GMUSD debates detail of minutes for controversial April meeting

Green Mountain Union High School
Green Mountain Union High School. Photo provided

CHESTER, Vt. – At their June 17 meeting, the Green Mountain Unified School District Board spend nearly an hour debating the depth of detail that should be included in their meeting minutes. They mainly concentrated on the minutes from the controversial April 15 board meeting, which included two back-to-back votes to approve Keith Hill as Green Mountain Union High School principal. The second, and confirming vote, came on the heels of threats to quit by both board Vice Chair Deb Brown and Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman.

Board member Dennis Reilly had recommended there be a truncated version of the April minutes during May’s meeting, but that suggestion was not acted on at the time and the minutes were tabled. This month, Reilly provided a recommended edit of the April minutes to the other board members, which “maintained all the important information that happened… All the motions, all the votes, and eliminated all the emotions.”

Reilly said that April’s meeting was “really disgusting and inappropriate” example of what a school board should be doing and that everyone that attended that meeting made mistakes. Reilly said he didn’t want that to be the historical record for future generations to read. He made a motion to accept his edited April minutes.

Also under fire was the decision to include the chat comments from Zoom meeting attendees as an attachment and indicated as a part of the official meeting minutes. Board Chair Joe Fromberger said that he had instructed that the chat comments not be included in the minutes yet the official minutes that were up for approval still had the notation that the chat comments were included as an attachment. The board agreed that all future meetings, the chat function would be turned off in the event of a hybrid meeting.

Board member Abe Gross disagreed with both editing the full-detailed minutes of the April meeting and eliminating the chat comments. He said that although he understood the objection to the inclusion of the chats, that it was appropriate to have the full record of all the information available, exactly for the reason of having an exact historical record.

Board Vice Chair Deb Brown opposed Reilly’s edited version of the April minutes, saying that although she was in the center of the controversy, it happened and showed her frustration. She also said that she didn’t know her mic was on when she threatened to quit.

In the first vote on the April minutes, Reilly’s edited version of the minutes was not approved by a “no” vote of 5 to 4.

A motion to include language that chat comments were “included only as public comment,” along with the full minutes was also not approved, defeated 5 to 4.

In the final vote, the original full-length April minutes, which included small corrections suggested by the recording secretary, and eliminated the chat comments from the official minutes, was approved by a vote of 7 to 2.

Gross then made a motion to require the superintendent to save the chat conversation somewhere, suggesting that the board could be in legal jeopardy by getting rid of documents that they have. After a lengthy discussion about meeting record storing and how Zoom meetings are recorded and saved, Gross withdrew his request.

The minutes for the May 20 meeting were then quickly approved.

Fierman announced that she would be dropping her plan to change Cavendish Town Elementary School’s Tuesday schedule to mirror the other district schools for this upcoming school year, saying that they needed more than two months to make that kind of transition and did not want to start out the year with people being angry and upset.

Instead Fierman will return all schools to their pre-pandemic schedule. She said she would start the process of transitioning the CTES schedule, which currently includes Tuesday afternoon professional development time for teachers, in August and September of this year with a plan to align all the school schedules in fall of 2022.

The GMUSD School Board has a scheduled retreat for Wednesday, June. 30. The next GMUSD meeting will be at Chester-Andover Elementary School Thursday, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m.

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