Friedman Questions BOE Minutes Omission

New board member asks why attorney advice on Washington vote not included.

A routine vote to approve the minutes of a prior Board of Education meeting led a new board member to question what makes it into the official accounting of the meeting.

BOE member Mark Friedman, who took office last month, questioned board members Tuesday evening on why advice from board attorney Richard Kaplow to the board at the May 3 reorganization meeting on the continuation of board policies. The advice was given as part of a discussing regarding continuation of the policy governing Washington School redistricting.

“I was interested in why that discussion was omitted,” he said.

Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan said interim BOE Secretary Vincent Yaniro is responsible for the preparation of the minutes of the meetings, but does not provide a transcript. The minutes are circulated to board members following the meeting for review and approved at the next meeting, making them official. Yaniro was not present at the meeting.

“Generally the minutes are not a full script of everything that happened,” Dolan said. “It is an overview.”

Friedman was referencing a discussion at the previous board meeting regarding what was a routine vote to continue past policy statements of the board. Kaplow provided advice to the board regarding a no vote on continuing a policy. Friedman asked Kaplow for the advice with regards to voting to not continue the controversial redistricting of Washington School students from Roosevelt Intermediate School to Edison Intermediate School.

BOE Vice President Rich Mattessich, a longtime opponent of the redistricting, had motioned to hold a separate vote on the policy resolution – from other routine organizational resolutions – in order to vote no on the redistricting policy. The policy resolution is a routine part of reorganization meetings.

Kaplow advised the board that under his reading of state law, a no vote on the resolution would not discontinue the policy. He said the no vote would allow the policy to continue and permit a new board discussion on the policy.

“A no vote would mean in my opinion on the law you are not voting to rescind, void, withdraw or otherwise change the policy,” Kaplow said at the May 3 meeting. “A no vote would probably require you to take additional action to codify the policy.”

The vote on continuing the Washington policy passed 6-3, with Mattessich voting no along with Mitch Slater and David Finn, who have voted against continuing the Washington policy in the past. Mattessich, Slater and Finn, who all live in the Washington neighborhood, were elected in part due to their opposition to the policy.

During her vote, new BOE member Rosanne Kurstedt indicated that she voted to approve continuing the policy due to Kaplow’s advice. In an interview after the meeting, Kurstedt, who paused for 12 seconds after her name was called in the roll call before she voted, said she planned to abstain on the vote originally. Friedman said Kaplow’s advice swung his vote as well.

“One of the comments in the minutes was a member of the public proposing putting emails on the website,” Friedman said. “That made it in. It seems to me that this is as important an item. I made a decision to vote a certain way.”

Friedman then motioned to amend the minutes to include Kaplow’s advice to the board in the official account of the meeting. Under parliamentary procedure, a legislative body can amend the minutes to include new items or correct inaccurate items.

A formal vote on amending the minutes and approving the amended version of the May 3 minutes was not taken on Tuesday night. BOE President Julia Walker said the formal votes will be taken at the board’s June 7 meeting due to the lack of a written motion from Friedman on Tuesday. She said she wanted to have the formal language in place to approve and did not want to use time at Tuesday’s meeting to draft the formal language.

South Westfielder May 20, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Is there not an opportunity to review and comment on ommissions, miswritten comments or just incorrectly stated decisions in minutes prior to the Board meetings? Typically, notes are taken, transcribed into minutes, circulated for review and comments, edited one last time based on those comments, then voted on in public. Why wait until the meeting to bring up an ommision?
Tom Shallash May 20, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Really transplant? Don't we want our elected officials to speak up in public meetings? You are so predictable its getting silly now....
Northside Eggplant May 21, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Finally , elected officials making sure that what is said in public is accurately reflected! Seems ridiculous to complain about that one- but my alter ego couldn't resist...
South Westfielder May 21, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Tom and Northside, I do want them to speak out in public - if there is an impasse. After viewing the meeting on Channel 36, this came off as his pride being at the root of this. He asked his question because it was all about him and he asked the question in public because he wanted to make it look like it was on purpose. Had he read the minutes earlier, he could have called Peggy Dolan and asked. Then, if he didn't like the answer, he could have brought that up at the meeting then. I am afraid it's looking like we have individual members with individual agendas. I hope this is all about what is best for ALL town children and not just those who are hell-bent on getting publicity for themselves. I want to be wrong about this.
Mark Friedman May 22, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Southside Transplant -glad that you are so friendly with Dr. Dolan that you feel comfortable enough calling her "Peggy". As a matter of fact, you sound so much like someone that is either a current Board member or an ex-Board member. What makes you think that I did not read the minutes earlier? In fact, I did and actually asked about the omission PRIOR to bringing it up in public. I ran on a platform of helping to initiate change for the better of the school district and ALL of the kids in town. For me, that starts with this Board, including me, being open and honest with the public. Not everyone has the time (unlike you) to watch the broadcast on Channel 36 and for those people, the minutes and the Board website synopsis are their only vehicles to hear about what transpired at the meeting. I think that most rational residents would be happy to see all that goes on in the public portion of the meetings. Why sanitize them to only reflect what we want them to reflect. Include everything that happens at the meeting; this way nobody can be accused of leaving out issues in dispute. And ST, please do come to the next meeting and introduce yourself to me. I would love to meet you and find out why you feel compelled to to hide behind a made up name.
Marni Sunshine May 26, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Well Said Mark Friedman !
South Westfielder May 26, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Mr. Friedman, Three things... In the US, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to people by their first names. Are you offended? Please put your assumptions that I know Dr. Dolan personally or must be a former/current member of the BOE in check - they're incorrect. You need to learn more about people and about insinuating what is going on in peoples' heads. I have my own opinions about motives here, but have put them in check - only put a vague, open ended question out there. Sounds like I hit a nerve with you. Actions and the results of those taken by the Board will prove me wrong or right. I want to be proven wrong. As for this dislike of anonymous names - you and others who feel this way just need to get over it and stop bullying or threatening people like some schoolyard punk who challenges people to meet them in back of the school yard to fight. I am a lifetime resident who pays taxes, has kids in the school system and has a valid point of view like any other resident whether you like it or not. I have reasons for not using my real name and am not obliged to explain them to you or anyone else. And last but not least, I do need to apologize for part of what I wrote. It is acceptable to question what one feels are important minutes ommissions in public meetings. I still believe it could have been handled more professionally, respectfully and without the negtive tone that sounded accusatory. Now,
Frank May 26, 2011 at 04:05 PM
When it comes to self - promotion, Mr. Friedman out promotes Donald Trump!
South Westfielder May 26, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Like anyone who runs for an office or position and wins, it then becomes getting one's name out there quickly, become a household name, and get oneself tied to anything (even if it is small). It isn't just Mr. Friedman.
Westside Implant May 26, 2011 at 04:54 PM
To my cousin Southside and Frank- Having watched TV36 and read the news report here on Patch I am confused by your comments and "name calling" (Frank)- Mr. Friedman had the guts to run for the Board of Ed, first of all and then had the guts to speak out against apparent "censorship" of minutes- We should be hosting a parade for that kind of service- not attacking it. Thank you cousin Southside for realizing the importance of omissions in public meetings- though I have no clue why you question motives. And Frank- maybe you can ask your friend Donald Trump to donate money to our school system since apparently you have nothing better to do with your time.
South Westfielder May 26, 2011 at 05:07 PM
I questioned the motive because in his reasoning why he felt it important was a detailed reminder to everyone that it was he who brought up the concern at the last meeting, even after having it explained to him that minutes are not detailed transcripts. He wanted it very clear that a "no" - to not continue the redistricting of Washington School children to Edison would not necessarily mean the end of it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know why it was so important - that if the "new guard" votes "no" and it doesn't change, then they're covered. They can then further divide the Board by telling the townspeople how hard they tried to change things, but just could not. Again, I hope I am wrong.
Gary McCready May 26, 2011 at 08:58 PM
S0metimes Board members ask a question just to make a point about how the process works, or does not. Normally, minutes are not a transcript, but typically must reflect at a minimum actions taken. Getting advice is not in that category, but it that is the level of detail that Board members think would make people happy, so be it. Personally, I would love to see the video's playable from the web, but someday...
South Westfielder May 26, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Gary, from what I read, there are differences in expectations of what minutes are to capture between private and public sector. When I criticized Mr. Friedman, I was looking at it from a private, corporate perspective where it is not expected that minutes will be so precise with teh details. When I read further, the expectations of public meeting minutes is that they will be more concise and will capture as much detail as possible - more than in private, corporate meetings. Technically, he was not wrong


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