BOE Charter Change Hot Potato May Culminate in Republican Filibuster

On December 1, 2016 during a Board of Education works session, Peter Bernstein read aloud the paper ballots for Board chair. The board was unsuccessful in voting on a chair after multiple attempts.  Credit Leslie Yager

If the public hearing portion of Thursday’s Board of Education meeting has dozens of speakers on the subject of BOE charter revision, the night may be a long one.

Historically, in Greenwich the Board of Education has been a “balanced board” with no more than four members of the same party.

The recommendation of a committee on charter change would mean expanding the board and allowing for competitive elections so that one party could potentially hold a majority.

On May 19, on his Ask the First radio show on WGCH 1490am, Peter Tesei said the Selectmen voted in April 2 to 1 not to take action on the charter change committee’s recommendation after Selectman Marzullo, the lone Democratic Selectman,  had asked them to.

The two Republican Selectmen voted not to take action on the recommendation, pending further discussion on Section 66 of the charter, which Tesei said would apply the same standard to the BOE as it does to the Board of Selectmen, Representative Town Meeting and Board of Estimate and Taxation, meaning any change adopted by the RTM would go to referendum.

“That’s the question,” Tesei said. “It’s about whether referendum should apply to any changes to the Board of Education.”

Tesei warned there were political “machinations” among the Democrat members the Board of Education.

“They can vote a sense of the meeting, but at the end of the day, they (Board of Education) don’t have a role in the process,” he said.  “They have no legal standing in the charter revision process.”

Tesei said education is indeed political, citing allocation of resources and the school start time change as an examples.

Meanwhile DTC chair Jeff Ramer suggested it is the Republicans who are politicizing education.

Mr. Ramer shared an email from RTC’s Rich DiPreta instructing each of the 12 districts to produce at least two speakers, each speaking for three minutes at Thursday’s BOE meeting at Glenville School, which would result in a total of 2-1/2 hours.

Ramer said the Charter Change recommendation would create majority party control of the Board of Education and that the BOE is within its rights to discuss the recommendation.

“Party politics do not belong in education,” Ramer wrote, citing DiPreta’s email as just that.

“The Democrat members of the Board of Education have voted to place the merits of the original charter change proposal on the agenda for the May 25 BOE meeting,” DiPreta wrote in his email to RTC members. “We need to mobilize our forces to fill the room. …I will provide you with Talking Points.”

Mr. Ramer described the email as “living proof of why party politics do not belong in education.” He said Republicans do not want the Board of Education to vote on the merits of the original charter change recommendation because they fear a majority of the Board will reject it.

Like Mr. Ramer, critics of the charter change recommendation see an attempted “power grab” by Greenwich’s majority party.

Those in favor of the change argue otherwise.

“The current process of four seats per party regardless of vote tallies runs against our basic American premise of democracy,” wrote Wynn McDaniel in a letter to the editor in March suggesting that the revision would give voters more choice. McDaniel described the existing system as outdated and dysfunctional.

Stay tuned.

See also:

BOE Dem Will Not Run Again. Education Charter Change Hangs in the Balance.

Letter: BoE Charter Change – Why it Makes Sense

Board of Selectmen Install Peter Sherr as Board of Ed Chair; Laura Erickson is Out


Email news tips to Greenwich Free Press editor Leslie.Yager@GreenwichFreePress.com
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