A Review Of A Coventry Board Of Education Meeting Or Was It A Theatrical Production

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land and don’t criticize what you can’t understand,” yes those are word from Mr. Bob Dylan but it reflects the opening of the Board of Education meeting last night. Those attending exceeded the capacity of the room reflecting the concern and lack of credible information available prior to the meeting.

Perhaps after reflecting on those words of Mr. Dylan the meeting agenda was altered so that Superintendent Dr. Bernard could open the meeting and give a presentation on the events surrounding the recent snow removal and school cancellations. The idea being good information would provide a better understanding of the real situation before listening to comments by the public.

Then the big show got underway complete with a drama queen presentation worthy of an Emmy. Dr. Bernard opened with a soliloquy accented with the animation of flailing arms and an array of facial expressions.

Yes the big issue of the night revolved around school cancellations and snow removal. The presentation was a dramatic performance designed to inform the audience of action taken and assure them all is well.

Immediately after the first act there was a change of style for the second act, which was straight forward and lacked the drama animation of the first. Board of Education members John Barrett and Mark Malcolm asked about the lack of communication and information particularly for Board members during the critical time of action. Both members were erudite of the facts and history of roof conditions and showed concern over the health and welfare. Mr. Malcolm went into another realm offering solutions for future situations to perhaps stop the repeat of the debacle that was called communications during this snow removal problem.

While many people spoke during the audience of citizens none were more informed, professional and accurate than Pam Sewell a former member of the Board of Education. She addressed the cancellation of transportation for out of town students thereby denying them education merely due to the management of local snow removal which had no direct impact on the policies for transporting those students. Mrs. Sewall put the blame right in the lap of the Superintendent for a poor decision in contradiction of existing policy.

Mr. Barrett pointed out that he received some updates from the public on critical information prior to hearing from the administration. Along those lines it should be pointed out that a large part of the discussion involved an engineer’s report which the Superintendent had not yet been made available to the Board or the public. While we heard all about receiving the report at 1:00am nothing was said about the fact the report was made public and sent to Town Council members before 9:00am and yet it was still hidden from the Board of Education. While Mr. Barrett and Mr. Malcolm offered suggestions for improvement and asked questions reflecting the concerns of parents the majority of the Board sat in virtual silence, apparently satisfied with the first act performance of Dr. Bernard.

Act three opened with a lot of public input concerning the school calendar. This was dominated by teachers offering their perspective and sometimes solutions. The audience applauded when Mr. Barrett offered a solution that would have provided the required number of educational days and still would have preserved the winter and spring vacations. His solution would have saved some money in replacement staff and allowed all families to enjoy preplanned family vacation time. Before a decision was made there was so much discussion that the Board looked dysfunctional at times, but that had more to do with management of the discussion by the Chairperson, Cheryl Trudon. Who once again raised her hand to talk apparently forgetting she was in charge. The Board rejected the “Barrett solution” and decided students should be in school rather than vacationing with family during February.

For those that wanted to hear about the budget little was discussed and that was after 11:00pm. The budget and all day kindergarten did not get the full attention they deserved at this meeting but the hour was late and it was time to sing “Good Night Sweetheart”, the meeting was over after 11:30pm.

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