What is going on with the Board of Education?
That is a great question, but one that cannot be answered by members of the public who only have access to the public facing videos and agendas provided on the BOE's website.
After doing some digging, we have been able to piece together some of the story. Let's be clear - IT SHOULD NOT BE THIS WAY!
Members of the public should be able to go through the public record and easily understand what is going on at the BOE and what is going on with our schools. It should not require any particular special knowledge and it should not require having personal contacts with in the BOE, the central office, and the local teachers union, to begin to understand what is really happening.
Before we get to the story, please attend the BOE meeting tonight at 7pm. Here is the agenda with the zoom link: drive.google.com/file/d/1OIohw_kGgTSRybf9kbJnAj1T_gq_W2HJ/view
Okay, here's the story:
On August 1st, in the middle of summer vacation, the BOE held a last-minute special meeting to vote on Resolution 08-22-23: 69. The meeting lasted all of two minutes.
Watch for yourself and see if you can understand what happened or why.
If you are scratching your head, you are not alone.
On the agenda the resolution is only described as a "recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, that the Board of Education approve the MOA between SPS and the SEA regarding special education." Rather than giving the public a clear and concise understanding of what is in the resolution, the description requires one to be familiar with acronyms. Furthermore, even if you click into the resolution itself, beyond some vague notion, it is still difficult to understand exactly what the agreement between the district and the teacher's union was about.
If you were paying attention, you will have noted that at the beginning of the special meeting, Jackie Heftmen said the reason they were late getting started is that their previous meeting ran overtime. What was that meeting? What was discussed there? Was the public notified of this meeting?
Our sources tell us that it was an executive session where the actual discussion of this MOA between the district and the teacher's union took place. Apparently, the BOE doesn't think you need to know or understand why they decided to table the agreement with the teachers union. Nope, all you get is two minutes of procedural nonsense so they can cover their butts, and then an article in the Stamford Advocate announcing an $850,000 contract with private company to fill in the gaps of our special education program.
According to our sources, the teacher's union and the district had been in discussions for some time to come to improve the district's special education program and to recruit special education teachers to the district with more attractive salary offerings. At the same time, the district was exploring other ways to fulfill the district's special education needs. Once again, Mr. Esses seems to be in the middle of these backroom deals and running cover for whatever discussions are going on (the video pretty clearly shows one thing: the vote to table the resolution was coordinated in advanced). Maybe the MOA was a bad deal and maybe the best thing to do is a short-term contract with a private company to fill the gaps. Maybe not. We can't know and that is the problem.
These are decisions concern the public and should be made in the light of day, not in the darkness of executive session. This particularly true when it comes to one of our most vulnerable populations of students - those is in special education. However, this BOE has make it clear they have little regard for the public as they continue to abuse executive session to shield themselves from the scrutiny of the public eye. It is simply unacceptable.
The public too has a responsibility. We were on vacation and the BOE took advantage of that. It's time to come back to reality.
Our call to action is simple: Log in to the BOE meeting tonight at 7:00 pm
And make it a tradition EVERY Tuesday night. Set your calendar with a reminder and just open the zoom. Even if you can't fully pay attention or you have other things going on, log in and run up those numbers!
We have to let them know we are paying attention and we have to hold them accountable in the way we expect them to hold the school administration accountable.