See You In Court: The Annals of the Nutmeg Board appears in the CABE Journal, a publication of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Educations.
At a recent meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education, “security matters” was on the Board agenda. When the Board reached that item, Mrs. Superintendent told the Board that she has some ideas for improving school security, and she suggested that the Board go into executive session for the purpose of holding that discussion. Local reporter Nancy Newshound from the Nutmeg Bugle stood up and demanded to be recognized. Mr. Chairperson sighed and said, “Go ahead Nancy. What’s your problem now?” Noah Tall, a local curmudgeon who is free with his opinions, chimed in. “When I was in the service, I learned a lot about security. If you are smart, you will let me be part of the executive session discussion.” Mr. Chairperson interrupted Noah and Nancy. “Look, you two. When you get yourself elected to the Nutmeg Board of Education, you will have a say in how we operate. Until then, we thank you for your comments and ask that you leave now so that the Board can have its executive session.” Citing the provision in the FOIA that provides that members of the public should have “prompt” access to public records during normal business hours, Noah asked the Commission to find the Nutmeg Board of Education in violation of the law. Does either Nancy or Noah have a valid complaint here?
As the holiday break grows near, the members of the Nutmeg Board of Education have been on their best behavior, almost mellow in tone, dutifully moving through the agenda for each meeting. Things changed at the meeting last week, however, when veteran Board member Bob Bombast moved to add an item to the agenda: Investigation into Unauthorized Trip. Fellow Board member Mal Content was intrigued, and he seconded the motion without knowing what Bob was planning. Now everyone was curious, and the Board voted unanimously to add the item to the agenda. The next morning Nancy Newshound made good on her threat and submitted a written request for all Board member text messages sent by and between the Board members, both during the meeting and afterwards. Was it OK for Mal to delete his texts about Mr. Superintendent?
As the Nutmeg Board of Education prepares for new budget season, Board member Mal Content is worried about the budget discussions becoming antagonistic and personal. The last budget season had been brutal, but people were generally civil and respectful in their comments on the budget. However, the last year has been hard on civility in public discourse at the local, state and federal levels of government, and Mal was worried that during budget deliberations the Board will experience the rude behavior seen too often these days on the television news. Mal would not have to wait long.... Eventually, Ms. Chairperson gave up trying, and over the din she asked whether there was a motion to adjourn. Bob Bombast made the motion, which was quickly seconded and passed unanimously. Did Ms. Chairperson have any alternative here?
Mr. Chairperson has had his hands full with two new members of the Nutmeg Board of Education. Mal Content and Chrissie Critical were elected to the Board just last November, but they quickly started antagonizing Mr. Chairperson and the other Board members. Nothing, it seemed, was right in their view. Mal and Chrissie complained at the Board meetings about the “do-nothing” Board, and they repeatedly complained by email to all the other Board members. Some Board members tried to respond to their concerns by return email, but the disaffected two were unmoved and continued to find fault with the Board.... “Never mind,” Bob responded. “If we can’t have a candid discussion about these two trouble-makers in executive session, we’ll just have a more general discussion in executive session about Board operation.” Can Mal and Chrissie file an FOIA complaint, and will they win?
The glory days for Nutmeg Knights Football were long gone, the last winning season having been in 2003. But Coach Rock, the beleaguered long-time Knights coach, soldiered on. Calls for change grew shriller, however, as the Knights dropped their first two games this fall by lopsided scores. Mr. Superintendent decided that he had to do something. The next day, Mr. Superintendent stopped by to chat with Coach Rock before practice, and he gently broached the subject of retirement. “None of us is getting any younger, Coach. Don’t you think that it is time for you to hang up your cleats?” Is Coach Rock done in Nutmeg?
Bob Bombast was watching “Fox News” on June 27 when the scroll at the bottom of the screen caught his eye. “Supreme Court strikes down agency fees; deals big blow to public sector unions!!” Though Bob had chaired the Personnel Committee for the Nutmeg Board of Education for many years, he had no idea that the various Board employees did not have to be union members, and he had never heard about agency fees. But being intellectually curious, Bob found the Court’s opinion in Janus v. AFSCME online, read the syllabus and some of the press coverage, and Bob decided to share this news with the Personnel Committee. “I think that this is an illegal meeting!” Nancy announced. “The meeting is posted as a Personnel Committee meeting, but all the members of the Board are here tonight. This is an unposted and illegal meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education!” “That’s what I get for inviting you, Nancy?” Bob snapped back. “This is my meeting, a public meeting of the Personnel Committee, and if the other members of the Board want to attend, that is their right!” Who is correct here, Bob or Nancy?
The Nutmeg Board of Education finally has a budget for the 2018-2019 school year. Difficult as the process was, however, the hard work for the Board of Education was now beginning. Somehow, somewhere, the Nutmeg Board of Education must find savings in the amount of $2,000,000 in the budget reconciliation process. The Nutmeg Board of Education reconvened into public session and announced that teachers would be furloughed for six days next year and that elementary art and world language will not be taught as separate subjects anymore, starting in September. Problem solved?
Bob Bombast, veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, was surprised to see a work team and a backhoe on the grounds of Median Middle School. So surprised in fact that he parked his car and walked over to find out what was going on. The workers explained that they were converting the field next to the school to a baseball diamond, and they sought to reassure Bob that they would be done this month. Bob was not reassured, because he did not remember hearing about any such plans from Mr. Superintendent. Bob then checked with Mr. Superintendent, who told Bob that he was unaware of the project and vowed to get to the bottom of this mystery. It didn’t take him long. When Mr. Superintendent arrived on the site, he found out that the workers were from the Town of Nutmeg, and they explained that they were working at the direction of Mayor Megillah. What are the chances for the Nutmeg Board of Education in court?
After serving as Chairperson of the Nutmeg Board of Education for six long years, Mr. Chairman announced unexpectedly at the last meeting in February that his company had transferred him to Illinois. At what would be his last meeting, Mr. Chairperson told his colleagues that they were the best board members in Connecticut, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Mr. Chairperson was concerned that the Board should figure something out before he left for Illinois, so he proposed that Penny Pincher, currently the Board secretary, be named Chairperson Pro Tempore at the next meeting, to serve until the Board breaks the tie and elects a new Chair. Two days before the April meeting, the Board members were shocked to read that Mayor Megillah had appointed Nick Newbie to serve as Chair. You could cut the tension with a knife as the Board members gathered before the next meeting. Penny sat grimly at the head of the Board table, holding the gavel tightly in her hand. Nick approached her sheepishly, and he asked her to turn over the gavel to him. Should she?
Mark Millennial was recently elected to the Nutmeg Board of Education. More than ten years younger than any of the other Board members, Mark brings a new approach to Board service. His presence on social media is far more extensive than any of the other Board members. Mark is constantly tweeting out about the doings of the Nutmeg Public Schools, and his Facebook page has become a virtual meeting place for debate about the challenges facing the Nutmeg Public Schools. Mark was shocked and upset when he was sued by Al Angry. What should Mark do?
A student recently came to Mr. Principal in tears, accusing Joe Blow, a fifth-year senior at Nutmeg Memorial High School, of threatening to beat him up if he didn’t hand over his lunch money. When Mr. Principal investigated this claim, two other students told Mr. Principal that Joe had done the same to them. Mr. Principal then called Joe down to the office for a talk. Joe admitted that each of the three students had given him money when he asked them at lunch, but he adamantly denied that he had threatened anyone, claiming instead that the other students had willingly given him lunch money. Unconvinced, Mr. Principal suspended Joe and recommended expulsion. Can Joe appeal, and on what grounds?
Mr. Superintendent was hoping that the first meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education after the holidays would be uneventful, maybe even boring. It was not to be. During Public Comment, Peter Parent gave an impassioned speech about how the Nutmeg Public Schools are depriving his daughter of her privacy rights. At the beginning of the current school year, he reported, a transgender student who identifies as female started using the same girls bathrooms and girls locker room as his daughter. With increasing animation, Mr. Parent described how upset he is that his daughter may encounter this student in the bathroom and in the locker room. He ended his comments by slamming on the podium with each of three words, “This. Must. Stop!” Given that Mr. Superintendent is the chief executive officer of the Board of Education, were these Board members off base in discussing Mr. Parent’s concerns?
The General Assembly has finally passed a budget, and the Nutmeg Board of Education has been spared the catastrophic cuts in state aid that some had predicted. Veteran Board member Bob Bombast was therefore pleased to turn his attention to weightier matters: the appearance of the teachers in Nutmeg and that of their classrooms. Bob had seen a video on YouTube of an admiral exhorting a graduating class to make their beds every morning as a key to their success, and he decided that greater discipline among teachers would be beneficial to them and to the students they teach. Based on that inspirational video, Bob came up with a new initiative for the Board of Education to consider. Under Committee Reports, Bob unveiled his vision for a more effective school system, the “Tidy Teacher Initiative.” Should the Nutmeg Board of Education rescind the Tidy Teacher Initiative? If so, why and for how long?
As the football season wound down in Nutmeg, Bob Bombast went on a Facebook rant against the players in the NFL who take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. Coach Rock, veteran coach at Nutmeg Memorial High School who was still stung by Bob’s statement that Nutmeg should find a coach who can win, was outraged that Bob was again commenting on matters beyond his ken. Coach Rock went on Facebook to take on Bob directly: “Here we go again,” his post began. “Bob Bombast is shooting off his big mouth again about football when his only experience has been sitting on his fat ass in the stands or at home as a spectator. We should remind Bob that we live in America, and that football players, whether in the NFL or on my team, do not give up their free speech rights just because they play football. If football players want to protest injustice, they have every right to take a knee!” What would you advise Mr. Superintendent to do?
It didn’t take long. School started in Nutmeg just a month ago, and already Ms. Superintendent was calling the members of the Board of Education to schedule an expulsion hearing. “This is a good one,” she told veteran Board member Bob Bombast. “Joe Blow hacked into the computer system at Nutmeg Memorial High School and gave himself and a number of friends better grades. Can I count on you?” “I understand,” Bob Bombast replied. “Don’t worry. I have this.” Ms. Superintendent promptly sent out the standard expulsion notification letter, and the next day she received a call from Bill Alot, a local lawyer, who told her that he is representing Joe Blow. However, the Board wasn’t buying any of Attorney Alot's claims, and it expelled Joe. Attorney Alot vowed to appeal. Should the Board have any concerns?
The ongoing State budget stalemate has many public officials in Nutmeg on edge. “How can we give the Board of Education money when we don’t even know whether and when the State will give us our ECS funds?” asked Seymour Dollars, the irascible Chairperson of the Nutmeg Board of Education. Fortunately, the question was rhetorical, because the Town has approved the budget for 2017-2018, including the annual appropriation for the Nutmeg Board of Education. But Town officials found an outlet for their anxiety -- bird-dogging the Board of Education over its expenditures. Despite a recommendation from the Town Board of Finance, the Board of Education responded that it had decided to keep medical costs in its own budget. In so responding, did the Nutmeg Board of Education act legally?
It was a tough budget season in Nutmeg, and the Board of Education was forced to make difficult cuts just to start the new year with a balanced budget. To make matters worse, Town officials are whispering about possibly clawing back part of the appropriation to the Board if and when the General Assembly ever adopts a budget. These are difficult and uncertain times. Penny Pincher, Bob’s ally on the Board, promptly seconded, and without further discussion, the Board approved the hiring of a company to target companies and wealthy residents for charitable donations to help support the Nutmeg Public Schools. Bob could not hide his glee when he was able to report on these and other donations offered by the public. He was shocked, therefore, when instead of simply accepting these gifts with gratitude, the other Board members started talking about whether to accept these gifts. Should the Board think twice before accepting these gifts?
The members of the Nutmeg Board of Education are tired of having to put up with the constant barrage of criticism. Cut teaching positions? The parents go crazy. Add teaching positions? The taxpayer group goes crazy. To make matters worse, even talking about different options brings the critics out of the woodwork, who then seek to pit Board member against Board member. With the budget pressures this spring, the Board is considering some drastic cuts, including possibly closing a school. Given the significance of these issues, Bob decided that an in-person private discussion is needed. Accordingly, he has called an executive session of the Finance Committee, invited Mr. Board Attorney to attend the meeting, and posted it as “Discussion of Confidential Attorney-Client Communications.” Can the Committee go ahead with the budget discussion in executive session?
As Chair of the Finance Committee of the Nutmeg Board of Education, new Board member Penny Pincher is deeply concerned about the budget next year. Given the uncertainties regarding state funding, Seymour Dollars, venerable Chairperson of the Nutmeg Board of Finance, made good on his threats, and he and the other members of the Board of Finance have recommended a “no-increase” budget to the voters to approve at the upcoming referendum. As a result, the Board of Education was forced to cut many items from its budget for next year, including new Chromebooks for Acorn Elementary School and new band uniforms. Penny comes up with the idea to use unspent funds from the special education budget now to purchase Chromebooks and band uniforms for the following year. Can the Nutmeg Board of Education go ahead with the plan hatched by Penny and Ms. Superintendent to expend the funds this year from the special education line item to buy Chromebooks?
The Nutmeg Board of Education was frustrated and dismayed this budget season by the need to cut programs and reduce costs. However, given various warnings from Seymour Dollars, the irascible Chairperson of the Nutmeg Board of Finance, Board members felt that they had no choice but to cut the budget to the bone. No one was more frustrated by the situation than veteran Board member Bob Bombast. As the longest-serving member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, Bob had voted to establish many worthwhile programs to improve education in Nutmeg, and it saddened Bob to watch the ax fall on these programs. Desperately, he considered whether and how the Board could reduce its costs in some other way. Was the criticism of Bob’s plan warranted?
Sally Scrivener was elected to the Nutmeg Board of Education last November, and she was surprised when her Board colleagues voted to elect her to serve as secretary of the Board. Sally is nothing if not conscientious, and she has taken her role very seriously. At each meeting of the Board, Sally assiduously scripts the proceedings, and she then carefully crafts her detailed minutes and sends them to Mr. Superintendent’s secretary in a Word document to publish on the Board website. What, if any, records concerning those executive sessions must the Board disclose in response to Nancy’s FOIA request?
This budget season has been the worst in memory for the Nutmeg Board of Education. Next year will be the second year of a three-year contract with the Nutmeg Union of Teachers (NUTS), and that contract includes a salary increase of over three percent. Moreover, health insurance costs are projected to increase by more than twice that amount. At the same time, the State has reduced school aid, and Seymour Dollars, the irascible Chair of the Nutmeg Board of Finance, has already stated publicly that the Board of Education will have to tighten its belt because funding for the Board of Education will be flat next year. Do you see any problems here?
For years, the Nutmeg Board of Education has invited members of the public to comment at the beginning of its meetings. Last year, the Board adopted some new rules and even printed those rules on the bottom of the agenda: “All speakers are limited to three minutes. Comments must relate to the operation of the Nutmeg Public Schools. No personal attacks!” There was some grumbling when rules first went into effect, but Public Comment has been running smoothly ever since. Do you see any problems if Mr. Superintendent changes his mind and permits the young man to take Chemistry at Nutmeg Memorial?
The last game for the Nutmeg Knights couldn’t come fast enough for veteran Nutmeg Board of Education member Bob Bombast. A defensive tackle on the legendary 1984 team, Bob bleeds Nutmeg persimmon and gold and attends every game. But those glory days are long over, and the long-suffering football team of Nutmeg Memorial High School was at the end of one of its worst seasons ever. Can Tom Teacher be fired? And what are the chances that Bob can successfully sue Tom Teacher for defamation for making that nasty remark?
Bob Bombast, veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, couldn’t believe that he has never attended the CABE Convention before. When he finally signed up and attended the 2016 Convention, he was surprised by and pleased with the wealth of information available through the various workshops. He went from workshop to workshop Friday morning, learning more each time. Did Bob Bombast cross the line at the CABE Convention?
For years now, Bob Bombast, veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, has been perplexed by and concerned about the State formula for providing funds for education. Accordingly, he has watched carefully – and patiently – as the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding v. Rell case has wended its way through the courts since 2005. Bob was ecstatic when he heard that the superior court ruled on September 7, 2016 in favor of the CCJEF plaintiffs, and he couldn’t wait to share that news with the public at the next Board meeting. Was it OK for Nutmeg to talk about the CCJEF ruling at its meeting as it did? And how likely is it that Nutmeg will receive additional funding now that CCJEF has been decided?
Mayor Megillah is in his second term as Mayor of Nutmeg, and he is starting to feel his oats. Sometimes he treats the Board of Education as a town department and tells the Board members what to do and when. Some Board members resent his presumption, but those in the same political party do try to toe the party line. Are there any problems with the Board’s actions here?
Out of the blue, Nancy Newshound, longtime reporter for the Nutmeg Bugle called Mr. Superintendent. “I understand that a student hacked the district’s system and changed a bunch of grades,” she stated. “What can you tell me about that?” Is Mr. Superintendent within his rights to keep quiet about the breach?
Given the chronic underfunding of education in Nutmeg by the Board of Finance and its irascible Chairperson, Seymour Dollars, the Nutmeg Board of Education has had to be careful in its spending on discretionary issues, including curriculum revision. As a result, the curriculum in Nutmeg is now so outdated that parents are asking questions like “why do our textbooks still refer to the Soviet Union?” and “why is there no mention in the curriculum of the Internet?” Embarrassed by these questions, the Board’s Curriculum Committee was impelled to action. Curriculum Committee Chair Bob Bombast has been doing a lot of research, and he shared his findings with the other Committee members by email. Through a few exchanges, Bob and his colleagues on the committee decided that the Committee didn’t even need to meet to recommend to the Board that it jump with both feet to the Common Core State Standards. In the executive session last evening, Mr. Superintendent reported back to the Board and asked whether Matt should be fired. Should he be?
Expenditures under the 2015-2016 budget have been a mixed bag in Nutmeg. The fuel oil account and the snow removal overtime account are both underexpended, given the mild winter. However, special education expenses have exceeded the budgeted amounts month after month. After the budget was set for the year, three children with extensive special education needs moved into Nutmeg, and the cost of their programs exceeded $100,000 each. Scrambling to find the funds to pay for these students, Mr. Superintendent moved $500,000 from the fuel oil and overtime accounts into the special education account. Everything was fine until he told the Board about his actions. Did the Nutmeg Board of Education have the right to exercise this supervisory control over Mr. Superintendent’s executive decision-making?
The Nutmeg Board of Education has not expelled a student for over two years. Not because Nutmeg students are so compliant, however, but rather because the Board appointed a hearing officer two years ago to conduct expulsion hearings on its behalf. But when Mr. Superintendent called the duly-appointed hearing officer last week to schedule an expulsion hearing, he found out that the hearing officer is away on vacation and will not be back for another three weeks. Mr. Superintendent then called Ms. Chairperson to find out whether the Board wanted to appoint another hearing officer. Does the Board have the right to question Sally even though a deal was struck?
Now that the budget for next year was finally completed and submitted to the Town, the Nutmeg Board of Education turned its attention to the current year’s budget. Board member Red Cent had been poring over the monthly financial reports, and she raised a number of questions at the Board meeting last month. She noted, for example, that the supplies account at Acorn Elementary School was in the red, as was the substitute account at Nutmeg Memorial High School, where absenteeism was endemic. “Who’s in charge here?” she demanded stridently. “If we overexpend our budget, the Board members will be personally liable.” Who is right here?
Mr. Superintendent knew that his news for the Nutmeg Board of Education would cause a stir – the Nutmeg Public Schools were looking at a deficit for 2015-2016 of around $1,000,000. While the warm weather had resulted in savings in the fuel account, special education expenditures were far in excess of the amount budgeted. To make matters worse, the unanticipated costs came from over a dozen new special education students, rather than one or two very high-cost cases that would have triggered some state reimbursement. Mr. Superintendent knew that he would have to “announce” the problem and related cost-cutting measures at a public Board meeting. Will this strategy work?
With the holiday season in full swing, the Nutmeg Board of Education has been having difficulty getting a quorum to attend its meetings. The meeting last week was delayed by forty-five minutes as the Board members present waited for a fifth member to straggle in to create a quorum. Tonight, four members of the Board, including Ms. Chairperson, were again waiting. And waiting. Did the actions by the Board members present before a quorum was established violate anyone’s legal rights?
Negotiations with the Nutmeg Union of Teachers (NUTS) went better than usual this year. NUTS did not waste a lot of time trying to usurp management rights, and it focused instead on the bread-and-butter issues of salary and insurance. For its part, the Negotiations Committee of the Nutmeg Board of Education was simply looking for more time for teachers to collaborate and otherwise trying to keep the settlement to a reasonable level. “Negotiate about arbitration?” Bob Bombast asked at the strategy session Mr. Chairperson called to get ready for arbitration. “That doesn’t make any sense at all.” Does it?
Bob Bombast, veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, has been vocal in his opposition to state testing based on the Common Core State Standards. When Mr. Superintendent reported last month on the poor test results from last year, Bob was in classic form, accusing the State Department of Education of subordinating local control of education to corporate interests. Bob told the Board and the public that it is imperative that the Board do something, anything, to deal with this problem, and he promised to have a plan at the next meeting. Since that time, Bob has been conferring with several fellow Board members by email and in person, and by the time the Board met again yesterday, Bob was ready with his plan. Do you have any concerns about Bob’s motion and the new committee?
The members of the Nutmeg Board of Education are a conscientious group, and they want to know everything about the operation of the Nutmeg Public Schools. For his part, Mr. Superintendent has tried to keep up with their questions, but it seems that his updates simply whet the appetites of the Board members for more information. Moreover, whenever Mr. Superintendent provides one Board member information in response to his or her questions, other Board members invariably find out and ask for the same the information as well. What should they say?
Mr. Superintendent couldn’t believe that it is already again time for negotiations with the Nutmeg Union of Teachers (NUTS). However, when Mr. Superintendent told Mr. Chairman that teacher negotiations are coming up and suggested a private Board meeting to discuss strategy, Mr. Chairman demurred. “Nope! We need transparency,” he said. “The Board will be discussing these negotiations in open session. After all, our taxpayers have a right to know where their money goes.” Is this a good deal for Nutmeg?
Last year, Mal Content ran for the Nutmeg Board of Education on a platform of constituent service, with advertisements promising, “Tell me your problems, and I will find you solutions.” Despite Mal’s grand promises, he was not elected. But to his good fortune, one of the seated Board members took a job out-of-state, and Mal was appointed to fill the vacancy. Was Mr. Chairperson’s ruling correct?
Seymour Dollars, the irascible Chairperson of the Nutmeg Board of Finance, gave the Board of Education a very hard time throughout the entire budget process this year. He questioned the Board down to the minutest detail of its budget estimate, and he seemed always to have a better idea about how to run the Nutmeg Public Schools. Does the Nutmeg Board of Education have anything to worry about?
The almost-interminable winter was finally over, and Peter Principal saw a significant uptick in the number of suspensions for offenses ranging from horseplay to assault. To make things worse, many of the students had their lawyers on speed dial, and suspension hearings are increasingly becoming mini-trials. But the problems were not limited to the physical interactions between and among the students. Should Joe be expelled? Do you have any concerns about Bob’s role here?
At the meeting of the Board, Mr. Chairperson read aloud the list of suggestions from the Board of Finance, and then he asked, "Who wants to serve on a committee to review these suggestions and to explain to the Board of Finance why they make no sense?" No one volunteered, but Mr. Chairperson quickly appointed three Board members to a committee to review the suggestions and report back to the Board of Education and the Board of Finance. "Take your sweet time," he concluded. Do you see any problems with the Board's response?
Mr. Chairperson was upset by the threat implicit in Seymour Dollars’ response, so he called up each Board member and encouraged them to hang tough and support the Superintendent’s budget. The other Board members wanted to avoid the embarrassment of further public conflict between Mr. Chairperson and Bob, and they quickly proposed and passed the motion. Do you see any problems with the Board’s response?
Mayor Megillah sent an email to the Board of Education, informing it that installation of lights at the High School would commence in February. Mr. Chairperson immediately called Mayor Megillah to explain that the Board of Education had not discussed the matter. Bob Bombast listened to Mr. Chairperson describe the conflict between the Board of Education and Mayor, via Bob's efforts in the reelection campaign. Mr. Chairperson instructed the Board secretary to record the vote as six in favor with Bob abstaining from the vote per the ruling of the Chair. Did Mr. Chairperson rule correctly here?
The meetings of the Nutmeg Board of Education have been too long, with the first hour or more devoted to Public Comment, which seems more like Target Practice. The Board discussed and decided to limit Public Comment to positive comments and shorten the speaker’s time to two minutes. Even considering the idea of a consent agenda. Will the Board be able to make these changes and operate more efficiently?
Ernie pulled out his phone to check his calendar against the Board calendar, and he announced that he would be out of town for four of the next six meetings. "I will be attending the meetings by Skype,” Ernie said. “Is that legal?” Mal Content asked. “Unless you can cite some law, Bob, I am not going to interfere with Ernie’s right to vote,” responded Mr. Chairperson. Before the next meeting Board, however, Bob sent Mr. Chairperson a note stating that he would not be attending the meeting but that his votes on the proposed motions were attached. Can Bob vote this way? Can Ernie?
Ms. Principal realized that a tag sale would be a win-win situation, providing some needed cash to the school while cutting down on the clutter. They found forty serviceable but outdated computers, 100 unused desks and, in the boiler room, a WPA mural that was done in the 1930s. The sale was a big success; she was therefore surprised to be called down to Mr. Superintendent’s office. “We have a problem here. You better get the property back pronto," Should Ms. Principal try to get the property back? Will she be able to?
Mr. Chairperson appointed Mal to serve as Chairperson of the Board Policy Committee. Mal promptly got on the telephone with Mr. Board Attorney and asked him to review and revise all Board policies to “make them perfect.” Moreover, Mal quickly decided on his own that the Board needs new policies on student safety, religious celebrations in the schools, and the assignment and return of homework. Did Mal get carried away here? If so, how?
Setting the school calendar has always been a challenge for the Nutmeg Board of Education. Whatever calendar the Board would discuss, someone would be unhappy. Board members tried to avoid controversy by dealing the issue over several meetings, but the discussion would always end with rancorous debate. Do you envision any problems if the Board of Education adopts the committee’s recommendations?
Mr. Superintendent recently created a Technology Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations concerning a proposed new BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) policy. Unfortunately, Wally Windbag was unwilling to back off from his position that the policy was a dumb idea and Mr. Superintendent called Wally up the next day to notify him that he was off the committee. The next day Wally sent an email to the entire Board of Education and Town Council badmouthing Mr. Superintendent. Should the Board look the other way, or can and should the Board sue Wally for his email?
Bob Bombast, veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, keeps a close eye on his 1,000 Facebook friends. Bob was surprised one evening to read on Tom Teacher’s Facebook page that his principal had denied his request for personal leave. Bob called Tom right up at home, to discuss the grievance and potential hearing. The hearing itself was uneventful; but a Board Member questioned Bob's information and the fact that he got it by talking to Tom in advance. “Mr. Chairperson, it is obvious that Bob is biased and should not participate in this grievance hearing.” Should Bob recuse himself? Can he participate despite his talking to Tom?
Nancy, a fixture at Board meetings in her role as reporter for the Nutmeg Bugle, stood standing outside the room with her ear to the door. Nancy claimed they should have started the meeting in public session, now Bob was wondering whether Nancy had a good point. “We have a lot going on! It is a shame that Nancy cannot attend our executive session, isn’t it?” Mr. Chairperson chuckled. Will Nancy Newshound have the last laugh here?
Then in the mail yesterday morning Mr. Superintendent received notice from the State Board of Labor Relations that the Nutmeg Association of Schools Administrators had filed an unfair labor practice charge. Should the Nutmeg Board of Education be worried?
Over the holiday recess, Mr. Superintendent was reading the 2014 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and he didn’t like what he saw. He figured that the Nutmeg Board of Education should add some additional snow days this year. However, the Board made a motion to reject the Superintendent’s plan to change the school calendar. That motion was promptly seconded, and to Mr. Superintendent’s chagrin, it passed unanimously. Did the Nutmeg Board of Education handle this issue appropriately?
The problem is that your T-shirt is vulgar, which I will not allow in my school. Mr. Principal announced the policy over the intercom the next morning. After reading them the new policy, he informed students that they had a one-day grace period, but that the policy will be effective and enforced as of tomorrow. Is Nutmeg all set now?
Mr. Chairperson confronted Polly. “How dare you? You can’t just spring surprises, you know! If you want something on the agenda, you have to tell me in advance. Got it?” Polly was shocked at Mr. Chairperson’s outburst. What did Polly do wrong here?
This year, Bob Bombast has made it his personal crusade to make sure that the school calendar would never be a problem again. Mal Content was in high dudgeon about this change in the school calendar. Bob ignored Mal and the parents as they were talking. What should the Nutmeg Board of Education learn about the school calendar?
Bob’s comments incensed Seymour, and he too called Nancy. “The Board of Education had better get with the program. The Town holds the purse strings, and we will not be appropriating money to squander it. Should the Nutmeg Board provide a written response to the Board of Finance?
“I heard that you have been calling the school and sending emails to teachers and others, telling them what ‘should’ happen at the school. And your votes on PTO matters are clearly a conflict of interest," said Mr. Chairperson. Penny was in a daze at Mal’s unrelenting attacks, and she was shocked by the silence of the other Board members. Does Penny have any recourse here?
If Seymour wants details, he thought, he will get details. Bob scheduled an impromptu meeting of the Finance Committee in his basement. With little discussion, the Board passed the motion unanimously, authorizing Mr. Superintendent to put up to $1,000,000 in a carryover account. Will this money be available to the Board next year?
Bob Bombast had the answer. “As a condition of approving any future field trips, we must require students to sign a complete release of liability." Board member Penny Pincher agreed, “In fact, if the parents and students are going to be waiving liability claims, we can even approve the trip to North Korea. Is the Nutmeg now safe from liability claims arising from school-sponsored trips?
Given that the Board agenda for the meeting last night already included the item School Calendar, Bob was all set to make his pitch. “Mr. Chairman, after hearing from our constituents, I think that we should bite the bullet and cancel April vacation to make sure we can end the school year on time.” If extra school days are needed, will Mal’s ideas work?
At the Board meeting last evening, Wiley made a move under New Business, we need expert help to keep our temperatures just right. With little discussion, the other Board members voted to reject the proposed contract from the consulting firm. Does Wiley have any recourse?
Penny Pincher had served on the Nutmeg Board of Education for five years, and regular attendance at Board meetings had always been important to her. For over a month now, Penny had not attended a single Board meeting. Penny was again absent at the next meeting, Bob noticed right away, "I move that Penny be removed as a Board member.” Should Bob prevail here?
Veteran Board member Bob Bombast loves to be in the thick of things, and he lobbied hard to head up the Board negotiations committee. Without waiting for a response, Bob invited Bruno, the union negotiator, out to lunch. "If we agree to your language, can we keep the salary increase at 2%?” They agreed and Bob wrote the terms on the cover of Bruno’s model contract, both he and Bruno initialed it as a tentative agreement. What happens next?
The longtime school secretary greeted Bob with “Ho- Ho- Happy Holidays.” Bob was shocked to see her wearing a Santa hat. He looked around the office, and saw a sign-up sheet for a Secret Santa party. Bob opened the door to the school office, and he saw a group of students walking down the hall with Ms. Treble-Clef, singing Christmas carols. Bob had seen enough. As the Chairperson of the Policy Committee, Bob was ready to act. He drafted a new policy prohibiting holiday celebrations. Should the Board should adopt Bob’s policy?
At the next meeting, Bob made an oblique reference to the “battle of the budgets” and moved that the Board convene into executive session to reconcile the two versions. However, Mal Content, another Board member, challenged Bob, asking how the Board could possibly secretly deliberate on its budget proposal. After Bob’s vehement response, Mr. Chairperson shrugged and asked for a motion to go into executive session. Following a heated discussion in executive session, the Board adopted its budget for 2013-2014. The next day, Seymour Dollars sent Mr. Chairperson an email chastising the Board, "...I direct you and the Board to reduce it to the 90% of current year expenditures. Got it?” Is Seymour able to do that?
At the Board meeting this week, sure enough Bruce Bellicose was there. But as he got up to speak, Bob Bombast was ready. “What is on your mind, Bruce?” he asked pointedly. When Bruce started to explain that he was concerned about the Board budget and the incompetents on the Board, Bob cut him off. “We have heard your concerns. Repeatedly. Until you have something new and positive to contribute, just sit down.” Bruce sat down. But as he did, he shot a warning back to the Board. “This is not the last word. I have free speech rights. You will be sorry.” Did the Board act within its rights in the interest of efficient operation?
After school one day, a custodian followed one student, who got on a city bus and apparently went home to a neighboring community. He waited at the bus stop the next morning, and sure enough the student got off the bus and walked to the school bus stop. As soon as he shared this information with her, Ms. Superintendent promptly told the Board all about it. Ms. Superintendent notified the student and his family that he was not eligible for free school privileges in Nutmeg, and, as provided by statute, she notified the family of its right to appeal. She was shocked when the family actually appealed her decision to the Board, but she was confident that the Board would support her. Does Nutmeg have a problem?
"We have to make our school websites more interesting, therefore I propose a contest among our schools to post the most engaging pictures of student learning." There was great enthusiasm for the contest, after a month the Board declared the winners in open session and they were posted on the district’s website. A month later, Mr. Superintendent was surprised to get a lawyer letter claiming that the posting of the winning picture was a copyright violation. This is ridiculous, there was no copyright notice, and so the picture is in the public domain. Does Nutmeg have a problem?
Mr. Superintendent decided to bring the case to the Board anyway. Mr. Superintendent shared the hearing officer’s report with the Board, and urged that they vote to terminate Tom’s employment. “Maybe the hearing officer is satisfied with mediocre teachers,” he concluded, “but Nutmeg should not be.” With that, Bob thanked Mr. Superintendent, and the Board voted promptly to terminate Tom’s employment. What are Tom’s chances for success on appeal?
With that, Peter stood up and left the office without another word. “We are between a rock and a hard place,” said Mr. Superintendent to Ms. Principal. “I have been doing this long enough to smell a lawsuit if we don’t let Peter give his speech. And I smell a different lawsuit if we do. Would it be inappropriate for us to do a little praying for guidance ourselves?” Mr. Superintendent and Ms. Principal must pick their poison. What do you suggest they do? Shall they allow the speech as Peter proposed or prohibit it?
Mr. Superintendent was now having second thoughts about his actions. He figured he needed guidance from the Board, and during the executive session at the end of the last meeting, he kept the Board for another few minutes to tell them about these cases. For once, veteran Board member Bob Bombast was totally supportive of Mr. Superintendent’s actions. “You have my vote,” Bob pledged. “We have to draw the line somewhere.” The other Board members murmured their assent, and they and Mr. Superintendent agreed that they would hold any hearings as necessary to make sure that these students either paid tuition or got out of town. Does the Board have anything to worry about?
As it turns out, Seymour was indeed watching the meeting on cable access, and he promptly sent a text to Bob, with copies to the other Board members and Mr. Superintendent as well. With his flare for the dramatic, Bob was only too happy to read it aloud at the meeting: “Dear Board members. Obviously, you have forgotten who holds the purse strings. We have already taken the money from your budget. Have a nice day.” Can the Board of Finance do that?
“I don’t think so, Bruno” Bob shot back. “Each passing day deprives the children of Nutmeg of the excellent schooling to which they are entitled. We will vote tonight.” Bob signaled to Mr. Chairperson, who promptly called for a motion. Bob promptly moved that the Board adopt reform in Nutmeg in accordance with his plan. With no further discussion, the Board members voted unanimously in favor. Will the Board have any problems in implementing this reform plan?
The next day, Bob delivered a handwritten petition signed by him and the three new Board members who had supported him. The petition demanded that Mr. Chairperson place on the agenda Bob’s proposals to amend the bylaws to restrict the authority of the Chairperson. However, Mr. Chairperson laughed and shot an email to the four Board members, telling them to “give it up.” Then Bob announced by email that he was calling a meeting himself. He even posted an agenda in Town Hall that included two items, “Amendment of Bylaws and Removal of the Board Chair.” By this time, Mr. Chairperson’s retaliatory behavior had antagonized the rest of the Board members, even his former supporters. As a result, everyone but the Chairperson attended the meeting Bob had called. Do these eight Board members have the right to take action at this “meeting”?
Soon, the email was buzzing between and among the Board members. Bob’s ideas were generally acceptable, although Mal Content won the day with his suggestion that the Martin Luther King holiday be preserved, requiring that the Board add another day at the end of the year. By the time the Board held its meeting, everything was squared away, and a discussion that could have been contentious was short and sweet. By a unanimous vote, the Board adopted the calendar as revised. Bruno, President of the Nutmeg Union of Teachers, couldn’t believe his ears as the Board took its vote. “You can’t just add time to the school day!! You guys are crazy!!” he thundered. “I demand that you rescind your vote.”
The Board members were taken aback by Paula’s vehement objection. After a quick huddle, the Board amended the plan by removing the requirement for reflection. While the Board hoped that this change would satisfy NUTS, it did not. “You people are asking for it,” shouted Paula after the vote. As she was being dragged from the podium, she continued. “The law says that we have the final say over teacher evaluation. After all, who is better able to judge teacher performance than the teachers themselves? You will be sorry you did this!” The Board members looked uneasily at each other as Paula was removed from the room. Should the Board reconsider this action?
The parents of the first three students who were highlighted on the Facebook page for Nutmeg Memorial High School were delighted. The fourth - not so much. “What are you doing?!!!” the mother shouted at Mr. Superintendent over the telephone. “Who on earth told you that you could post my son’s picture on Facebook? My ex is crazy, and if he finds us, there is no telling what he will do.” She described her fear that her abusive ex would see the posting and find her and their son in Nutmeg. Mr. Superintendent apologized and promised to take the posting off the High School’s Facebook page right away. But he worried that the damage was done and that the district would be liable if the crazy ex did anything bad. Should he be worried?
No one was more surprised than Mr. Superintendent at the news that Bob’s nephew Barry had been named high school principal. He had been on vacation and away from email for two weeks. However, the Board members were also surprised at the vehement negative public response over alleged nepotism. Nancy Newshound, ace reporter for the Nutmeg Bugle promptly interviewed the Board members, Mr. Superintendent and Barry about how the selection was made. Nancy was shocked to hear that the Board had made this decision without input from the Superintendent, and she decided to do some digging. She filed an FOIA request for any and all documents concerning the search process, including email communications. Can the Board deny the request on the basis that the search process was confidential?
Next, the Board members conducted the expulsion hearing for Ned Nerd. Mr. Superintendent argued that Ned had engaged in cyberbullying of Joe, and that such conduct could not be tolerated. Aspiring to go to law school some day, Ned represented himself. He calmly questioned whether the Board had jurisdiction over his Facebook activity. “I would point out to the honorable members of the Board that we live in a free country, protected in our speech by the First Amendment, the touchstone of liberty. I submit that any attempt to silence me will result in a ginormous constitutional claim. In addition, my parents and I will not hesitate to bring suit for negligence and infliction of emotional stress based on your inadequate supervision of Joe, which of course led to my humiliation in school, for which I am in therapy.” Mr. Superintendent didn’t have much to say to that, and the Board was left to decide both cases. Who’s the bully here?
At the next meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education, Mr. Chairperson called an executive session to “discuss a confidential attorney-client communication” so that he could explain what had happened. Once the Board was in executive session, the Board vowed to fight Seymour’s complaints. Who is right here, the Board of Finance or the Board of Education?
“Thank you, Bob. I appreciate your confidence in my plan. If we run into trouble, we can always ask for a supplemental appropriation.” The Board members winced at that last remark, because Seymour Dollars had already warned the Board that the cupboard is bare and they shouldn’t come back for more money this year. But they shook off their discomfort and voted for the plan. Do you see problems for the Nutmeg Board of Education in the coming year?
When they saw the flyers, Seymour Dollars and the other Board of Finance members were livid. At the next meeting of the Board of Finance, Seymour revised his recommendation, and he moved that the appropriation to the Board of Education be reduced further to 15% below 2010-2011 levels. The Board of Finance promptly approved the motion, and Seymour Dollars called Mr. Board Chairperson on his cell phone then and there to give him the news personally. Mr. Board Chairperson called an emergency meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education for the very next night. What should be on the agenda?
After that unpleasant exchange, Mr. Superintendent was not surprised a few days later to receive a copy of the unfair labor practice charge filed by NUTS with the State Board of Labor Relations. But Mr. Superintendent smiled as he remembered from his school law course that boards of education do not have to bargain over the “length of the student school year [and the] the scheduling of the student school year.” Will the unfair labor practice charge from NUTS be dismissed?
“Well, I think we should do whatever we can,” opined Mrs. Chairperson. “I am happy to ask Seymour Dollars and the Board of Finance for a supplemental appropriation, and Mr. Superintendent should freeze spending and talk vendors into delaying their billing. But I don’t want to cause a panic, at least not yet. So let’s agree to keep this conversation secret until we revisit this strategy in our next executive session. Thank you all for your creative ideas. I think we will get through this.” Is the Nutmeg Board of Education on the right track?
This revelation gave rise to a heated debate, which the Chairman finally concluded by saying: “Well, I think our only choice is to fire Mrs. Principal, but our lawyer says that we have to give her a hearing first. The first step is to notify her that we are considering termination of her contract. Any objections? Hearing none, it appears that we’re in agreement that we should get the show on the road as soon as possible. Mr. Superintendent, please attend to the necessary paperwork.” The next morning, the headlines screamed, “WITCH HUNT IN NUTMEG, BOARD VIOLATES SUNSHINE ACT!” Is the headline a typical journalistic overreaction, or is the Nutmeg Board of Education in trouble?
This evening, Nancy showed up at the Committee meeting and even helped herself to a slice of pizza. But Mal was adamant that she not receive a copy of the draft policy until the Committee makes its recommendation at a public Board meeting. Does the Ad Hoc Committee really have to keep Christmas out of the schools?
“I have that covered as well,” Bob answered. “With global warming, I don’t anticipate more than three snow days in any event. However, we can either have the kids finish up in July or maybe get a waiver if need be. I mean what is the big deal about 180 days?” With no further discussion, the Board approved the proposed new calendar unanimously. Might the Board be haunted by its decision here?
“He should have thought of that before he threw the food. I am not inclined to cut this kid any slack at all. I move that Joe be expelled for the entire year. And forget the expunging thing. We need to keep track of students like him.” Mr. Superintendent tried to explain to the Board that a deal is a deal, but Bob shushed him, saying that there was a motion pending. It passed unanimously. That night, Mr. Superintendent called the parents with the bad news. They did not take it well. Can they really sue, as they threatened?
Bob couldn’t wait to pounce on that. In short order, he asked Ms. Student if Sammy was her son, if she had custody, if she lived in the neighboring town, and if she ever drove Sammy to her house after school. When Ms. Student admitted to these facts, Bob turned to his fellow Board members. “See. Sammy is not our responsibility. Ms. Student is the mother, and there is no evidence that she has given up her parental rights. Sammy should be living with his mother and go to school there. Since his mother is not a resident, neither is he. Case closed.” Some Board members were a little uncomfortable with the abrupt close of the hearing. But they did not dispute Bob’s cogent analysis, and the Board unanimously denied Ms. Student’s appeal. Did the Board get this one right?
Mrs. Superintendent drove right over to the High School and told Ms. Chlorophyll to take down her Facebook page immediately. However, Ms. Chlorophyll was unrepentant. “Look, I have a First Amendment right to free speech and free association. Why don’t you just get your own Facebook page and leave me alone.” “That’s enough from you,” Mrs. Superintendent barked back. “Pack up your stuff. You are suspended until I can figure out what to do with you.” Was Mrs. Superintendent within her rights?
Notwithstanding these arguments, the Board went ahead and heard all the information. After deliberating for five minutes, the Board reconvened and expelled Ellen for six months and ruled that she could not participate in the graduation ceremony. Attorney Alot vowed to bring an action for injunctive relief. What are his chances?
A few days later, Charlee called Ms. Superintendent. “Don’t jerk me around,” she barked. “My request was clear – I want the information electronically, and I know it won’t cost you $350 to give it to me. If I don’t have the disk by noon tomorrow, I will haul you before the Freedom of Information Commission and have you fined.” “But why do you want the information like that,” asked Ms. Superintendent. “What possible use could you have for it?” “I don’t have to explain myself,” Charlee responded. “But I will. With the information in electronic form, NUTS will be able to propose new routes to save the Board money. You should be thanking me rather than giving me a hard time.” Does Ms. Superintendent have to provide the information electronically? What happens if she cannot respond by the following noon?
The expulsion hearing had barely commenced, when the student’s lawyer, Bill Alot moved to suppress the evidence and to dismiss the case against his client. “The Administration has trampled on the constitutional rights of my client, by expropriating personal property and by conducting an illegal search. In addition, given that criminal charges are now pending, further proceedings here violate my client’s rights against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. Dismiss now or answer in federal court!” Should the Board grant Bill’s motion?
The response was underwhelming, and only six teachers donated their salary increases to this fund. Since not even one teaching positions thus could be restored, the Board returned the funds to the six kind souls, and it went ahead with the planned layoffs. The Board was shocked, however, when it then received an unfair labor practice charge from NUTS, alleging interference with protected activity and individual bargaining. Did the Board do anything wrong here?
The following week, Mr. Superintendent was shocked to receive twenty separate requests for transportation hearings, claiming that the transportation provided was not reasonable. He was even more shocked when Mr. Board Attorney told him that the Board would have to hold hearings on each of the parents’ complaints. Reluctantly, he sent an email to the Board members to inform them that they would have to hold all of these hearings within the next ten days. Bob promptly sent an email response to all, stating that the savings the Board was achieving more than justified the inconvenience of a few hearings. “Let’s start with Polly Parent,” he urged in his email. “Maybe a big fat ‘no’ to her will convince her followers to drop their claims.” Does Bob have a good idea here? More generally, do the Board members really have to conduct all these hearings for private-school parents?
Mr. Principal’s quiet musings on Christmas past were interrupted when the telephone rang. “What on God’s green earth is going on there?” asked Mrs. Superintendent on the other end of the telephone. My Inbox is full of complaints about how you make the students celebrate Christmas no matter what religion they are.” “Those grinches should give it a rest,” responded Mr. Principal. “If you can’t celebrate Christmas in the schools, what can you celebrate?” Mrs. Superintendent was not mollified. “Look, I have enough trouble as it is, and I can’t risk getting the Board involved in this. Just knock it off with the Christmas celebrations. Maybe you can have a “Winter Solstice” celebration. “We are not Druids, you know,” responded Mr. Principal. “There is nothing wrong with a little holiday cheer, and our students would be very disappointed if we change our tradition. Who says we have to take ‘Christ’ out of Christmas? Or Christmas out of our school altogether? If you think you have trouble now, just wait!” “Hmmmm,” Mrs. Superintendent pondered. “I just don’t want to get sued. Maybe I’d better create a committee to straighten this out.” Can this committee save Christmas at Acorn Elementary? Should it?
Mrs. Superintendent was having a tough year. First, there was the power failure at Median Middle School, and school was cancelled for a day. Then, the entire district was gripped with a swine flu epidemic, and schools were closed for three days. Now, the weather report was grim. Though early in the season, a Nor’easter was bearing down on Nutmeg, and the Weather Channel was predicting two days of heavy snow, with accumulation of up to two feet. It was the wrong decision. Under pressure from all quarters, Mrs. Superintendent had one last, bright idea. She filed a request with the Commissioner of Education, seeking waiver of the requirement that Nutmeg hold 180 school sessions. After all, who could have ever foreseen the troubles this year? Is a solution to Nutmeg’s problems at hand?
The next day, there was a feature story in the Bugle about religious intolerance in Nutmeg. In addition to quoting the parents, the article included statements from Mal, who claimed academic freedom. Even veteran Board member Bob Bombast got in the act, and Nancy quoted him on the controversy: “Mal has been a problem for years, and this time he went over the line. He should be fired for his insensitivity.” Can you sort out the First Amendment issues here?
Once in executive session, Vickie and the other parents poured out their hearts about how the health curriculum exposed their children to inappropriate materials. The Board members listened sympathetically, and Bob Bombast turned accusingly to Mr. Superintendent. “What is so important that you cannot accommodate the legitimate concerns of these committed parents?” But before Mr. Superintendent could respond, Bob turned to the other Board members. “Clearly, we need to protect the rights of these parents. I move that the health curriculum be revised to eliminate offensive material identified by these concerned parents.” After a brief discussion, the motion was seconded and adopted unanimously. Was the Board permitted to take such action, and how will it be implemented?
With that, Bob stood up, gathered his papers and walked out. Penny looked apologetically at the NUTS team, shrugged her shoulders, and she and the other members of the Board team followed Bob out. Given the NUTS proposal and Bob’s response, what is the next step here?
Mr. Superintendent was upset that one of his administrators, Able Assistant, would have the temerity to challenge the Board’s action. He called her right up and told her that the district would not be releasing any of the documents she requested, because they contain personnel file information that is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. He also told her that she was on thin ice in filing a complaint. He abruptly ended the conversation by telling Able that he “would not forget this . . . .” Will the Board prevail in the complaint by Able Assistant? Do you see any other problems with the Board’s position?
Pastor Paul was not happy. He mobilized the flock to protest Mrs. Superintendent’s decision. At the next meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education, the room was packed with parishioners. One by one, they railed against the fact that the Nutmeg outfield wall promoted liquor but not God. They were so relentless that even Mrs. Superintendent was having second thoughts about her decision. Will Nutmeg have any legal problems with its fund-raising strategy?
The day after the Board sent the letter, NUTS filed an unfair labor practice charge, alleging that the Board committed an unfair labor practice by "direct negotiations" with the bargaining unit. Does NUTS have a case here?
Bob Bombast moved that the Board adopt a “Parent Choice” policy that would permit parents to visit the classrooms of their children when they wanted and to opt out of instruction as they saw fit and argued that nobody knows better than parents what their children need. The room erupted with applause, but to the dismay of the assembled throng, Mr. Chairperson ruled Bob’s motion out of order, given that the matter was not on the agenda. However, he earnestly promised the crowd that the Board would act promptly on Bob’s motion. What should the Board do?
It was a short and unpleasant hearing. Tom testified as to his discomfort when Penny stopped by unannounced, and he complained that teachers should be safe in their classrooms without Board members snooping about. Penny interrupted him and told the Board members that she had to investigate a complaint that Tom was improperly displaying religious messages in the classroom in violation of the United States Constitution. The Board members promptly decided to deny the grievance. But they went a step further and directed Tom to take down his posters or face termination for insubordination. Do you have a problem with that?
As Mrs. Superintendent feared, the Nutmeg Public Schools were a gloomy place when all the layoff notices went out. Sadly, the dark mood persisted as the Board’s budget was presented to the voters and repeatedly defeated. Mrs. Superintendent knew that most of the non-tenure teachers and many of the paraprofessionals would be rehired anyway, but as the spring turned to summer, she thought she had better defer recalling these employees until the Town finally approved a final Board budget. Did the Nutmeg Board of Education handle its budget challenges appropriately?
Bob Bombast immediately shared his (unsolicited) ideas on how this found money should be spent. But he and his Board colleagues were shocked when Mr. Superintendent informed them that the Town of Nutmeg had other ideas. Seymour Dollars, venerable Chairperson of the Board of Finance, had notified Mr. Superintendent of his expectation that the Board would “promptly and forthwith remit to the Town Treasurer the proceeds of the recent auction.” Does the Town have any claim here?
Even Bob Bombast was livid the next morning when Channel 12 played the audio from the meeting. The Board convened an emergency meeting that very night to discuss what to do about Nancy’s impertinence. “Nancy intentionally violated our directive, and by doing so, she abused our trust,” said Mr. Superintendent. After a lively discussion, the Board agreed to file a complaint against Nancy with the Freedom of Information Commission, seeking a ruling that Nancy should be barred from attending Board meetings for a month or two. Will the Board get a favorable reception from the Commission?
NUTS is whining about how the teachers will now have to grade their own papers and make their own copies. In emails back and forth, the Board members all agreed that Mr. Superintendent should tell the teachers to quit complaining and start dealing with the new, tough times that we all confront. Can Mr. Superintendent tell NUTS to pound sand?
The Board members expressed concern that the legal account was already overspent and asked whether it was really necessary to prohibit political signs and buttons. After further discussion, the Board decided that Mr. Principal's edict should be clarified, and Mr. Principal sent a revised memorandum that expressly limited the prohibition to the classroom. Is the Nutmeg Board of Education now safe from legal attack?
Sadly, Bob Bombast lamented, the Board's role is to set policy, not to assign paraprofessionals to act as a bodyguard for Tommy, and he wished Pamela and Tommy good luck. With that, Mr. Chairman promptly called for a motion to adjourn and ended the meeting. Did the Board do its job here?
Mr. Superintendent demanded that Sally take down her blog immediately, and she refused. She was suspended, and her parents hired legal counsel claiming that the Board had violated Title IX. Does Nutmeg have a problem here?
Nancy Newshound, ace reporter for the Nutmeg Beagle shows up as an uninvited guest at a party hosted by Bob Bombast, a veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education. She is forced to leave, but she does not go quietly. After the party, she files her complaint with the FOIC. What advice would you give Bob?
In the comfort of the executive session, Bob told his fellow Board members all about what his son Billy had told him. Other Board members asked some questions about Billy's report, but soon all the Board members were comfortable with their decision--Joe had caused the fight and should be expelled. Would you advise the Board to go forward with the planned expulsion?
Through Bill, Mal’s demand was: rescind the directive, apologize to Mal, and give him the Department Head position. Otherwise, suit would be filed. What do you advise Mrs. Superintendent and the Board to do?
Karl is asking that the Board provide a defense and indemnify him against any liability to Tom. What is the responsibility of the Nutmeg Board of Education here?
Bill promptly moved that the non-renewal action be voided because poor Mr. Principal had been denied an impartial decision-maker. What should the Board do?
Mr. Superintendent took charge. He was able to get a handle on district finances, and in two short months, he had made the necessary cuts and imposed the spending freezes necessary to avoid a deficit. Did Mr. Superintendent prevent the Board from violating the law?
Mr. Superintendent insisted that he, as chief executive officer of the Board, had every right to attend the deliberations. How should the Board decide this case, and should Mr. Superintendent be there when it does?
Nancy was not placated, however, and she threatened the Board with an FOI complaint. Should the Board be worried?
He told Mrs. Superintendent that he and the other officers of the PTO would be quitting unless the Board of Education would provide written assurance that they would be protected if they were sued. What should the Nutmeg Board of Education do?
Reluctantly, Bob agreed, and after a quick telephone call to the other Board members, he called back to announce that Ginny was expelled for the first semester. Did the Board have any other option?
Sadly, however, Mal did not appreciate Mr. Superintendent's perspective, and soon Bill Alot had another client.
Given the recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court and the need for loyal employees, can the Board tell Bill Alot and his clients to pound sand?
If the Board could show the Town that it has title to the disputed land, the Board hypothesized, the Town would back off. Has the Nutmeg Board of Education handled this matter appropriately?
With that, the room erupted, with members of the Booster Club shouting in unison, "Witch Hunt!!" Ms. Chairperson cleared the room, and declared the hearing over. Is Coach Rock out in Nutmeg?
That was enough for Mal Content, a fifth grader teacher and resident Luddite. He flatly refused to submit his lesson plans, and he claimed that Ned was violating his copyright to his lesson plans. Now, Mr. Principal was really confused. Does Ned have the right to post teacher lesson plans on the school website?
However, when she received written notification of the Board’s vote not to renew her contract, Patty requested a hearing before the Board of Education on the non-renewal. Now what?
Mrs. Superintendent strode right into the group and told the two students that they must leave school property immediately. The other students were horrified when one of them swore at Mrs. Superintendent, telling her to bug off because he was on public property. Before Mrs. Superintendent could call the police, however, the student just walked away slowly to his car, laughing with his friends. As she drove back to her office, Mrs. Superintendent started to worry. Had she made a mistake by not going through with the expulsion?
As a consequence of Nancy’s actions, two candidates withdrew from further consideration, and the others ended up entering walking down the hall past Nancy and Sam with their jackets over their heads, mobster-style. Sam got the snapshots, and Nancy ran the story. To make matters worse, when the successful applicant was appointed, Nancy ran the same picture with her story, with the headline, "Mystery Man appointed!" Did it have to be this way?
There was an awkward silence, as Bob Bombast’s remarks hung in the air. The other Board members were acutely aware that the public was watching carefully to see whether, in fact, they did care about children. Finally, Penny Pincher seconded Emilee’s motion, and the Board voted quickly, 8 to 1, to make the policy amendments proposed by Emilee. Has the Nutmeg Board of Education gone too far?
His colleague, Red Cent, did not want another lawsuit, and he quickly responded by saying, "So moved." The Board then quickly passed the motion, and Polly left with good news for her son. How should the Nutmeg Public Schools have handled this whole matter?
"He moved the question, and he and Penny voted that Joe is not entitled to attend the Nutmeg Public Schools, with Red abstaining." Is Joe done in Nutmeg?
"I don't see why we are listening to this problem. This is an administrative issue. Mr. Superintendent, what is your recommendation?" What is the role of Nutmeg Board of Education here?
"It was not long before Bob Bombast, veteran Board member, started in. He thanked a speaker for her comments, and he wondered aloud why Nutmeg could not retain the "good" teachers. Mr. Chairperson ruled Bob out of order, and Bill Alot leapt to his feet in protest." What is the role of the Board members in this hearing?
" Several candidates gave unsatisfactory answers to the question concerning treatment, and the young woman with children seemed not to understand the demands of the position. The committee agreed with Bob’s suggestion that the committee reject all the candidates and start over." Does Nutmeg have a problem here?
...Mr. Superintendent was surprised to see that letter again. It was attached to a lawsuit filed in federal district court alleging that Mr. Superintendent’s actions violated the First Amendment rights of the student editors and their advisor. Will Mr. Superintendent have to issue a retraction?
" As the band played the alma mater, Mr. Principal wondered if he was in trouble." Was he? Oh, where do we start?
How badly did the Nutmeg Board of Education muck up this important responsibility for student expulsion?
" Mrs. Superintendent kept her mouth shut, but the Finance Director told her he needed to know where the funds came from. In any event, he said, he would have to bring this check to the Town Council to ask whether it would accept these funds and whether they would be credited to the account of the Board of Education." Can the Finance Director be right about this?
" Grudgingly, Coach Rock agreed. However, at practice that evening he told Paul that he was off the team, explaining that he had been a "bad influence." Will Coach Rock get away with this?
The other Board members applauded Ms. Chairperson’s creative approach, and even Mr. Superintendent was pleased. Will they turn up the heat in Nutmeg?
Earnest Senior and his claque got up noisily and started to leave. At the door, however, Earnest turned around and shouted back, "This is not over!" Is it?
Mr. Chairperson decided not to vote because the result would not be affected. Pamela was outraged at this turn of events. Should the Board pay Pamela off?
“After twenty-five years on the Nutmeg Board of Education, Bob Bombast thought he had learned a thing or two about school law. One thing Bob clearly understood was the need to keep religion out of our public schools."
“Mal was not cowed by Mr. Superintendent. He called the ACLU-Connecticut and reported what he perceived to be an egregious abuse of power. Who has the problem here - the Nutmeg Public Schools or Mal?
“I checked with the Town Attorney. We understand that the Board of Education can use the fields during the school day, and usually we have no problem with that. But we could not ignore the request of the Twilight League. After all, they raised a pile of money for this project. Just tell those little girls to be patient.” What’s next for Nutmeg?
Nancy pressed Mr. Principal, “Aren’t you violating the Free Exercise rights of these students? Why don’t you care about their rights?” ...“As Principal, I have to keep this hurtful nonsense out of our school, and I will be delighted to go to the Supreme Court if need be!” Will Mr. Principal get his wish?
Mr. Superintendent protested to Bruno that the Board’s actions disadvantaged no one, but were simply some nice "extras" to show teachers R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Bruno just snorted, telling Mr. Superintendent that NUTS was not going to tolerate this direct attack on their status as the bargaining agent for the teachers. Should the Nutmeg Board of Education back off from its creative plan?
...Board members were totally confused. They asked Mr. Superintendent about the "joints," but all he could say is that they were in police custody and that he did not know whether they had ever been field-tested. With that Bill demanded that the Board reject the recommendation for expulsion and let poor Joe return to the school he loved so very much. How should the Board members vote?
The arbitrators were not impressed, and after noting in their award that "a deal is a deal," they accepted the union’s last best offers on the issues in dispute. Mayor Megillah was fit to be tied, and at his urging the Town Council rejected the arbitration award. Now what?
Elmer Enigma ended the conversation with a simple threat – he told Nancy that if she even hinted that he had somehow been unethical here, he would sue her and the Bugle for millions. Should Nancy be worried?
... Attillah did not go quietly. He railed against the "illegal conspiracy," and he handed over the gavel only when the resident trooper threatened him with arrest for disorderly conduct. Attillah remained defiant, however, as he walked out of the meeting, vowing legal action to recover his rightful position as Mr. Chairperson. Did the Nutmeg Board of Education act within its rights here?
Bill Alot leapt to his feet. "You can’t do that! I have not even finished presenting my case. I have a safety expert who has important information for you." The Board denied the request on a unanimous vote. Bill Alot told the Board members that they had made a serious mistake, and that he would see them in court. How will he fare?
Nancy Newshound, reporter for the Nutmeg Bugle, smelled a story. She made a written request under the Freedom of Information Act to inspect all e-mail communications by and between Board members for the last six months. Will Nancy get to read the juicy e-mails about Bob and Penny?
[Bob Bombast] was intrigued recently to receive an anonymous e-mail claiming to alert him that Sam Spackle, the new maintenance supervisor, was a convicted felon. Bob was in Mr. Superintendent’s office the next day demanding to see Mr. Spackle’s personnel file. Does this convicted criminal have any rights here?
When the Board reached the last agenda item, "Removal of the Football Coach," Bob led the charge. During the discussion on this motion, Bob argued that effective coaching should include winning once in a while, a feat that Coach Rock had not managed in some time. Will Coach Rock finally win at something?
Mal Content is a social studies teacher at Median Middle School in Nutmeg, and he is always looking for a fight. When he received his summative evaluation for the 2004-2005 school year, he found one.
Penny tearfully told the insurance consultant the next day that neither she nor the Board would be paying the bill, and he promptly brought suit against the Board as a whole and against Penny personally. Has the Board properly done its homework for negotiations here?
Termination seemed extreme to the Board members, but they did not want to hang Mr. Superintendent out to dry. Mr. Chairperson asked if the Board could talk privately with Mr. Superintendent, but the union objected, claiming that the Board should remain neutral and make a decision on the evidence presented. What should the Board do?
Mr. Superintendent breathed a sigh of relief after talking to Lou Laissez-Faire, a teacher at the high school. He quickly notified Bob and the rest of the Board members that Lou had planned the student trip to Ft. Lauderdale over spring break on his own, and that they do not have to worry because it is not a Board-sponsored field trip. Is Mr. Superintendent right?
Mr. Principal sent Sally Slacker a letter warning her that she had better get back to work, because she was almost out of sick leave. Sally left him a voice mail message, however, telling him that he had better check out the fine print in Section 10-236a, because her absence following the "assault" should not be charged to sick leave. Can the Nutmeg Public Schools cut off Sally’s sick leave?
The Board adopted the 2.5% increase in the budget and shipped it off to the Town, which promptly approved it. Mr. Superintendent was concerned, however, that the Board had put him in a spot. Did it?