During the board's 8-hour Friday meeting, members butted heads several times, especially on topics like the balanced calendar and vacation accrual for administrators. The board was obviously polarized with new board Chairwoman Alison Bartlett, who is a continuing member, along with the newly seated officials on one side, and old board members - notably Lynnda Eagle, who is the former chairwoman, and member David Banks - on the other.
Eagle and Bartlett had their first public confrontation of the year Friday when discussing the seemingly mundane topic of how the board sets its meeting agenda. Bartlett said she would like to clarify how that process is done and put it in writing to ensure that all board members' requests make it onto the agenda. Eagle stated that, when she was chair, the process was done the same way, and that all board members' agenda requests were always granted. Bartlett disagreed.
Eagle said, "Now I know when I was chair, I don't know anything that you asked to put on the agenda that didn't go on. Can you think of a thing?"
"I would have to go back to my e-mail," Bartlett said.
Eagle said, "I actually have looked and there were none when I was chair that anyone asked me to put on an agenda that was not put on."
Eagle later came out swinging at Bartlett during the board's discussion of ending vacation accrual for administrators, something that Eagle vehemently opposed when Bartlett proposed ending it last year.
"Yes, you did rudely ask me last year how many vacation days I got when I retired, which is none of your business," Eagle said to Bartlett. "I worked 36 years as an educator, so that's not even related to this topic. This topic is right now. And I will likely be accused of defending central office, defending principals, and if that's the case, so be it. But I'm a board member now. I'm no longer an administrator; I'm no longer a central office employee. I'm a board member."
Later in the discussion, Banks, who also opposed ending the perk, accused Bartlett of bringing the topic up again to get back at administrators who criticized her for accusing them of coercing their staff members to vote for the balanced calendar in 2009.
"Something else keeps gnawing at me as to why you want to bring this up, why this is a big issue for you," Banks said. "And I've thought about this for several months now and the only conclusion, and it's kind of a sinister conclusion, is this is your way of having revenge against the principals that soundly denounced your false accusations back in 2009. That's the only conclusion I can come up with because it serves no purpose."
Banks also jumped on new board member Kathleen Angelucci during the debate about the vacation accrual benefit. Banks became upset when Angelucci called it a "perk."
Angelucci said: "I also have concerns, while I don't have sinister reasons, for wanting this perk. And it is a perk."
"It's a benefit," Banks chimed in.
"Excuse me, I think I have the floor," Angelucci replied.
Despite the bickering, Bartlett said she was pleased with the meeting.
"The meeting went really well," Bartlett said. "I think there was a lot of open discussion, which is what I understand the public look for. They could see that we were talking all sides of an issue. I believe that we started building the group as a team."
About the divisiveness on the board, Bartlett said: "I think the three board members I have served with for the past two years were concerned with how they would be treated by myself and the three new members. But I think they have seen through today's meeting that there will be respectful dialogue and professionalism from the entire team."