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School Board Questioned About Mass Mailing, Conduct Agreement

March 21, 2012

Richard Nelson at Tuesday's North Country Union High School Board meeting. Photo by Christopher Roy

NEWPORT CITY – The North Country Union High School board came under fire from Newport City Council President John Wilson at Tuesdays board meeting. Wilson, speaking as a city resident not a council member, was upset that a mailing encouraging voters to vote on the high school budget arrived after Town Meeting Day.
Wilson received the mailing three days after the vote and other residents received it later than that. 
The effort would have probably been good if voters received the mailing before the vote, he said. Wilson said post office staff told him a firm in New York City produced the mailing.
The mailing consisted of once piece of paper, folded and used as its own envelope. It included information on the school budget and encouraged people to get out and vote.
“As a taxpayer, I would only hope if you do this next year, you’ll react a little bit quicker and not squander the hard earned money of the taxpayers,” said Wilson. He said that post office staff told him they threw “an awful lot” of the mailings in the trash because the addresses were no good.
Board member Richard Nelson of Derby suggested that next time the information in the mailing be included in the town reports.
Wilson suggested putting a notice in the newspaper and on public access television.
Some members of the Business Operations Committee wanted the mailing to be first class but others thought it would be too expensive and decided to use bulk mail instead, board member Peter Moskovites of Charleston said.
The total cost to produce, print and send the mailings was $2,700. The letters left New York City 11 processing days before March 5. Wilson suggested that someone local could produce the material.
The board will revisit the issue to determine if it will use a mailing again, Moskovites said.
In other business, some controversy arose when it came time to sign the School Board Conduct Agreement. Newly elected board member Maggie Griffith of Newport City was concerned with the stipulation that read, “Review essential facts, consider others’ ideas and then present personal opinions during board deliberations, but once the board vote has been taken, support board decisions regardless of individual positions.”
“I can’t do that,” said Griffith, who seemed concerned she would be bound by whatever decision the board makes as a whole. “I promised the voters I would speak for them and I’m going to try to do that.”
Griffith said she can’t and won’t keep quiet if something happens that goes against her belief.
Supporting the board’s decision, regardless how an individual feels, doesn’t mean it’s a unanimous decision, board member Diane Geoffroy of Lowell said. She said she’ll tell people, if asked, her personal beliefs.
Board Chair Rosemary Mayhew of Troy told Geoffroy that she shouldn’t lie, but can tell people the decision was the consensus of the board. 
The idea behind the code of conduct is so individuals won’t bash decisions made by the school board as a whole. The Vermont School Board Association set the guidelines.
“They came and we worked long and hard on this,” said Mayhew.
“That’s fine, but I’m not going to sign it,” said Griffith.
Several board members agreed with Griffith that they should be able to tell individuals the consensus of the board and their personal beliefs when and if asked.
During the principal’s report, Bill Rivard told the board that on Friday, March 30, North Country would be hosting the Vermont Principal’s Executive Council. Fifteen principals from around the state will attend the conference. About 12 of those will spend the night before at local hotels. The organization meets every quarter. As far as Rivard knows, this is the first time the organization has met at North Country.
The board also named Mayhew as the chair. She replaces Arne Amaliksen of Derby. The board named Moskovities as vice-chair.

 

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