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Board member Stephen Brown made a motion to have a previous vote to seek acceptance into to the NVL rescinded on the grounds that the board did not follow proper Freedom of Information Act laws.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 Therefore, Brown argued the board vote should have been rescinded.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.