“What I feel for me is an opportunity to build a professional relationship with the Commissioner was not afforded to me. People elected us to represent them, and I didn’t get the opportunity to do that.” - School Board member Rob Breton.
School Board members Ken Eyring and Tom Murray “consciously” excluded the three other School Board members from meeting the newly-appointed New Hampshire Commissioner of the Department of Education, Frank Edelblut, according to remarks made by Murray at the February 21, 2017 School Board Meeting.
Eyring and Murray were questioned after an article appeared in the Eagle Tribune on February 16, 2017, covering the controversial visit. The Windham Independent reported that, “Superintendent Richard Langlois, Assistant Superintendent Kori Becht, Guidance Director Julie Lichtmann, IT Director Harry Bennett, Director of Student Services Kenneth Duesing, Business Administrator Bill Hickey, and School Board members Ken Eyring and Tom Murray discussed a number of topics including global initiatives, testing, curriculum, full day kindergarten, building construction, adequacy aid and charter schools.”
When questioned by School Board member Dennis Senibaldi as to why the other three School Board members (Rob Breton, Daniel Popovici-Muller, and Senibaldi) were neither notified nor invited to the event, Murray implicitly stated that he instructed Superintendent Langlois not to invite them.
Murray repeatedly denied that he and Eyring were representing the Windham School Board, and therefore were not obligated to invite other members. He stated that it was a meeting he had personally organized to introduce Edelblut to Windham Superintendent Langlois.
“We have a personal relationship with Mr. Frank Edelblut,” Murray said, referring to himself and Eyring. He explained he did not feel the other School Board members needed to be included, because, “This is no different than me reaching out to Rich or Bill and saying hey, do you want to go to a game tonight… I have Frank (Edelblut) coming over to discuss School Board stuff.”
Eyring confirmed that he also contacted the Commissioner of Education. He said, “I reached out to our Commissioner of Education. Tom and I thought it would be great. There are a lot of things we are putting into place that require a relationship with the state.”
Though Eyring and Murray insisted that they were not meeting Edelblut as School Board member representatives (as reported in the Eagle Tribune and the Windham Independent), but as private citizens; they both noted that building a relationship with the Commissioner would benefit our schools.
Eyring campaigned on a platform of transparency. Yet his term as a School Board member is showing a trend that is the exact opposite. It has been rife with accusations of withholding information, sharing confidential information, representing the School Board without consent, and meeting with candidates and politicians without fully-disclosing his intentions. So, he campaigned on a platform of bringing transparency to the public, yet he deliberately arranged a meeting to take place behind closed doors, that directly impacts the education of our children, without allowing the other three School Board members to hear or participate in the conversation.
To prove his point, Senibaldi asked Superintendent Langlois if he had been told to not invite Senibaldi, Breton and Popovici-Muller, specifically he said, “Did you go to bat for the Board asking if you could invite us, and were told no? Is that correct?” To which Langlois replied, “Yes.” Senibaldi followed up by asking Langlois, “So you were told not to invite us?” Langlois answered, “Yes.”
What, exactly, are Eyring and Murray “putting into place” that the entire Board could not be privy to? No one School Board member is permitted to act on behalf of the whole, yet Eyring and Murray arranged a meeting with Edelblut and instructed the Superintendent not to inform other School Board members. The meeting location was at Windham’s SAU (School Administrative Unit) building, there were invited attendees including the press and key members of the District’s Administration, and the subject matter of the meeting was education. Eyring and Murray repeatedly denied that they should have, at the very least, extended an invitation to Breton, Popovici-Muller and Senibaldi.
The concern here is the complete lack of transparency. Should two members of the Board take it upon themselves to determine the nature of a meeting involving education in our District, and compare this meeting to having friends over to watch a ball game? Furthermore, does this set a precedent between the Windham School District and the Department of Education, or in the future will all School Board members be invited to ensure that we are represented by the elected body? As Breton stated, “People elected us to represent them and I didn’t get the opportunity to do that.”
To watch the February 21, 2017 School Board Meeting, click here. The exchange above begins at 2hrs 30mins.
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