According to state law, deliberations and decisions (aka votes) are supposed to happen during public meetings. Not before the meeting or after the meeting. Not secretly. Not interpreted after the meeting. In the public meeting.
Chairman P.J. Mezera seems like a genuinely nice guy, but we don’t like it when public officials decide after the fact what they intended to do was different than what they actually voted on in the meeting.
Yes, we are joining you in screaming ENOUGH WITH THE CALENDAR, but we don’t like anything that plays loose with transparency. And it sets a dangerous precedent.
Here are some facts about the calendar and the way it got developed:
Blast from the past: In 2012 and 2013, the board voted on whether to put the Christian holiday “Good Friday” on the school calendar. Board Chairman P. J. Mezera himself proposed to include Good Friday on the calendar in 2013. His motion failed. Likewise, in 2012, there was a proposal to put Good Friday on the calendar. Again, the motion failed despite Mr. Mezera’s vote.
At the WCS work session on November 13, the board discussed proposals to change the way the WCS calendar labeled school holidays for at least 60 minutes. Then at the board meeting four days later, they had a similar discussion for about 90 minutes. We were there. It was memorable in that it may have been the longest discussion EVER of a school calendar in which the dates themselves were not contested at all. For a while it looked like Black Friday (to celebrate shopping) and every religious holiday from every religion (no proposal, alas) would be added to the WCS calendar. Interestingly, Good Friday was NOT a part of the discussion at all.
There was a motion to vote to rename Winter Break as Christmas Break. After much, much, MUCH discussion, the motion failed. Then, in a proposal billed as a compromise, Susan Curlee proposed that holidays that are both state and federal be included on the calendar. There were numerous rounds of clarification. The board voted; the motion passed. Jay Galbreath posted on his Facebook page the following day that the board “added the names of all Holidays that are on both the State and Federal calendars.” Yep, that’s what happened.
The WCS staff put together a revised calendar that complied with the vote of the board; it was released on 11/18 – the day after the board meeting. It looked like this:
Original Approved Calendar 11/18/14
Frankly we don’t need a school calendar that tells us that Independence Day is a holiday and there is no school. We had that one down. But it did reflect the vote of the board.
Then, apparently, something happened. We don’t know what because it didn’t happen in public, in the open, in the light of day. According to an article on the Brentwood Home Page, a new version of the calendar was released three days later on 11/21. It replaced the 11/18 version, and it includes Good Friday. Good Friday is a state holiday but not a federal one. This does not reflect what was agreed upon at the board meeting.
According to the Home Page, Mr. Mezera called the change a matter of “semantics” and said there was confusion about Ms. Curlee’s intent. Mezera asserted, “When the first list came out, I immediately asked Susan Curlee to understand her thoughts, and she was under the understanding that the calendar was going to be all-inclusive, that it was either/or. That was her intention, to give information to the parents of all the holidays.”
Also according to the Home Page, Mezera called Looney. “The board chairman indicated it was the board’s desire, so I added it,” Looney said. “He said it was the board’s will to include it. I don’t think it was inconsistent with Monday’s vote.”
This addition is not what the board actually voted on, however. Is there going to be anything else that will be subject to interpretation, revision, actual change in policy after the meeting?