Letter: Trivial Pursuit – School Board Edition

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If you missed the May 27 virtual School Board meeting, consider yourself in a sense fortunate.  Good news is you can see what appears to me and many others a violation of state open meeting laws by the Board on the LBUSD website. Highlights graphically confirming sub-standard school governance are found on the Board meeting video timer at 3:02:41 to 3:03:04, 3:14:12 to 3:14:57, and 3:17:18 to 3:17:44. 

First the Board President denies a parent her Brown Act right to public comment before the Board votes or otherwise acts on an agenda item.  Next the same parent is again denied the right to comment on a second agenda item, in effect as punishment for objecting to denial of her legal right to comment on the previous item.     

Not coincidently, both controversial agenda items were sponsored jointly by Superintendent and Board President.  Even so, both proposals had to be tabled given lack of support by a usually compliant Board majority, rarely breaking ranks no matter how non-meritorious the position of Board and Superintendent may be.   

But the two items tabled after public comment was denied were so obviously about petty, vindictive bickering on the Board that its current President, Carol Normandin, had to ask for a motion to table her own proposals. Visibly flustered, Normandin called on member James Kelly to coach her on parliamentary rules, after she admits denial of public comment required by law.   

Kelly advises to move forward without correcting the Board’s mistake. Assistant Superintendent Michael Conlon questions whether the parent has right to be heard. Asked if she agrees with Conlon, board staffer Victoria Webber is silent. Normandin, as if thinking out loud but clearly to shift blame for her blunder, mutters to herself, “I do rely on you member Kelly, and Victoria, on Robert’s Rules [of Order]…”

Board Clerk Kelly Osborne tried to restore order, but was ignored by Normandin. Too bad, since Osborne’s advice to reconsider the motion after allowing public comment was required by law, not just a parliamentary option.

This fiasco would have been funny if the civil rights of a citizen hadn’t arguably been violated.  Sadly, we all agree schools are a priority, but usually a tenacious few venture civic engagement with our School Board.   

Those who do too often find themselves caught in the crossfire of unexpected controversy, the real source of which is political codependency instead of respectful accountability between the Board and the educational bureaucracy it’s sworn to oversee on behalf of the community.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

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