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After Long Debate, Oxford Still NVL Bound

The Board of Education will continue to seek acceptance into the Naugatuck Valley League despite some objection from board members.

 

Oxford High School will attempt to get into the Naugatuck Valley League next year after all.

The decision was reached by the slimmest of margins Tuesday night at a contentious Board of Education meeting. The board voted 4-4 on a motion to rescind a previous decision to seek acceptance into the league. The tie vote means the motion failed and therefore, Oxford will continue trying to move out of the South-West Conference and get into the NVL.

Board member Stephen Brown made a motion to have a previous vote to seek acceptance into to the NVL rescinded on the grounds that the board did not follow proper Freedom of Information Act laws. He argued the committee did not properly notify the public of its meetings - both the times of them and the outcome via meeting minutes. Therefore, Brown argued the board vote should have been rescinded.

“This motion is not about the NVL or dissatisfaction with the outcome of the vote but rather of the process used to justify our actions and the board’s responsibility to follow the procedures, legal guidelines, and to be transparent,” Brown said. “The procedure and the way the committee went about this was flawed.”

Several parents and others who disagree with the move from the South-West Conference to the NVL have expressed concern over the board's process in reaching its decision. They say they were not properly notified that this discussion was happening and would have liked more input.

Brown agreed, saying the committee did not properly post notification of its meetings. He said there were three committee meetings and only one time was an agenda posted for the meeting. He also said there was only one set of vague meeting minutes filed, and those were only filed after the board took its vote last month to seek acceptance into the NVL.

Board vice chairwoman Lisa Hellauer, a member of the committee that looked into the move, said former interim superintendent John Reed, Ph. D., told committee members they did not have to post the meetings.

“Do I know all of the background, no I do not, I’m sorry to say,” she said. “Just speaking as an individual here, there was nothing underhanded going on here.”

She said current Superintendent Tim Connellan had a differing opinion about how the public should be notified of the meetings and thought they should be posted.

Still, Connellan said Tuesday that a state Freedom of Information Act expert, CT FOIA Commission public education officer Tom Hennick, told him the board did not violate FOIA laws because it did not take action at the meetings.

“Technically should the meetings have been posted? Yes,” Connellan said. “Was there any legal issue with the meetings not being posted? No. …The committee brought information back to the full board for a vote.”

That answer did not sit well with some board members, including Ted Oszkowski, who said there are people on the board who ran on platforms that they would be transparent with the public. This action, he said, does not meet that goal. 

After more than a half-hour’s worth of the discussion on the issue, the board took the vote which ended in a tie. Those for rescinding the vote taken last month to seek a move to the NVL were: Hellauer, Gerard Carbonaro, Michael Macchio and Diane Soracco.  Those who voted to rescind the vote were Brown, Amy Cote, William Neary and Ted Oszkowski. Board Chairwoman Paula Guillet was not at the meeting. 

The board heled a second vote to halt any action on moving forward with acceptance into the NVL before more information became available and the board could seek advice of legal counsel. That also ended in a tie, with the same results. That tie also meant the motion did not carry.

Oxford has reached out to the NVL but had not filed a formal application as of last week. 

See a video of people debating the move with the school board on Tuesday night. 

Megan Crandlemire December 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I appreciate Mr. Brown's efforts here to open up the discussion on this issue. At least everyone is more aware of how decisions were made.
concerned December 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
It's ironic that the Board of Education begins their meetings reading the mission statement, about "excellence in education", education being both, academic as well as physical. Then they proceed to switch from a more competitive sport conference to a less competitive conference to give the football a team a chance to win more games. This is not a good way to teach our young people how to compete and succeed in life. If this is not the reason for switching, the Board's chair had plenty of time to show the public the paper trail of their reasoning and analysis, pro/cons etc. that brought them to this decision. She didn't do that and it was clear that all due diligence in this matter was lacking. It was good to see that at least half of the board saw this fundamental failure, but apparently half is not enough to change this totally self indulgent course taken by the few.
Rita Blue December 12, 2012 at 01:22 PM
A TIE should mean to let the people of the town vote! Clearly this is still not being voted on correctly. This town needs to have a real vote!
movingsale December 12, 2012 at 02:14 PM
What this shows is that the original vote was not based on appropriate due diligence, patience, and collaboration with the public. How the vote can go from 8-0 to 4-4 shows how grossly mishandled this was, or perhaps that people were bullied into the vote. Congrats to Mr. Brown for bringing the issue back up, and to the 4 who voted to rescind, but unfortunately, these efforts were too late. There are excellent points brought up by concerned and Rita Blue-- this is a vote that should go to the people, and the BOE has sent a poor message to our students, as well as our residents. SWC or NVL, this is another black eye for the town in terms of alienating residents, operating without transparency, and finally, but most importantly, doing something detrimental to the future of the town, especially to the students. This move will negatively impact those who want to play sports that are less mainstream. But, I guess it will be worth it in order to have 3000-4000 (yeah, right) watching the football team take on "more beatable opponents" (not my words). My only question remains, why was this pushed and rushed through without soliciting more public opinion? The re-vote clearly shows views on this were mixed. I don't honestly understand who even those who "won" can feel satisfied in how their town handled this issue. Mishandling has become the new norm in Oxford.
Bob December 12, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I want to thank Mr. Brown, Mr. Neary, Mr. Oszkowski and Mrs. Cote for listening to the parents and the students concerns about switching conference affiliation from the SWC to the NVL. It was quite evident last night that there was misinformation given by the subcommittee, that was used to mislead other Board members into thinking that proper due diligence was taken in regards to the facts. I can understand Mr. Carbonaro and Mrs. Hellauer's vote to not rescind the previous vote. They were both on the subcommittee that did the research presented to the Board originally (although Mrs. Hellauer did admit she was not at 2 of the 3 meetings that were held). However, I remain confused as to how and why Mrs. Sorrocco and Mr. Macchio voted not to rescind. Voting to rescind the previous vote does not mean that OHS will not switch leagues to the NVL. It simply means that more information is needed to make an educated decision about our future.
Tanya Carver December 12, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I love Oxford. Learning how each Government of body works in this town is a real eye opener. After last night’s meeting, I learned something new about the BOE. I did not realize that the BOE relies heavily on the superintendent’s opinion to post a Committee’s Meeting Minutes to the public or not (in this case the Athletic Committee). This unfortunately, was the case with the Athletic Committee. Although statements were made in November that the public had an opportunity to voice their opinion during this process, is contradictory since it was clear from last night’s meeting that the minutes from the three times that the committee met were not posted. Only one after the vote took place on November 13th. I feel that a major change in the OHS Athletic Program should have been more transparent to the public. I also feel that a BOE member prior to casting a vote should be 100% sure that they have all the information needed to make the right decision for the children of Oxford. I am disapointed in this move, but the BOE has voted.
Tanya Carver December 12, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Bob, if my understanding is correct on the "Robert's Rules of Law" only those 6 members who first voted on the motion of Nov 13th are allowed to vote to rescind the motion. The 6 that voted were Chairperson Guillett, Mr. Brown, Mrs. Cote, Mr. Carbonaro, Mrs. Hellauer, and Mrs. Sorrocco. Since the Chairperson was not present last night, can't say if that was valid or not.
carol December 12, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Why is a league change proposed at all?
xxxoxox December 12, 2012 at 10:38 PM
In my understanding based on reading RR, a motion to rescind without notice to the original voting members requires 2/3 vote of the body. With notice to the original voters, a simple majority is required. There is no precluding of members who didn't vote, but a greater threshold needed if the original voters are not given notice. This greater requirement protects against issues being overturned by using varying attendance meeting to meeting to push votes. However, if notice is given to members of a body, they can determine if they need to be present to vote on a matter that may be subject to being rescinded. That is why the motion here was specifically identified in the agenda last night. Learned a lot from this situation.
movingsale December 13, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Mr. Brown-- we really appreciate your effort, as well as your candor, in this matter. You have been the one BOE member who has been upfront and accessible in this whole matter, and the fact that you brought it up for vote again is not lost on us. Many of us are very disappointed in how this turned out, and the manner in which it seems to have been pushed through. I hope the whole BOE has learned something from this and will be more measured in their actions going forward. To Carol-- yours is the million dollar question. Nobody has provided a legitimate answer to your question, just garbage responses about it being less icy on roads in the naugatuck valley, less distance traveled (not true), smaller town sizes (not true). There is more to this story, but alas, we will never get the real answers.
Angela December 13, 2012 at 04:16 AM
The Team was 8-2 they were very competitive this year and will continue to be next year no matter who they play. I'm so tired of hearing people call this a "football" move!! The TEAM PLAYED WELL THIS YEAR!! THEY DIDN'T SUCK!!
concerned December 13, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Oxford definitely deserves better from this BOE. Regarding the NVL/SWC issue it was clear that some members were disinterested and thus uninformed, some appeared disengaged,missed meetings etc. and the rest totally self serving. Ramifications will be adverse and long lasting. Having said that, we elected them so we're all responsible.

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