Poor Direction in Another School Board Drama

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When an elected official misses over 100 recorded votes and deliberations on 200 agenda items during three consecutive months of absence, we all sympathize with any personal causes beyond that official’s control.

But Sam Eidt’s sarcastic commentary on the issues raised by school board member Carol Normandin’s unprecedented absence trivializes the impact on public interests, as well as Normandin’s own interests and well-being (“Return When the Storm Has Passed,” Indy, July 31).

Insinuations of callousness by others toward Normandin are utterly unfair.  If Mr. Eidt attended the July 28 meeting he’d know no one wanted a vacancy, election or appointment.  Everyone expressed genuine compassion for Carol, showing more respect for her privacy than Eidt or the school district.

Eidt flippantly minimized absences in summer.  Does he seriously not know school boards stay busy all year?  At least one urgently called meeting this summer was one more no-show away from cancellation for lack of quorum.

More to the point, members of the board publicly admitted having only a “vague” understanding of the law on vacancies.  Instead of competently preserving the rights of both the public and an absent member, the school board ineptly made confusing public announcements that Normandin’s absences were legally “excused” by the board.

Uncertain that was legal, the board never actually voted to excuse Normandin’s absences.  In addition to misleading the public that the board had acted officially when it hadn’t, without a vote the board’s purported action had no legal effect.

Meanwhile, our superintendent covered her tracks in a report confirming legal uncertainty on whether illness of a family member or playing a passive non-participatory role during absence prevented a vacancy.  That raised more questions than it answered.

The public politely asked for a reality check, but instead got lectured by one member on the board’s “discretion” to show “compassion” due to “vagueness” of the laws.  The idea elected officials can declare laws vague and exercise “discretion” without determining the meaning of relevant law is a bad civics lesson for our kids.

Unsure of its options, the board majority boldly decided to do nothing, not even clarify “vague” bylaws on vacancies.  Normandin was obliged to submit written confirmation she hasn’t abandoned her office.

Assuming the County Superintendent of Schools doesn’t intervene as authorized by law to call an election, let’s hope this latest school board drama ends better than it began.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach


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