School Board Adopts Edited Bylaws

Christopher Peak PhotoBoard of Education members must fill out disclosure forms, recuse themselves from awarding contracts to their employer, and avoid trading emails outside meeting times.

Those new rules are among the changes that made it into revised bylaws approved by the Board of Education at a meeting Tuesday night at Celentano School. After scrapping some controversial provisions and saving a few technical issues for a later meeting, the board voted in those revisions unanimously.

While the tedious, page-by-page process that had several board members yawning, President Darnell Goldson upheld his promise to create a more transparent board by overhauling bylaws for the first time this century.

The newly approved 49-page bylaws set out the board’s overarching goals, the makeup of the hybrid membership, its leadership positions and standing committees. They set a date in January by which all meetings will be scheduled each year, plus deadlines for posting notices and minutes. They finally resolved a quorum issue that led to effective boycotts last year during the superintendent search, allow votes to phoned in, and prohibit unruly conduct at meetings.

Each board member will be hooked up with an official district-run email address and loaned computers, modems and other hardware. According to new rules that line up with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, board members are prohibited from deliberating with each other on those accounts. A process will be worked out later for releasing any inadvertent email communication that constitutes a meeting.

The bylaws describe an orientation process for incoming members, and they allow further professional development through school events, board retreats, conferences and magazine subscriptions for which they can be reimbursed. The board will cover legal expenses for members who file lawsuits based on board business as long as the lawsuits maintain the board’s integrity “as a separate and distinct legal entity” or “reasonably benefit” all board members.

Other new rules prohibit board members from participating in discussion when they have a conflict of interest for family ties, business relationships or monetary gain. A three-member ethics committee will issue advisory opinions and enforce the rules.

For months, with assistance from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Governance Committee has been revamping the bylaws, the board’s guiding document that hadn’t been looked at much since the rules were first adopted in 1999, despite a charter revision that substantially changed the board’s makeup.

Not So Fast?

But some proposed last-minute additions led to an uproar. The watchdog group NHPS Advocates collected signatures from more than 100 parents and teachers opposing specific changes.

“[O]n the whole these bylaws bring a much-needed structure to the Board’s conduct. However, after analyzing the draft bylaws, there are a number of proposed provisions that appear to weaken anti-corruption protections, bind future Boards of Education and, thus, future generations of students and parents, and concentrate power in the hands of the Board president,” the letter stated. “These are concerning measures that impose significant burdens on the New Haven school system and threaten the public’s already tenuous faith in the Board of Education.”

Most controversially, NHPS Advocates said, one proposed change gave the president power to reprimand, suspend and expel colleagues, after a vote by the full board.

After hearing from the Advocates, the board scrapped that and a few other contentious provisions.

But the board members kept the new rules that allow members to seek reimbursement for out-of-state conferences and to obtain computers for setting up a district-managed email.

They also stayed firm that any change to the bylaws should require a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority, which they said is a standard practice at other governing bodies.

Most of the comments Tuesday focused on the president’s power to take control of meetings. Coming a week after Goldson apologized for appearing to target additional school closures at leaders on the Board of Alders who didn’t support a $5 million budget increase, several speakers said no board member should have the ability to shut down discussion or censure other board members.

“Culture and rules in our institutions are important. They shape our behavior and our expectations,” said Liam Brennan, a public-school father of four and until recently a federal prosecutor who handled corruption cases.

“I am sure you can understand how increasing the vote requirement to change bylaws while assigning more power to the president might raise red flags for parents, particularly after the various incidents the Board of Education has had over the last year: the cancellation of interviews with possible superintendent candidates, the well-televised disagreements between board members and then the unwelcome playing of politics or whatever mistake was made with these six schools. These actions do not instill confidence, and when new rules seem to increase power to certain members while taking it away from other members and then make it harder to change the rules back, that’s concerning.”

In their letter, NHPS Advocates pushed back on three proposals would have allowed the president to decide all questions of order, to make the public obey his directives and to punish fellow board members, if he had support from the rest of the board.

Mayor Toni Harp said she wasn’t sure that the school board had power to remove members whom she had appointed or the voters had elected. At the meeting, she asked for the language about “punishments” to be removed.

“We’re adults,” she said.

Goldson quickly gave in. “Because it’s so confusing, we’ll just take it out,” he said, as soon as those bylaws came up for discussion.

But some questioned why Goldson brought it up at all. Andrew Elliot, an Edgewood parent who called the rules “antidemocratic,” said, “I’m concerned that these two large issues” — school closures and the president’s powers — “have been thrown out there, the public has seen them, and they’ve kind of been brought back. That feels like a test of if it’s acceptable, and it’s not acceptable.”

After the meeting, Goldson said he’d felt the changes were necessary to define conduct at board meetings. He said the board pulled language from CABE and the BOA for the draft.

“We have to have order. That’s about taking care of our business and moving forward,” he said. “We may have disagreements, but that’s why we have rules.”

He added that he felt attacked by NHPS Advocates.

“I have no interest in taking power,” he said. “I think it’s a political attempt to weaken and damage me and other board members. I don’t think it’s mistrust, because we haven’t done anything to be mistrusted for, as far as I’m concerned. Nobody seemed to have any issues when other people were running the board, when this stuff was happening. When we try to correct it, all of a sudden, it’s the same people who are saying the same thing and providing misinformation.”

In the coming months, the board will turn its attention to the hefty task of updating the rest of its 521-page policy manual, which covers almost every topic imaginable, from disciplining students and administering medication to setting graduation requirements and selecting new school sites.

Tags: , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry

Comments

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 30, 2018  10:25am

President Darnell Goldson has shown his hand and then he whines about the fact that people saw it and made him pull it back.  The fact that the Mayor says she “wasn’t sure that the school board had power to remove members whom she had appointed or the voters had elected” is disturbing. It should be evident to any elected person whose job it is to uphold the constitution and the city charter that an elected person cannot be removed based on a transparent power-grab by the board’s president and the rest of the board that she appointed. 

I have been suspicious of the attempt to create a hybrid board which would have a significant number of its member appointed by the Mayor - Any Mayor - while the ones elected by the people would hold a decided minority position.  We are seeing the results of what I was suspicious about.  The fact that Mr. Goldson is one of the two elected members and is the one pushing for these profoundly undemocratic “laws,” does not in anyway change my opinion.  He has merely aligned himself, and his voters, with the Mayor’s power and position in an attempt to protect himself from the overwhelming majority that he faces, instead of being the courageous people’s representative on the board, that he was elected to be.

The miasmic stench that is New Haven politics has change little under this administration, though a change has been attempted within the present charter.  As long as the attitudes exist that intelligent, independent voices must be forcibly closed and marginalized, New Haven will continue to be run by megalomaniacal authority figures, parading around as despots and midgets walking on stilts. 

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: HewNaven on May 30, 2018  3:02pm

Super size me, New Haven!

posted by: ElmCityVoice on May 30, 2018  3:56pm

Thank you Rev. Ross-Lee.You wrote a perfect response.

posted by: Nadine H on May 30, 2018  8:06pm

Well said Rev. Ross-Lee!!!

posted by: darnell on May 30, 2018  9:04pm

Rev Ross-Lee,

I have a tremendous respect for you, which makes my disappointment even more profound.

Our changes eisther mirrored Robert’s Rules of Order or the Boardnof Aldermen rules, with our ethics changes coming directly from the charter.

Describing our bylaws changes as “profoundly undemocratic ‘laws,‘“shows me that you clearly didn’t read what we proposed, or even worse you drank the juice and fell in line with the masses who blindly follow the lead of those who provide misinformation.

Unless you believe that Robert’s, the BOA rules, or the charter as undemocratic, you are sorely mistaken with your description of the changes we made, which were unanimously approved by all members of the BOE, including the other elected member.

Do you believe it was easy to layoff employees and close schools? Was my advocating to the BOA for additional funding for our students, majority brown and black, an act of fear? We have reduced a $20 million deficit to $7 million, and still working to get it down, so that we can provide adequate resources to our students.

I’m beginning to fear that you have decided to oppose anyone who strives to make positive changes in this city, if they do not meet your standards of perfection, which is defined as always being the person in the opposition and/or the minority. How about joining us to work on solutions, instead of always criticizing those who are in the trenches working.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 30, 2018  10:43pm

Mr. Darnell Goldson,

It might be a good debate tactic to ignore the things that I actually said so that you can pretend to respond to them by turning to something entirely different.  Were our comments on the matter verbal, it would be easy for those listening to forget what I said while listening to the distorting verbiage of your comments. Unfortunately for you, however, the comments here are written. 

My statement, as anyone who can read can see, is not about the laws that you did pass. It is about what you attempted to pass, but could not.

Further, your request that I “join” you is beyond your’s to ask.  I am a citizen of the municipality.  I have the right to engage the politics at my will, or not.  I have no special obligation to “join (you)’ for fear of being compared to a Jim Jones devotee.  But, maybe you should know that I’m watching my weight and sugar intake; I don’t drink kool-aid.  When I see how some clergy here and around the nation have been used, or have allowed themselves to be used by the political status quo, I have made a conscious decision not to engage like that.  My job is not to join, but to see, critique (which is not a bad thing), and speak up for what is right as best I understand and can prove.

Your comments suggesting that my comments are an absolutist negative engagement of the issues of the BOE are simplistic and without merit.  On the other hand,  I can’t prove to the readers here that you wrong either, as that would require my providing all of the comments I’ve ever made on any topic concerning these matters.  So, as neither one of us can prove this point one way or the other, let’s stick to the issue (s) at hand. 

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: southwest on May 31, 2018  3:52am

Goldson stated positive changes in this city…question when have anything positive in this city happen in the last four years..the answer is nothing except for people like him who live to get appointed to these boards so they can grandstand and harass people who challenge them because they are hip to their games and others… they refuse to listen to others ideas and after listening to some of the Mayors responses it sometime appear she is actually clueless to what’s going on and should be going on to better this city..it seems to be nothing but kaso with this administration that everyone had high hopes for… some people feel that if you question or critique them that you are against them…when all you see is some one making falous mistakes that’s going to be detrimental to all citizens in the city of New Haven. Does anyone cares about the high taxes who sit on theses boards or it’s only about themselves and what they can pocket….New Haven got more schools than needed..plus they don’t have students to fill the classrooms…plus they have to many employees as well as city hall..with all these employees in both places it should be some of the most well runed offices around..but I forgot it’s all about “cash me out ”  meaning more money for them…as a people I feel we can do better with the right people at the helm..

posted by: darnell on May 31, 2018  7:47am

Rev Ross Lee
I responded directly to your comment by stating that you obviously did not read the document you made comment to, but instead took someone else’s description of what it said. The letter sent out removed several words at the end of the sentence to change the meaning completely. You are so dug in to your position that it is probably useless to provide the info to you, but I’m going to do so anyhow.
The NHPS Advocates letter
Proposed Bylaw 9235 9325(a) provides many useful guidelines for Board decorum. While we do not dispute that Board members and the public should not insult one another (subsection F), we do find the instruction that Board members and the public “obey all directives and reprimands made or upheld by the President … without further discussion or from complaint after losing an appeal” (subsection D) to be inappropriate within our democratic system of checks and balances and a potential violation of first amendment rights to free speech and expression.

My response
The bylaws revision was misquoted by this letter to leave out 6 very important words. The quote above “obey all directives and reprimands made or upheld by the President … without further discussion or from complaint after losing an appeal” drops the end of the sentence, which reads “to the full Board or Committee.” Robert’s Rules of Order state that when a presiding officer makes a ruling and a member disagrees, the proper thing to do is to appeal the ruling of the chair. If another member seconds the appeal, the procedure is rather simple: The president puts the question to the members, who decide whether to sustain his ruling. But under Robert’s Rules, the presiding officer gets to speak first and last in any discussion about the appeal or her decision.

This is standard operating procedure for any well-functioning organization.

posted by: darnell on May 31, 2018  7:53am

Southwest,

I was not appointed to the Board, I was elected.

We not only listened to suggestions, we have Incorprated them into our practices.

No grandstanding, just getting the work done.

Neither I or any other BOE members get one red cent of remuneration from the city or the BOE (though one member does have relatives who do through working for the school district).

Agreed that we probably have too many schools, which is why we closed 3 a few weeks ago.

I’m sorry you don’t see anything positive happening in the city. Keep looking.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 31, 2018  8:22am

Mr. Goldson,

My original post here refers to your proposal to give the President (Yourself) the power to remove members from the Board, which thankfully was defeated. Your attempt to confuse the point is just not going to work with close and careful readers. 

If you want to say that I have dug in on a particular position, that’s fine, because I have.  And, it is the position that you showed your hand as power hungry and then whined about the fact that your attempted power grab was not successful.  My remaining comments are a commentary on the past and present state of New Haven politics and the attitudes of too many New Haven politicians.

I really don’t have anything else to say about this.  If you’re dying to have the last word on this, have at it. I’m confident in the fact that your “last word” cannot obliterate my first one. 

Rev. Ross-Lee

posted by: Jessica.Light on May 31, 2018  1:44pm

I did not simply read this from the New Haven Advocates letter.

http://www.nhps.net/sites/default/files/Bylaws.pdf

A member of the Board and members of the public shall:

acknowledge and obey all directives and minor reprimands made or upheld by the
President or Committee Chair as a “point of order,” and shall abide without
further discussion or complaint after losing an appeal to the full Board or
Committee

I took this to mean after loosing an appeal to the full Board or committee, Board members and members of the public must obey all directives made or upheld by the president and would not be allowed to discuss or complain about the issue moving forward.  Is this not what was meant?

posted by: Maritza Baez on May 31, 2018  2:48pm

Darnell, it is so obvious how you always try to tarnish the amazing work the NHPS Advocates are doing; however, I am so thrilled people clearly see right through you trying to deflect the attention off of you. It’s so sad how instead of finding a way to engage respectfully with the NHPS Advocates, you find any way to make us look racist, hostile, and dishonest. What I would like for you to explain is this: How did we omit words from a document that is public record and is online for all to see? Nevertheless, I thank you for acknowledging that we have a following and that we are not afraid to voice our opinion. For the record, great outcomes come from conversation and ideas being bounced around. Don’t see us as a threat, see us as an ally.

posted by: darnell on May 31, 2018  2:57pm

Part 1

Ms Light,

No, that isn’t what it meant. It was related to the one issue raised that was addressed by the chair. For instance, if there was a difference in opinion on a matter between 2 members, and the chair ruled on the side of one of the members, the second member could appeal that ruling to the full board. Either the full board would uphold the chair, or overrule the chair. The matter would then be decided and could not be raised again.

Another example, a member of the public became very unruly and perhaps would not honor the 3 minute rule or some other transgression,  and the chair ruled that the public member is barred from attending the meeting. The ruling to bar that member could be appealed by another member of the board and seconded, then the full board would decide to either agree with the disbarment or decide against the action. Everything has the final approval or disproval of the full board. BTW, our attorney informed us that the president and the board already have the authority to do so, under Roberts Rules, I just want d to make sure everyone was familiar with the rules.

In parliamentary procedure, a motion to appeal from the decision of the chair is used to challenge a ruling of the chair. Robert’s Rules of Order, Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, and The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure all support and describe the same process.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), members have no right to criticize a ruling of the chair unless they appeal from his decision.[2] Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure states that an appeal “protects the assembly against the arbitrary control of the meeting by its presiding officer.”[1] Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure states, “In some states the ruling of the chair by tradition is given great weight, and appeals are not made lightly.”

posted by: darnell on May 31, 2018  3:00pm

Part 2
Ms Light

[3] RONR states that in some cases, the chair may welcome an appeal because it takes the onus off of him.[4]

An appeal must be made at the time of the chair’s ruling. After any debate or other business, it is too late to make an appeal.[5]

In stating the appeal, the presiding officer uses the form, “Those in favor of sustaining the decision of the chair…” rather than a biased form such as “Those in favor of sustaining the bylaws…” Appeals are debatable unless they relate to indecorum (failure to conform to good taste, propriety, or etiquette), the priority of business, or an undebatable question.[5] According to The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, if the reasons given for the appeal are convincing, the presiding officer may change his ruling accordingly, in which case the appeal is automatically dropped.[6]

1.    Demeter, George (1969). Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Blue Book, p. 126–127 (Demeter)
2.  Jump up to:a b Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-306-82020-5.
3.  Jump up^ National Conference of State Legislatures (2000). Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, 2000 ed., p. 181
4.  Jump up^ Robert 2011, p. 258
5.  Jump up to:a b Robert 2011, p. 257
6.  Jump up^ Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th ed., p. 83

Rules of the New Haven Board of Alders, Approved July 2, 2001, amended 2015

SECTION 2. [Page 1]

The President shall preserve order and decorum, may speak to points of order in preference to other members, and shall decide all such questions, subject to an appeal to the Board by motion regularly seconded; and no other business shall be in order until the question on the appeal shall have been decided. The President shall also appoint all committees unless the Board shall otherwise direct.

SECTION 48. Guidelines for Aldermanic Conduct [Page 10]

(D)

posted by: Jessica.Light on June 1, 2018  7:25am

I took the words written within the bylaws at face value as they were written.  If the power to bar discussion and complaint is limited, I would hope such limitation would be outlined in the bylaws themselves.  While there is mention that “The following guidelines shall apply in regulating the conduct of members and the public toward each other, particularly at Board of Education meetings and Committee meetings.”

It is not explicitly stated that the power to is limited exclusively to meetings. Can a board members discuss their views outside of the board meeting?  Is the conversation barred for the rest of the given meeting or for perpetuity? Are board members and the public allowed to discuss their views in the comment section of this publication?

It is difficult to have faith any unchecked power will never be abused. 

My concern is not personally directed at any current member of the board.  Regardless of today’s members, I believe it is unethical for anyone to have this power.

posted by: darnell on June 1, 2018  7:59am

Ma Light

What power? Members don’t have anymore power today than they had the day before the bylaws were revived. We merely codified Robert’s Riles in our bylaws, which we were already following.

We have the most transparent BOE this city has seen, out meetings are open to public comment, and people have spoken about anything on their minds.

Board members are welcome to have their views, but only the Board president speaks for the full board, which already a rule in the bylaws, unchanged, and also outlined in state statutes.

NOT ONE PERSON AS BEEN CENSORED.

All our decisions and deliberations have occurred in public.

posted by: Jessica.Light on June 1, 2018  3:07pm

Mr. President,

My concern has been clearly stated and is unwavering.  I believe you understand my position and are questioning the merits of my beliefs rather than asking for clarification. Please feel free to publicly state any flaws you see in my thinking. I will read and consider anything you would like to say. However, for me personally, it would not be prudent to debate this issue in this particular format. I see it as counterproductive to our common goal of serving the students of New Haven and I have respect for your position as President.

Alternatively if you’re question, “What power” is asking for clarification or you would like to discuss things further, I am more than happy to reframe this dialogue in a new format.  Please feel free to contact me directly.

posted by: budman on June 4, 2018  7:46am

This is embarrassing.  One would hope that those who head school boards woild not act like a school bully.