks to be with him as much as I can.  My job, whatever it is, is mentally taxing and emotionally draining and now- separation.  And when I say separation from ward seven- that’s obviously a euphemism.  It’s hard for me to talk about my personal life but suffice it to say that in recent weeks events therein have overhelmed my ability to vigorously represent my constituency and so it would have been wrong of me not to resign even if I hadn’t left the ward.  There will be a special election this year in Ward 7 this year to fill at least one school board seat.  As there will be in ward 1 to fill the city council vacancy left by Ed Adrian’s departure September 30.  Miro was promoting Kevin P. Worden on Twitter tonight.  Oh…  that’s the other thing.  Maybe I can blog a little more too now that I’m off the school board.  I am sorry I didn’t cover the AG primary better.  I’ve just felt blown apart this month and I could barely write at all.  A lot has happened that I’ve missed.

September 6, 2012   3 Comments

school board resignation letter

August 24, 2012

Dear Chairman Pillsbury,

For personal and family reasons, I am resigning the position of Burlington School Commissioner effective September 1, 2012.

It has been one of the great honors of my life to represent the people of Ward Seven on the Board these past 29 months, but it’s time for me to step aside. I’m confident a special election will choose a successor with new energy and dedication to the job.  The people of Ward Seven and the children of Burlington deserve nothing less.

With gratitude,

Haik Bedrosian

cc Jeanne Collins, Superintendent

Joseph McNeil, Attorney

September 4, 2012   5 Comments

Superintendent Survives

Breaking News

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?

June 14, 2012   6 Comments

Superintendent in Mortal Danger

Breaking News

The Burlington School Board voted 10-4 to bring superintendent Jeanne Collins’s contract renewal to a vote tonight… a vote that due to a delay will take place tomorrow night sometime after 7pm at Burlington High School.  The contract would have renewed automatically without a vote, so that was in essence a 10-4 vote against Jeanne Collins.  I was one of the 4 against voting on her contract ( in favor of her).  Now this does not mean the vote on her contract itself will also be 10-4, but damn- Jeanne can’t feel good about this.

If you have opinions about what the school board should do you can hit up every member in one swoop at board@bsdvt.org .

 

June 13, 2012   4 Comments

Leave Jeanne Alone!

School Board constituents can get pretty emotional sometimes…

June 11, 2012   No Comments

Color Bind

Katherine Flagg wrote a pretty good synopsis of the race-related issues facing the Burlington School District for today’s Seven Days titled:

“Color Bind Everyone agrees the Burlington School District has a race problem. Now what?”

The title is a little weird, but the piece is good. Katherine Flagg interviewed me at the OP last week for my contributions to the article. Nice work Katie! Click the text-link or the image to go to the story at Seven Days.

I may as well say now that I will vote to extend Jeanne’s contract on June 12, although I don’t know what the board will decide collectively. I think she’s doing well enough not to deserve to get fired. That isn’t to say the schools aren’t grappling with issues of racism, cultural insensitivity, achievement gaps, harassment of all types, bullying, ignorance and everything else. Of course we are. Issues like these are more pronounced as an environment becomes more heterogeneous, and Burlington schools are arguably the most heterogeneously popluated societal microcosms in Vermont - The Schools are responsible for the safety and the education of all children so we can’t tolerate any of this type of baloney. 

The fundamental philosophical element of human rights, most religions and the American Way is equality.  Equality.  The board has recently passed a tough new anti-harassment policy the prohibits attacks for all manor of protected characteristics.  Jeanne has been getting cultural training to the staff.  We will be doing a new bullying policy soon.  I would like to hear that Amy Mellencamp is integrating the ‘English Language Learners’ more both physically and educationally at BHS so the kids can all get to know each other better… but I don’t see how firing Jeanne is going to get me that.  We did create a standing board committee on diversity and equity too. 

The arc of the moral universe doesn’t bend itself toward justice.  We have to bend it with persistence and hard work.  Simply getting rid of Jeanne won’t solve these problems at all in my opinion.

June 6, 2012   6 Comments

Grievances Made Public

Email from the School Department’s Lawyer Joe McNeil to Molly Walsh of the Burlington Free Press…

From: Joseph McNeil
Date: Tue, May 22, 2012 at 5:03 PM
Subject: FW: Response to documents request
To: “MWALSH@burlingt.gannett.com”
Cc: Jeanne Collins, Sara Jane Mahan, Bob Abbey, DBoulanger@VTNEA, Joseph McNeil, Susan Gilfillan

Good afternoon Molly. This is to advise on behalf of the Burlington School District that the records you have requested, grievances filed by the Burlington Education Association, Inc. under its collective bargaining agreement with the District since March 1, 2012, do not fall within any of the exemptions specified in Vermont’s Access to Public Documents law. They will therefore be made available per your request. Please do not take this response as the expression of our belief that grievance records are always documents that must be disclosed on request. Much will depend on the precise nature of each grievance. However, we do believe that no exemption would be reasonably applicable to this batch. We consequently will enclose both the grievance as filed and the District’s response thereto. We note that one of these grievances is being moved to binding arbitration under the auspices of the American Arbitration Association. Nothing in this response should be considered as applicable to documents produced by either party while the matter is being considered by the appointed arbitrator.

We have scanned and are including in this email the grievances that were filed and the District’s answer where there has been one, There are official answers to the grievance that regards the English/PE positions at BHS and to grievance 2018 which is answered by letter dated May 14, 2012 Grievance 2014 related to fire alarm testing during the February break was resolved on the basis that teachers were not expected to be at the work site at that time and the alarm testing was mandatory per law; Grievance 2015 ( assignment of 9th grade teachers) was resolved by discussion at the building level and not processed thereafter. Grievance 2016 is still pending and no official District response has yet been communicated to the BEA. Grievance 2017, alleged violation of Section 14.2 re displacement of PE teacher, was resolved on the basis of the grievant being placed in a PE/Health position created in the FY 2013 budget, but official documentation of the settlement is still in progress. Best. Joe

May 23, 2012   2 Comments

Weinberger Wins!

8:16pm Miro Weinberger has won the election for mayor of Burlington!  Congratulations to the mayor-elect…

10:55pm- Time for a little unpacking of the day’s events here in Burlington, Vermont.

*Thank you to Kurt and Wanda  for running honorable campaigns. 

* From a personal standpoint, thank you very much to the 1,392 people who voted to re-elect me to the school board from Ward Seven.  It’s an honor to serve you.  I believe I received the 4th 8th highest vote total in the city behind Miro, Kurt and Bernie O’Rourke. Oddly Bernie was the one school board member with an opponent on the ballot and he got more votes than all 6 of the rest of us who were unopposed.

*Thank you Lauren Glenn, Meghan O’Rourke, Nat Ayer, Jess Wilson and everybody at Channel 17 for hosting election HQ tonight, and to Kathryn Flagg, Paula Routly, Tyler Machado, Cathy Resmer, Andy Bromage and the rest of the crew at Seven Days for inviting me to blog with them there.

* Jay Vos, formally of the wonderful local blog “Blazing Indescretions” tells me that Blogger has deleted his entire blog because they mistook it for spam.  That is upsetting.

*The school budget passed  5359 to 4490 . 

*Council Winners by Ward:  1- Ed Adrian, 2- Max Tracy 3-Rachel Siegel 4-Byran Aubin 5-Chip Mason 6-Karen Paul 7-Paul Decelles  Congratulations all. 

*The council takes a step to the left.  Kurt departs in 4 and is replaced by a Dem.  Berezniak departs in 2 and is replaced by the Prog he Bram beat by 13 14 votes 2 years ago.  Paul Decelles, whom I voted for today, got 54 more votes than ge got last time, yet only won by 97 votes, beating Tom Ayres 52.6% to 47.3%.  Ayres is likely to run again next year when Vince Dober retires from the council.  Ed Adrian envisions a “New New North End” that is solidly Democratic.  Is his vision correct?

 *Chart and numbers stolen from Seven Days:

Burlington Mayoral Race

7 of 7 wards reporting results.
The winning candidate must receive more than 40% of votes to avoid a runoff.

Miro Weinberger (D) 5801 Kurt Wright (R) 3746 Wanda Hines (I) 498

Burlington City Council Races
Ward 1 Adrian (D) 709 Write-ins 0
Ward 2 Tracy (P) 503 Hammerslough (D) 297 Write-ins 0
Ward 3 Siegel (P) 755 Hurley (D) 440 Ruloff (I) 44 Salese (I) 40 Write-ins 0
Ward 4 Aubin (D) 1095 Kenworthy (R) 974 Write-ins 0
Ward 5 Mason (D) 1177 Daigle (I) 453 Write-ins 0
Ward 6 Paul (I) 1118 Write-ins 0
Ward 7 Decelles (R) 965 Ayres (D) 868 Write-ins 0

March 6, 2012   8 Comments

Town Meeting Day 2012

Tuesday 3:24pm

Election Day live-blogging in random chronological order.  Just got back from hanging out at Ward 7 polling place.  I go back and forth between standing with the dems and the republicans.  If I stand in the middle I block the way.  I got yelled at for that last time.  It isn’t easy being an independent so I was happy to see Wanda there for a while.  Some thoughts on the ballot:

I voted.  When I finally had the ballot in front of me and I had to make a choice, I wrote in Bob Kiss for mayor.  I cherish my freedom.

The wording of the school budget question is so poor, the budget might just pass.  It doesn’t ask for a tax increase.  It just says ‘spend 65 million? Y or N?’  You know it hadn’t occurred to me to think about how it looks on the ballot.  I’ll be wiser about that next year.  Don’t get me wrong, as I said earlier, I want the budget to pass today, but I think people should know what they’re voting on.

About 2000 ballots had been cast in Ward 7 as of 3pm including presidential primary ballots, so I think it’s safe to say at least 1000 people have voted in ward 7 as of now.

Helen Hossley told me the 200 annual reports they had to give out at Ward 7 were sold out by 10am.

I took the CNN exit poll.  Ron Paul Revolution!  Woot!

Poopsie and the kids are still at the Lorax.  I’m going to try to eat something and go to city hall to get an annual report.  I’m going to be on the seven days live blog later (if I can find it; link?)  physically seated at channel 17, home or both.  Does channel 17 have WiFi?  Anybody?  And I guess folks from the school board are meeting at RiRa’s later, but I’m not really sure why… The school board’s finance committee will be meeting with the mayor-elect tomorrow to either start picking up the pieces if the budget fails, or a nice meet-n-greet if it passes…

More later… (but not necessarily within this post.)

****

Monday Night:

I’m from Burlington.  I’ve never been to a town meeting.  I just didn’t want to call the post “Election Day 2012″ because I might want to save that title for November.

The 2012 race for mayor is almost over.  My guess is Wanda will get between 10 and 20 percent of the vote and that Kurt and Miro will each receive between 40 and 50 percent of the vote.  We will know the winner very soon after the polls close.

The school board will get at least one, and at most two new members.

The city council will get at least four, and at most five new members.

More later…

Tuesday morning…  Election/Town Meeting Day…

10:19am  I’ve been invited by Seven Days to join their live-blog tonight where I and several real journalists will unpack the day’s events.  I have not wanted to say much about the mayoral race.  I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for.  Hell, I might just write-in Bob Kiss.  Or myself.  In the race between Kurt and Miro, I have not wanted to step on either of their toes or hurt either of their feelings.  They are both good guys.  I think.  Kurt and I joined the city council together in 1995 and Poopsie knew him before that even.  I only ever heard of Miro a few months ago, and only ever met him in person twice.  Normally that dynamic alone would make my decision a slam-dunk for Kurt- but although I really like Kurt personally and respect him, I never ever pictured myself actually voting for him.  More often I’ve envisioned myself running against him.  Not because of his party.  I am an independent, and I vote however I want.  My most enthusiastic vote today will be for Ron Paul, for example.  It’s more because I have never been able to grasp what Kurt’s core philosophy is.  I think he would probably be an ok caretaker for the office of mayor, but I don’t imagine him really doing anything special with it, and I’m not sure how much he understands.  Miro on the other hand, I see as a bit of a wild-card.  He’s never been elected to anything, and I’m not sure of how much he understands either.  With Miro it kind of feels like he himself is simply the tip of the spear trying to pierce city hall, and just behind his smiling face the entire apparatus of the Democratic National Committee is waiting to come set up shop and control my city for the next 50 years.

I don’t know.  Let’s talk about the school budget.  I am voting for it.  As a member of the school board I was one of 2 votes against sending this version of the budget to the voters.  That is not the same thing as voting for or against this budget now that it is before the voters.  Most of why I am voting for it now, is because once a budget is put before the voters the effects of if failing are costly and damaging.  Let’s say a majority of the school board had voted against sending this version of the budget.  We would have come up with something else.  Personally, I would almost never vote against a school budget when it’s on a ballot in front of me.  As a school board member I have a responsibility to represent other people, and use my votes to try to send the best budget I can to voters.  So I just want to put that out there right now.  To vote against the budget as a school commissioner and for it as a citizen is not a reversal and not inconsistant.  I know it’s a nuance not everyone will grasp, but the votes are really for different things.

As is my tradition on the first Tuesday in March, I am not at work today.  It’s 10:58am, I have to shave, shower, vote and hang around the Ward Seven polling place a little bit.  Gotta promote my “fill in the bubble” campaign.  Me, Poopsie, Koko and Yana will all go vote together.  Then I will hang back, and Poopsie will take the Kids to see The Lorax movie.  Yup, ok… sounds like a plan…

More Later…

March 6, 2012   2 Comments

Just Before I Was Born

March 2, 2012   No Comments