A question over how a Board of Education member gets access to the faculty and staff of the local schools erupted into a tense debate over the chain of command at Monday's school board meeting.
Democratic Board Member Michele Arn requested that the discussion be added to the agenda because she said she recently had a hard time getting in touch with two principals.
She said she had to go through Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway's office, but considered that unnecessary.
"I wanted to communicate with the principals and I want to know why I couldn't just contact them," Arn asked.
Republican Chairman Dean Houle said the school board's bylaws indicate that any communication with school staff members must go through the superintendent.
"We can take it to Dr. Conway and she can bring it down to the staff," Houle said.
When asked by Arn why a member of the local elected governing body cannot contact a principal directly, Houle replied, "We do not supervise anyone other than Dr. Conway."
Section 2b of Bylaw 9030 states that, "All official communications, policies and directives of staff interest and concern will be communicated to staff members through the superintendent."
Section 2d states that individual board members interested in visiting schools or classrooms will make arrangements through the administration of the various schools."
Arn said her communication was not official and she said it could even be considered personal. She said it was "not something I felt comfortable sharing with the superintendent," and added she reluctantly did so because she wanted to get her message through.
She continued, "So if I just want to visit a classroom, the bylaws say I have to contact the (central) administration?" Arn asked.
Houle said, "If you wish to visit a building, you can go through Dr. Conway."
Arn countered, "I don't report to anybody," then continued, "What is the chain of command? So everything I want to know must come from the superintendent?"
Houle then said to Arn, "You are tying your hands by not being willing to work with our superintendent. We should not go out and be on our own mission."
Republican board member Anne Fischer asked Arn directly, "Is there any reason why you were not willing to share (the communication) with Dr. Conway?"
Arn said, "I don't know how to say it other than I thought it was none of her business … I am used to establishing my own relationships."
Republican board member Laura Bush said she usually contacts Conway about a visit or communication as a courtesy, specifally using the term, "out of respect."
Democrat Terri Goldich said she recently contacted the Maple Street School administration about a donation from a colleague.
"I was told to come on down," she said. She then added, "Our policy is not clear on this."
Houle eventually cut off the discussion as it dragged on.
Bylaw 9030 is attached.
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