BOARD NOTES -
JUNE 18 NORTH SHORE BOE MEETING
JUNE 18 NORTH SHORE BOE MEETING
BOARD DEBATES CLOSING LAC MEETINGS TO PUBLIC
At its Thursday June 18 meeting, The North Shore Board of Education rejected a request made by members of the District's Legislative Action Committee to amend the group's bylaws so as to close its meetings to the public and to change its name to the "Legislative Advisory Committee."
The Legislative Action Committee is a Citizens Advisory Committee that was created in 2011 and is made up of eleven volunteers from the community who are appointed by the school board to three year terms. Athough open to the public, only occasionally do members of the community sit in on the meetings.
Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick opened Thursday’s discussion. He said that according to the District’s attorneys, New York State’s Open Meetings Law, which requires meetings of elected bodies, with some exceptions, to be open to the public, does not apply to Legislative Action Committee meetings. For the law to be applicable, four or more Trustees would have to be present. The question of whether or not to close the meetings, he said, came up because of the need, at times, for the Committee to discuss material that might be considered confidential.
Trustee Michael Nightingale, said that the district “takes pride in transparency,” and that keeping the meetings open would help to garner public support for the committee’s initiatives. He continued that he believed that there really wasn’t confidential or privileged information being discussed at the meetings. “There’s more to lose by closing the meetings, than not to lose,” he said.
“I agree with everything Michael said,” said Trustee Marianne Russo. She added that keeping the meetings open “will help generate ideas, ” as well as give the community more opportunities to become involved and to get accurate information.
Trustee Joanna Commander, said that there were perhaps times when LAC would need to have conversations that are not open.
Trustee Russo questioned whether that has been the case.
Legislative Action Committee Chairperson Amy Beyer was then invited to address the Board. Ms. Beyer, who as a School Board Trustee helped write the Committee’s bylaws said that the open meetings provision was put in to the bylaws at the advice of counsel at that time as there had been questions whether the Committee had to adhere to Open Meetings Law requirements. She said now it is understood that the law does not apply to committees like LAC. She argued that there were meetings of the Committee at which matters of a confidential nature were discussed, citing one that she had attended as a trustee at which strategies for addressing the potential LIPA tax shift were discussed among LAC members and district lawyers. She recalled another meeting that took place this year at which she said committee members felt as if they had to be very careful of what they could say, with a community member present. The resident said at one point, “'should I even be here',” she said. “It can be difficult sometimes to develop a strategy when the public is there."
“I understand transparency . . . and we want to reach out to the community.” Ms. Beyer continued and said that the committee was accessible to the public through its e-mail account, and that it would be holding a legislative night during the fall and also possibly speak at the district’s Back to School open houses.
Marty Glennon, a member of the Committee then addressed the Board. “I more than anyone believe in transparency,” he said, and proposed that a more appropriate name for the committee would be the "Legislative Advisory Committee." As an advisory committee, he said it was of primary importance for its members to be able to speak candidly. “The free exchange of ideas we will not have [with open meetings]. People will clam up a bit if they know things can be taken out of context," he said. “We get our direction from the Board, and we report back to the Board. We don’t take any action, the board takes action.” He re-iterated Ms. Beyer's points concerning the Legislative Night and the email access. “I don’t see advantages, I only see disadvantages [to keeping the meetings open]. . . There isn’t any non- transparency in this process,” he said.
Christine Hughes, also a member of the Committee, said that she agreed with what Mr. Glennon and Ms. Beyer had said. “The purpose of LAC is advisory,” she said. “We need to encourage frank discussion. . . . Nobody is against transparency.” She added that there could also be premature disclosure of policies that the board has not yet adopted and that the views expressed by members of LAC could be misconstrued as the position taken by School Board when that may not be the case.”
“Nobody here is against transparency,” Trustee Commander said. “The goal should be for LAC to operate most effectively. We are hearing from people in the trenches concerns about how open they can be when they are discussing some very important issues.”
Trustee Nightingale said that keeping the meetings open would help “foster better ideas and a better understanding of all the issues.” He added later, “I’m not seeing where keeping the public out helps the process.”
“Strategy does come into play,” replied Ms. Beyer. “Ultimately its the board that makes the decisions and that’s where the transparency needs to happen. . . . We’re not making policies here, it’s you, and that’s where the transparency should be.”
Trustee Sara Jones then questioned whether there was a transparency issue involved here. She said the same arguments could be made for every district committee like the Construction Steering committee.
The board then voted on two procedural issues. The first was whether a discussion and vote should be held at the next meeting to change the "A" in LAC from "Action" to "Advisory." That motion failed to get the necessary majority with only Trustees Labbate, Nightingale, and Russo supporting the measure.
The second was on whether a discussion and vote should be held at the next meeting to amend LAC's bylaws so as to close their meetings to the public.
That motion failed to garner the necessary majority, with three trustees (Commander, Jones, and Labbate) voting “yes,” and Trustees Lara Gonzalez, Nightingale and Russo voting “no.” Board President Herman Berliner, who was late arriving to the meeting as a result of a delayed flight, was not present for the votes.
SUMMARY OF DISTRICT GOALS
The second discussion item listed on the Agenda was “Summary of District Goals.” Dr. Melnick stated that he had distributed, in advance, the summary of goals in writing to the Trustees and asked the Trustees if they had any questions regarding those goals. There were no comments or questions concerning the District’s goals, which were not stated verbally at the meeting. There were no comments or observations made concerning transparency with regard to the district's goals.
The board voted, without discussion, to allocate $1.345 million in unexpended funds from the 2014-15 budget for the following:
$630,000 - Reduction of 2015-16 Tax Levy
$69,342.33 - Increase Unassigned Fund Balance
(The current unassigned fund balance is $3,833,678.89. State law allows district to maintain an unassigned fund balance of 4% of the subsequent year’s budget 2015-16 ($97,575,530.38). That balance is now at $3,903,012.22 - 4% of the budget.
$270,669.00 - Deposit into the District’s Repair Reserve
$250,000 - To repair potholes district wide caused by the severe winter. This work must be done as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration, the agenda reads .
$ 125,000.00 - Upgrade High School Language Lab
Any additional fund balance realized after the final audit is completed will be placed in an assigned fund balance to reduce future levies or to increase the ERS reserve. Currently that is estimated to be $50,052.69.
Additionally, the board voted to put $600,000 of a $5.4 million state grant to offset any potential impact of the power plant demolition, towards reducing the tax levy. ($160,000 of that grant had been used last year.)
$2,300,000.00 of that grant (received this year from NYS Senate and Assembly) will be placed in a reserve to reduce future levies or transferred to other reserves for designated purposes.
BACK TO WEEKLY
TENURE AND RETIREMENT RECOGNITION
At the Thursday June 18 North Shore Board of Education Meeting, the District recognized 11 retirees and 15 faculty members receiving tenure.
TEACHERS RECEIVING TENURE
Elizabeth Alizzi-Pipala, Special Education (SC) Jennifer Barra, Teaching Assistant (GWL) Danielle Bernstein, Special Education (MS) XianXian Cascella, LOTE (Elementary)
Linda Desmond, Teaching Assistant (SC)
Keryn (Schappert) Edwards, Special Education (GWL)
Kathryn Joseph, Special Education (MS)
Toni Kolb-Papetti, Social Worker (MS)
Bryce Larsen, Music (MS) [received tenure earlier in the year]
Sara LeMar, Physics (HS)
Jennifer McGovern, Teaching Assistant (SC) [received tenure earlier in the year]
Tina Passante, Science (HS)
Rachel Resnick, Music (MS)
Craig Roslund, Special Education (MS)
Rachel Green, Assistant Principal Middle School