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www.cabe.org

Vol. 24, No. 9

September, 2020

2019-2020 CABE Annual Report

Special Meeting of the State Board of Education Sheila McKay

Sr. Staff Associate for Government Relations, CABE

Wisdom from Leadership Institute Alumni

through the challenges of educating students during a global pandemic. Lisa Steimer • P  lace trust in the superintendent and Staff Associate for Professional Development and Communications, CABE staff. They have the health and safety of all students and staff as a priority. Graduates of CABE’s annual Lead• U  nderstand that flexibility is critiership Institute met for their annual cal. As health metrics change local reunion recently in a virtual forum. plans will evolve. School districts will They engaged in a robust discussion continue to identify best practices and of their suggestions for the best ways protocols. for board members to support their •B  oard members can be ambassadors school communities in September. In to the community in helping them this very challenging time their wisdom understand the district plans. Comoffers important guidance for all board munication is key to establishing members. trust. Their suggestions include: • S upporting a positive relationship • I t is more important than ever that with local union leadership is critical the role of board members is to be to a successful educational experience supportive of the superintendent, and this fall. to give the superintendent and admin- • Th  e social and emotional needs of istrative staff the opportunity to work students and staff must be addressed before real learning can resume. These experienced leaders see the opportunity to create a 21st Century learning model for all students, sparked by the changes the global pandemic has necessitated. Throughout their discussions, they emphasized the importance of communication and flexibility. Patrice McCarthy

inside

Deputy Director and General Counsel, CABE

Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Inc.

See SPECIAL MEETING page 6

Heading back to school 2020

81 Wolcott Hill Road Wethersfield, CT 06109-1242

Over the last few months the State Department of Education’s Talent Office has been reviewing certification to allow for flexibility in teaching positions due to the COVID-19 virus. At its special meeting on August 11, the State Board of Education approved Emergency Generalist, PK-8 (#201), Emergency Generalist, 7-12 (#202), and Emergency Teacher of English Language Learners, PK-12 (#204), allowing an educator who currently holds an initial, provisional or professional teaching certificate to consider a different assignment. The first two allow within the grade spans, a teacher to consider teaching any content or subject area. These emergency generalist endorsements 201 and 202, exclude special education and TESOL/bilingual endorsements. 204 would allow a world language, bilingual or TESOL teacher to consider an assignment as a TESOL or bilingual education content teacher. All three certification changes are only valid for the next academic year and must be jointly agreed to by the teacher and the district. In another avenue to get more teachers into classrooms, the State

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Book Review:

White Fragility

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Policy Direction for Electronic Meetings

In order to best serve our members, our entire 2019-20 Annual Report, including the first eight-anda-half months can be found on the CABE website at https://bit.ly/327TZri. Below are highlights from the activities, programs and services the Association provided from mid-March through the end of June, a time like no other for our members and your Association: Mid-March, the State ordered offices closed due to the contagious nature of the disease and the concern of its spread, that resulted in a devastating impact on citizens in Connecticut and across the country. CABE closed the office shortly after a successful March 11 Day-on-the-Hill. However, even as Staff began to work remotely, we realized that our continued support of school districts was critical if school boards were to be effective in helping their communities through this unprecedented crisis. While our members were struggling to provide high-quality education to students through long-distance learning, we realized the importance of maintaining and even increasing activities for our members. One of the first decisions the Board and Staff made was to open up our services, programs and other activities to all school districts, whether or not they were 2019-20 members of the Association. We realized the importance of ensuring that ALL districts had the advantages of being able to receive relevant communications, network with other Boards and obtain up-to-date analysis of the guidelines and other information promulgated by See ANNUAL REPORT page 12

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CABE Virtual Leadership Conference

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COVID-19 and FOIA Related Issues

Periodical Postage PAID Hartford, CT


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020 PRESIDENT COMMENTARY

CHOICE: How to Reopen Schools Donald Harris President, CABE

The hottest topic in public school education today is what is the best and safest way to reopen our schools in the fall? What is safest for our staff, and especially, for our students? This topic has been debated from the Governor’s Office to the Education Commissioner’s Office to Boards of Education, Superintendents, teachers and parents. It has been considered at the federal, state and local levels and includes health professionals, politicians and all sorts of others with a stake in doing it right. I have served as an educator in a variety of positions from 1967-2006. I have served as a Board of Education member since 2011. Serving as a board member, board chair, RESC Chair and State Board of Education member, I believe I can offer what would be called an informed opinion on how we need to proceed, knowing that by the time this article appears, school will likely be open in one of three forms. • Full in-school participation •H  ybrid of in-school and distance learning • Only distance learning. In-School – This model invites 100% of the student body to return for five full days per week of in-person in-

CABE Former President Muriel Scoler Muriel Scoler, who served as CABE President in 1989-1991, died recently at the age of 99. Muriel served on the Newington Board of Education, including two terms as chairman. A high school history and social studies teacher for 35 years, Muriel was committed to public education. She represented Connecticut school boards with distinction at numerous conferences around the country and remained interested in the work of CABE throughout her life. The CABE Board of Directors and staff extends our condolences to Muriel’s family.

struction inside school buildings. It is the primary option when there is a low level of COVID-19 spread or required by CSDE. Hybrid – A blend of in-school instruction and distance learning instruction with heightened social distancing, hygiene and sanitizing to minimize COVID-19 spread. Selected when the threat of COVID-19 spread is low or moderate. Children will have some in-person instruction supplemented by distance learning. Distance Learning – Online instruction. Selected when the Department of Public Health has recommended return to full distance learning due to high volume of COVID-19 outbreak. I used the words “informed opinion” earlier in this article. Informed refers to my general knowledge and expertise as well as input from numerous conversations with fellow Board Chairs, Superintendents, parents, et. al. Although I had done a little research on how districts were reopening through our Board Chair listserv, things changed rapidly since. According to an article on August 19 in the Hartford Courant,” districts across the state have taken different approaches to reopening plans, with one-third of schools planning to fully reopen for in-person learning, another 25% opening with a temporary hybrid schedule and 37% of schools opting for an indefinite hybrid schedule.” However, some districts have challenged the accuracy of the Courant’s statistics. The day before the Courant story appeared, the New Haven Register stated that as of Aug. 11, “some 113 of 199 school districts and state charter schools told the state they planned to reopen fully in-person from the first day or within four weeks of school reopening. Many school districts are waiting until after Labor Day to start school for students...”

Mission: To assist local and regional boards of education in providing high quality education for all Connecticut children through effective leadership. Vision: CABE is passionate about strengthening public education through high-performing, transformative local school board/ superintendent leadership teams that inspire success for each child.

Board of Directors Whatever the right numbers are, and I am hoping that we will have final, accurate numbers by the time this article is published, we know that all the plans are fluid, with the understanding that school districts might have to change their model quickly should the pandemic get worse. The directives coming from the State Board of Education clearly indicate that the School Superintendent is the local decision-maker as to the direction of the system. The Superintendent’s decision does need approval of the Board of Education. This directive comes with my complete agreement. School leaders, if they are doing what my Superintendent in Bloomfield is doing (multiple surveys with all the stakeholders, multiple meetings with every union, all school administrators and with parents), and along with his or her expertise and experience, then clearly the correct decisions will come forward. Although I do not have a vote, I do have an opinion. I have never been a person who goes with the crowd, being afraid to take a stand. I am solidly behind what I believe will be the Bloomfield Superintendent’s final decision, beginning the school year in a hybrid model. Our children need the opportunity to begin to come together with masks, sanitizing and following safety protocols. I am praying that we have a great school beginning and successful school year 2020-21. We are all in unfamiliar and uncharted territory. It is time to come together for the sake of all of our children.

Did You Know? For the price of CABE dues, your board and superintendent are eligible for: • Unlimited telephone consultation on policy issues. • Sample school board policies and regulations whenever you need them. • Policy highlights.

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Donald Harris | President, Bloomfield Elizabeth Brown | First Vice President, Waterbury Michael Purcaro | V  ice President for Government Relations, Ellington Bryan Hall | V  ice President for Professional Development, East Hartford John Prins | Secretary/Treasurer, Branford Robert Mitchell | I mmediate Past President, Montville Christopher Wilson | Member at Large, Bristol Lydia Tedone | NSBA Director, Simsbury AREA DIRECTORS Bryan Hall | Area 2 Co-Director, East Hartford Leonard Lockhart | Area 2 Co-Director, Windsor Joan Trivella | Area 4 Director, Brooklyn Michelle Embree Ku | A  rea 5 Director, Newtown Karen Kleine | Area 6 Director, Westport George Kurtyka | Area 7 Co-Director, Derby Robert Guthrie | Area 7 Co-Director, West Haven Lon Seidman | Area 8 Director, Essex Sean Nugent | Area 9 Director, Preston ASSOCIATES Julie Auseré | Associate, Canton Eileen Baker | Associate, Old Saybrook Ethel Grant | Associate, Naugatuck Ann Gruenberg | Associate, Hampton Robert Trefry | A  ssociate, CT Technical High School System COMMITTEE CHAIRS Leonard Lockhart | Chair, Resolutions, Windsor Becky Tyrrell | Chair, Federal Relations, Plainville Michelle Embree Ku | Chair, State Relations, Newtown CITY REPRESENTATIVES Ayesha Clarke | City Representative, Hartford Yesenia Rivera | City Representative, New Haven Charles Stango | City Representative, Waterbury STAFF

Robert Rader | Executive Director Patrice McCarthy | Deputy Director and General Counsel Nicholas Caruso | Senior Staff Associate for Field Services and Coordinator of Technology Sheila McKay | Senior Staff Associate for Government Relations Vincent Mustaro | Senior Staff Associate for Policy Service Lisa Steimer | Senior Staff Associate for Professional Development and Communications Teresa Costa | Coordinator of Finance and Administration Pamela Brooks | S enior Administrative Associate for Policy Service and Search Services Terry DeMars | Administrative Associate for Policy Service Gail Heath | Administrative Associate for Government Relations Wilmarie Newton | Administrative Associate for Labor Relations Nancy Propfe | Administrative Assistant for Membership Services Corliss Ucci | Receptionist and Assistant to Executive Director

The CABE Journal (ISSN 1092-1818) is published monthly except a combined issue for July/August as a member service of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, 81 Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield, CT 06109, (860) 571-7446. CABE membership dues include $30 per person for each individual who receives The CABE Journal. The subscription rate for nonmembers is $75. Association membership dues include a subscription for each Board Member, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and Business Manager. The companies and advertisements found in The CABE Journal are not necessarily endorsed by CABE. “Periodicals Postage Paid at Hartford, CT.” POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The CABE Journal, CABE, 81 Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield, CT 06109-1242. Email: lsteimer@cabe.org. Members can find the CABE Journal online at: www.cabe.org/ page.cfm?p=1024


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

CABE Affiliate Members BUSINESS AFFILIATES VALEDICTORIAN Connecticut Business Systems – A Xerox Company Finalsite SALUTATORIAN

Berchem Moses PC Shipman & Goodwin HIGH HONORS

Pullman & Comley HONOR ROLL Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield ESS JCJ Architecture SCHOLAR Brown & Brown Chinni & Meuser LLC Coordinated Transportation Solutions Dattco, Inc. Goldstein & Peck, P.C. Kainen, Escalera & McHale, P.C. The Lexington Group Network Support Co. OneDigital Health and Benefits Perkins Eastman T-Mobile The S/L/A/M Collaborative Zangari Cohn Cuthbertson Duhl & Grello, P.C.

EDUCATIONAL AFFILIATES American School for the Deaf Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) The College Board Communities in Schools Connecticut Association of School Business Officials Connecticut Center for School Change Connecticut School Buildings and Grounds Association Connecticut School Counselor Association Connecticut Technical High Schools Cooperative Educational Services (C.E.S.) EASTCONN EdAdvance Exploratioins Charter School Integrated Day Charter School ISAAC LEARN

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EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR COMMENTARY

Lessons of the Spring and Summer of COVID-19 Robert Rader

Executive Director, CABE

What a difficult period! I am writing this in the second week of August, as board members, superintendents, teachers and parents prepare to return to school. It is a time of increased anxiety, confusion over what the school year will bring and yes, hope for the future. It will be a reopening like never before. Everyone understands the importance of getting our kids back to school. Teacher/student relationships and instruction can’t be 100 percent replicated in a distance-learning situation and building social-emotional skills are difficult, if not impossible to teach, even with the best computers and good wifi coverage. Students need to get back together with their teachers, peers and friends. As Dr. Marc Brackett founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has said, students this summer feel “frustrated, bored, lonely and sad.” We understand that school staff, parents and other members of our communities are alarmed at what is happening in other parts of the country and are concerned spikes of the virus may occur here when school is reopened. We have empathy for students and staff with immunological issues or who fit into one of the vulnerable groups for the virus. This is still a scary time for everyone. However, the fact remains that Connecticut has done an excellent job keeping rates low, especially in comparison with many other states. Doctors Anthony Fauci and Ezekial Emmanuel, as well as Connecticut’s Department of Health, have said that it is safe to bring students back to school as long as mitigation is used. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in an article entitled “COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry” stated, with the health and safety recommendations it identified, the Academy “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented… Lengthy time away from school and associated in-

terruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits and as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicide ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of mobility, and, in some cases, mortality…” Keeping students home will make it near-impossible for some parents to return to their jobs full-time, kids can get in a lot of trouble home alone and, try as we might, there is no guarantee that mitigating the disease will keep our kids safe or that we won’t be back to the same closings in another two months. However, medical experts, Governor Lamont and Commissioner Cardona are telling us to bring as many students back as possible. Even so, how best to go about reopening weighs on Superintendents, Board Members and other stakeholders. Working with their local health officials, Boards and staff, superintendents had to make very complex decisions, based on medical opinions that were sometimes contradictory: Can youngsters transmit COVID-19 to adults? What is the chance of that? Can one get COVID-19 a second time? Is it even possible to cohort kids? Does it help to have five year olds wear masks? It is obvious that making these decisions takes courage, thoughtfulness and the ability to take a difficult stand. We are lucky that such leadership exists in Connecticut.

Leadership

I turned to Windsor Board Chair and Chair of the CABE’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Leonard Lockhart to explain how he kept rational and logical as he wrestled with issues of bringing staff and students back to school. His response: “As Board Chairs, we must facilitate civil and collaborative discussions while considering all known factors and facts in order to make educated decisions.  As board members, we must look beyond ourselves and serve the greater good.  Personal perspective clouds the process at times. I’ve lost eight loved ones to COVID so

my sense to protect every child and employee within my District remains infinite, absolute and unrelenting. Yet I believe that bringing all kids back as soon as possible is best for them.” The courage and leadership that Chair Lockhart demonstrates is but one example that gives me hope about the future. Despite anxiety and fear about COVID-19, he focuses on what most Board Members and Superintendents are concentrated on: what is the best for our students and staff in this difficult situation where there are, as Commissioner Cardona has said, “no perfect solutions.” Even as we have stayed home, canceled workshops and spent waytoo-much time on our computers, let’s pause for a moment to recognize the leadership of public education even as we try to get to whatever the “new normal” will be. I understand that not all Board Members are in sync with their superintendents on all issues, and certainly teachers and parents have not been shy about their concerns in this situation.

Time of Ambiguity

That is very logical at a time when so much is ambiguous. CABE’s role is, in part, to support school board members as the unsung, volunteer leaders they are. I’ve never found this difficult, even when the media focused on Board Members who did not help strengthen the reputation of their Boards. For most Board members, commitment and strength are often the best of public service. I also want to publicly salute superintendents. They have seen no letup in their work since, well really, last summer, if they took a vacation then. The work of a superintendent is never easy, but, from the Spring until now they have worked tirelessly to ensure that their buildings, programs, See LESSONS page 10


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020 See You in Court – The Nutmeg Board of Education

The Nutmeg Public Schools Reopening Plan Thomas B. Mooney, Esq. Shipman & Goodwin

The Nutmeg Board of Education makes many mistakes. The latest imbroglio created by the board will be reported here each issue, followed by an explanation of what the board should have done. Though not intended as legal advice, these situations may help board members avoid common problems. After much discussion and lengthy planning by Mr. Superintendent and his team, the Nutmeg Public Schools were ready to open for the 2020-2021 school year. Mr. Superintendent and the professional staff had worked day and night, and in mid-August Mr. Superintendent presented the plan to the Board for its information. During public comment at that meeting, Bruno, President of the Nutmeg Union of Teachers, was highly critical of the plan. “It is crazy to ask teachers to teach students in class and simultaneously share that live instruction by video conference with students learning remotely!” Bruno railed. “Hasn’t Mr. Superintendent ever read FERPA??” After his thee minutes were up, Bruno sat down, and the Board members started discussing the plan. Most of the Board members were appreciative of the staff ’s hard work, and they complimented the administration on the “well-designed plan.” However, new Board member Rick Rogue had only critical remarks to offer. Rick echoed Bruno’s concern about FERPA, and he expressed grave concern about the “dangers” of reopening school in any fashion during a pandemic. The other Board members chastised Rick for his overly-negative views, and they reminded him of the importance of getting students back in school for their own social and mental health. Mr. Chairman ended the discussion with the observation that challenging times require difficult decisions, and that reopening schools was the best choice. The meeting ended with most of the Board members thinking that was that. Rick had other ideas. The next day, he called Bruno and asked what he could do to support NUTS in its opposition to reopening schools. Bruno was surprised to receive the call, but he was quick to make common cause with Rick. He set up a secret meeting with Rick and the NUTS Executive Board to plan a course of protest and, possibly, teacher civil disobedience against the reopening plan. As the meeting was ending, Rick shook hands all around, asking, “Let’s keep this between us, OK?” It was not to be. One of the teachers present promptly went on Facebook to describe the meeting and Rick’s role in it. The word quickly spread, and,

enraged at Rick’s disloyalty, several Board members vowed to “take care of #%$*@ Rick.” At the beginning of the next meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education, veteran Board member Bob Bombast was ready. “Mr. Chairperson,” Bob interjected just as the meeting was starting, “We need to add an item to our agenda – censure and removal of Rick Rogue from the Nutmeg Board of Education.” The motion was seconded and easily passed, with only Rick voting against. Bob Bombast then started in. “We are a Board of Education. I have lost my fair share of votes, but I have never betrayed my Board. But Rick here has been conspiring with NUTS to undermine the reopening plan. Rick Rogue must go!” Mr. Chairperson asked Rick what he had to say for himself, but Rick just said he wanted a lawyer. Mr. Chairperson then opened up the discussion to the other Board members, and one by one they accused Rick of disloyalty based on the Facebook post and the community chatter. When the discussion was over, Bob moved that the Board censure Rick for “traitorous behavior,” and the motion passed. Was the action of the Nutmeg Board of Education appropriate? • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Rick’s behavior notwithstanding, the Board’s actions were improper in several respects. Apparently even Bob ultimately realized that the Board could not remove Rick from office, because he limited his motion to censuring Rick. There is no provision in Connecticut law for recall or other removal of a board of education member. The public policy is to let the voters decide in the first instance and then let them decide again if the board member runs for office for a new term. Even as limited, the Board’s vote to censure Rick was problematic. Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure that guides the operation of virtually every board of education in Connecticut and elsewhere, regulates disciplinary action that a body can take against one of its members. Here, this “disciplinary action” of censure violated the rules of parliamentary procedure in a number of ways. The touchstone of the disciplinary procedures in Robert’s Rules is fairness, and the procedures the Nutmeg Board used here were anything but fair. Section 61 of Robert’s Rules (11th Ed. 2011) describes discipline as “a drastic step reserved for serious situation,” and advises that “it is usually in the best interest of the organization first to make every effort to obtain a satisfactory solution of the matter quietly and informally.” However, quiet resolution

of issues of misconduct will not always be possible, and Robert’s Rules provides guidance as to the disciplinary process. First, it is important to note that there is a fundamental difference in the disciplinary procedures for offenses that occur during a meeting and those that occur outside a meeting. The basis for disciplinary action for misconduct that occurs at a meeting is clear to all, because the other members of the body were witnesses to the misconduct. Based on their own observations, the other members of the board have the factual basis on which to determine whether discipline of a board member is proper. When alleged misconduct occurs outside of a meeting, as was the case here, the situation is far different. Robert’s Rules, Sections 61 and 63, outline the requirements for disciplinary proceedings for alleged misconduct outside a meeting. In such cases, the board members have no personal knowledge of the circumstances, and therefore fact finding is required before proceeding. Robert’s Rules provides that the body should create a committee to find the facts and report back to the body. Such report should then be provided to the alleged wrong-doer as notice of the allegations, and the body is then responsible for holding a “formal trial” and deciding on a consequence. Truly

egregious misconduct should be referred to the courts for relief, but board disciplinary proceedings are typically inadvisable otherwise, because censure is the only available remedy and a formal trial will distract the board from its educational mission. Finally, as many district plans include live streaming of classes to students learning remotely, some have asked whether such live streaming violates FERPA, the federal law providing that educational records are confidential except for circumstances specified in the law. FERPA defines “education records” as “records that are: (1) Directly related to a student; and (2) Maintained by an educational agency…” Live streaming is a modality of instruction, not a record, unless and until the information is maintained with regard to a specific student. FERPA violations are always an unfortunate possibility, whether in class, at the grocery store, or in live streaming. But live streaming per se does not raise concerns regarding the protections of FERPA. Attorney Thomas B. Mooney is a partner in the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin who works frequently with boards of education. Mooney is a regular contributor to the CABE Journal. Shipman & Goodwin is a CABE Business Affiliate.

The Ninth Edition – Now Available!

A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law by Thomas B. Mooney, Esq. Shipman & Goodwin

CABE is delighted to announce that the Ninth Edition of Tom Mooney’s Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law is now available. PRICING: CABE Members: $54.99; CABE Non-Members: $79.99; Students: $44.99 There have been many changes in school law in the last few years, and the Ninth Edition has been extensively revised to provide updated guidance on the legal issues that govern our schools. Changes include descriptions and commentary on:

• Changes in teacher evaluation and teacher tenure. • New rules regarding employee background checks. • New requirements concerning student data privacy. • New rules for suspension, expulsion and alternative educational opportunities. • Revised requirements governing seclusion and restraint. • The new “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how it has changed “No Child Left Behind Act” requirements. • The CCJEF case and ongoing litigation over equal educational opportunities. • The Minimum Budget Requirement and new duties to collaborate with town officials. • A host of other changes in the rules that boards of education and school administrators must follow.


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

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Aim Higher

Creative legal solutions for Connecticut’s public schools – because sometimes it is rocket science.

Shipman & Goodwin’s school law attorneys have more than 40 years of experience, and represent over 100 public school districts, as well as public school member organizations and associations, on a full range of legal issues that they confront, from general education law to special education matters.

Our school law site, www.ctschoollaw.com is devoted entirely to emerging school law issues. Attorneys counsel clients, monitor legislation and provide periodic alerts and updates. We regularly present seminars, quarterly workshops, webinars and professional development workshops for schools on current topics of interest. Our Practice Group Co-Chair, Tom Mooney, has written A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law, a comprehensive treatise on Connecticut school law, published by CABE and used by teachers, administrators and board of education members throughout the state.

Education is a core focus of our law firm. www.ctschoollaw.com

Contact: Thomas B. Mooney or Linda L. Yoder | 860.251.5000 | www.shipmangoodwin.com CONNECTICUT

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020 BOOK REVIEW:

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

Robert Rader

Executive Director, CABE

As I have written before, part of understanding diversity, equity and inclusion is the personal journey you must take. No one can really walk in another person’s shoes, try as they might. As we at CABE began to work with Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris on racial issues, I felt that I needed more of a grounding in the many books published over the last few years dealing with the issues that have come into the forefront over the summer. While the news was focused on the reaction to the death of George Floyd and police brutality, I picked up White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. I was surprised as much by the tone of what I read as by the content. I would not suggest this book for those who are not ready for it. The author, Robin Diangelo, is

SPECIAL MEETING

(continued from page 1)

Board waived the cut score for the edTPA, the performance-based assessment that all initial teaching candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs must pass to graduate. The waived cut score is on the portfolio section of the teacher prep program for the next academic year. The State will still require all other requirements to be met. Below is the specific section of the Resolution on the 180 Day Waiver for the 2020-2021 School Year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Provision of Hybrid and/or Remote Learning Models. …WHEREAS, due to these unprecedented circumstances related to this unavoidable public health emergency, and their responsibility to protect to the greatest extent possible the health of staff and students, school districts anticipate the need to utilize a hybrid learning model, or potentially suspend in-person learning for some portion of the 2020-21 school year, and seek clarity as to how such action would affect their obligations under C.G.S. Sections 10-15 and 10-16; now therefore be it: RESOLVED, that during the 2020-2021 school year only, the SBE

white, as she points out several times in the book. She has “been a consultant and trainer of racial and social justice for more than 20 years… and formerly served as a tenured professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University.” However, as one trying to increase my sensitivity to the issues faced by Blacks, I believe that she gave no latitude for those white people, like me, who considers himself an ally of Black, indigenous and people of color (known as BIPOC), who understands that he has both white privilege and. like everyone else, implicit biases. While one can excuse strong words and ideas in order to open peoples’ eyes, those comments can be taken out of context. That is not true in White Fragility. As whites, she writes, “we haven’t had to build our racial stamina. Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority that we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves, we

become highly fragile in conversations about race. We consider a challenge to our racial worldview as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism an unsettling and unfair moral offense.” I will admit the book did help me better understand what systemic racism means and what people of color deal with every day. Because of the way in which our society has been built, there are obstacles and challenges for any such person in attempting to get a job, a good education or a better place in society (remember when our society encouraged social mobility?). When I drive, I do not worry about being pulled over by the police, but this is a worry for every person of color and especially worrisome if you are a Black and your children drive. While that is just an example of what systemic racism can do, for people of color, it is built into the very foundations of our nation — starting

with how slaves were considered worth only three-fifths of whites in the Constitution — and remain uphill battles for equality. Whether it is the much higher rates of poverty among those of color compared to whites, the lack of financial equity to enable buying of homes in wealthier areas, the lack of money put away for retirement… the list goes on and on and it is based on the disadvantages Blacks in particular have faced ever since they were brought to America. White Fragility has been criticized by scholars, such as Columbia Professor John McWhorter, who wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled, The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility. He argues that the book talks down to Black people.  He is convinced that the book “is actually a racist tract. Despite the sincere intentions of its author, the book diminishes Black people in the name of dignifying us. This is unintentional, of course, like

temporarily authorizes local and regional Boards of Education, the Connecticut Technical Education Career System, approved state charter schools, and other similarly situated districts (“school district” or “school districts”), to shorten the school year related to the 180-day/900 hour requirement for unavoidable emergency. Regardless of the instructional approach used (in-person, hybrid, or remote), districts should implement an instructional framework with equity at its core. This Board’s authorization for hybrid or remote programming due to unavoidable emergency is contingent upon school districts providing rigorous learning and engagement opportunities that are aligned with State standards and Board expectations, whether the education is in person or remote. These should include, but are not limited to, opportunities for students to be engaged on a daily basis, for students to access grade level standards, and for students to be provided the necessary academic and social-emotional supports. This anticipates that classrooms will provide on-grade instruction that accelerates learning and incorporates the requisite scaffolds and supports. The school district must make a good faith decision that implementation of hybrid remote learning

programming, which has a portion of the student population in a school building on certain designated days or hours, and learning remotely on others, or the suspension of classes and use of a full-time remote learning model, is necessary to protect the health and promote the safety of the school community based on: (a) then-current public health data for the geographic region within which such district is located; and (b) the actual incidence or the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. Action taken by a school district to implement a hybrid learning model or suspend a class or classes and use a full-time remote learning model will be deemed necessary if a school district makes a good faith decision within the recommended range of leading and secondary indicators and also assessing the additional considerations in the guidance published by the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), and based upon the totality of the circumstances, to protect the health and safety of the school/s community, and after consultation with appropriate public health authorities. Action taken by a school district

to suspend classes and use a full-time remote learning model, at a time when the county-wide data indicators support in-person or hybrid models based upon the recommended range of leading and secondary indicators published by the SDE and the DPH requires submission of a justification for such exception to the SDE and review by an administrative panel with representatives from the SBE, the Office of School Construction, the SDE, and the DPH. This panel may also receive the justification and request for review from a county, region or statewide if required by public health data and analysis of the leading and secondary indicators, and additional considerations, published by SDE and DPH. In all cases, the basis for the school districts’ decisions must be included in writing in the records of the school district. Hybrid or remote programming must maintain the State Board of Education’s expectations for rigorous engagement of the student population aligned with grade level outcomes, and the use of this authorization should be done to the minimum extent feasible. The State Board directs the Commissioner to take the necessary action, including issuing binding guidance from the SDE as necessary to implement this resolution.”

See WHITE FRAGILITY page 12


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

THE POLICY CORNER Vincent A. Mustaro

Senior Staff Associate for Policy Service, CABE

Policy Direction for Electronic Meetings of the Board of Education

COVID-19 has markedly changed the daily reality for schools, boards of education, staff and students. Across the nation, just months ago, board members would take their seats and parents, students, teachers, and citizens would physically attend a meeting of the local board of education. During time for public comment, speakers would line up and take turns at the same microphone. That became unthinkable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has upended most aspects of American life, including how the public’s business is conducted. School boards and other governing bodies in Connecticut, as across the country, have moved to virtual meetings to maintain the social distancing considered crucial to slowing the spread of the virus. In some cases, boards of education are operating under different rules as the result of Executive Orders by Connecticut’s Governor, guidance promulgated by the Commissioner of Education and the State Department of Education and some changes and/or suspensions of some local board policies and bylaws. The transition to electronically held meetings of boards of education has varied across Connecticut and the nation. Districts are trying to observe the public records and open meetings laws. There have been a few situations reported across the nation which raised questions about transparency. “Even a crisis as profound as this one cannot be an excuse to start doing business in the dark,” said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a California-based nonprofit. “Transparency is more essential now than it has been in a very long time.” So-called “sunshine laws” vary by state, but they, such as Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, require public agencies to publicize board meetings in advance and make them accessible to the public. The COVID-19 crisis has forced boards of education into the uncharted territory of trying to conduct business meetings virtually. Before COVID-19, public board meetings in Connecticut essentially required a physical quorum, enough members had to attend in person, for a meeting to proceed. The virus’s spread limited public gatherings and made it necessary for boards of education

to meet electronically. This created challenges for school boards as they attempted to carry out their duties during the pandemic. School boards and other public agencies can’t ignore open records and meeting laws even if certain policies are suspended during the COVID-19 emergency. School districts have taken additional steps to adapt to the new virtual reality. Some school boards urged the public to send in questions ahead of meetings. Replicating public comment periods has proven difficult, even for the more technologically-savvy school districts that regularly stream public

have been incorporated in CABE’s model policy language. In order to be compliant with the FOIA, a meeting of a board of education, as a public agency, is required to be conducted in such a manner that every person in attendance has the opportunity to observe all of the discussions and actions transpiring at the meeting. When a meeting is held electronically, some specific conditions must be met. All Board members in attendance at the meeting, regardless of location, must be able to hear and identify adequately all participants in the

Electronic participation by board members that allows the public to monitor the conduct of the meeting and the individual participation in the meeting by such members does not violate the FOIA. meetings. Most Connecticut school districts provide an opportunity for public comment during open meetings, even though it is not legally mandated. Prior to COVID-19, a common problem for boards of education was getting enough members in attendance at a board meeting in order to have a quorum. In addition, there would be times, for valid reasons such as illness or being out of town, which prevented a board member’s attendance and participation at a board meeting. Therefore, prior to the current pandemic emergency, some boards of education adopted bylaw language provided by CABE, allowing a board member to participate at the regularly scheduled board meeting by electronic means. Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), enacted in 1975, defines “meetings” to expressly include proceedings “whether in person or by means of electronic equipment.” Therefore, the FOIA permits board members to participate in board meetings electronically. Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission (“FOIC”) provided some general principles to be followed when a board, via an adopted bylaw, permits a member to participate in a meeting electronically. These principles

proceedings, including their individual remarks and votes. Electronic participation by board members that allows the public to monitor the conduct of the meeting and the individual participation in the meeting by such members does not violate the FOIA. Also, the members of the public “attending” the electronic meeting must be able to hear what the board member is stating when he or she speaks and votes. Further, while not required by the FOIA, it is recommended that the board have in place a policy/ bylaw permitting a board member to participate electronically in a meeting. CABE took this position previously, in the case of a traditional board of education meeting taking place in the announced physical location, with a quorum of its members physically present and permitting a board member to participate electronically, with valid reason. FOIA, as previously stated, does not require that a board have a bylaw in place before permitting such electronic participation. Attorney Mark J. Sommaruga, an authority on FOI, stated, “However, it is much preferred that a board err on the side of caution and have in place bylaws to address the circumstances

and procedures for electronic participation in meetings by members. Having such bylaws will address possible issues with respect to violations of any parliamentary procedures previously adopted by the board.” He also added that, “regardless of whether a board could “suspend the rules” in order to allow electronic participation by a board member, it is better to be safe than sorry and have explicit bylaws in place on this issue.

Policy Implications

CABE, prior to COVID-19, made available several versions of recommended bylaw #9325.43, “Attendance at Meetings via Electronic Communications.” This bylaw pertains to those times when a member of a board of education may not be able to attend and be physically present at an officially posted meeting of the board. It dealt for the first time with the question of whether it is legally possible for a board member to attend and participate in the meeting of the board by electronic means. As stated previously, the Freedom of Information Act allows for participation by electronic means. That policy/bylaw answers questions pertaining to the number to be allowed at any meeting to be involved electronically, the conditions to be met regarding such involvement, issues of voting, and the conditions to prompt such electronic participation. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the parameters concerning electronic participation. Now, the entire board meeting is held with the electronic participation of all of the board members. The meeting, due to the requirements of social distancing, could no longer be held at a location with board members able to be physically present. Therefore, a new bylaw/policy has been developed to correspond to this situation as we still evolve from the current pandemic situation and to handle such a situation in the future. Policy #9321.2, “Electronic Board of Education Meetings,” has been developed for your consideration and use. In light of the continuing pandemic situation, this is considered a recommended policy for inclusion in a board of education policy manual.


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

9

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

LESSONS

(continued from page 3)

staff and communities were ready for the Fall. The decisions they have been called on to make, especially once the State decided that the decision will be made by the superintendent at the local level, are worth remembering as we go forward. It takes a lot of courage to make these decisions at a time when not only are we fighting the virus, but,

also the turbulence of social unrest throughout the State and Nation. This has been one of the most difficult times we have lived through. But, the courage and dedication we find in the leaders in public education should encourage us that the future is still bright. We will look back with pride once these dark days are behind us and thank those who are spending their days and nights looking after the best interests of our children.

Lighter Side

The effects of the coronavirus is not a funny issue in any sense, however, my family and I learned two lessons from it: • At the beginning of the crisis in March, everyone was worried about germs spreading in the mail. It was suggested that people put their mail into the microwave before opening. I did so, without realizing that three credit cards were delivered that day. The new cards, with their computer chips were fried! • Members of my family, from Maryland, came up to Long Island to see my elderly parents, who have been isolated in their house since March. When my wife and I go visit, we do not stay over — we drive back the same day. However, my family likes to camp out and since they live much farther away, they decided to camp for a night in my parents’ backyard, before returning home the next day. All went well until the lawn sprinklers turned on the next morning. They moved elsewhere on the grass, but, then 35 minutes later, the sprinklers where they moved to went on. It was a wet ride home! – R.R.

C.O.P.S

What will provide YOUR district? • A policy manual updated within days of a board meeting. • Access to your policy manual 24/7 anywhere with Internet capability. • Time saving links to legal and cross references. • A search engine specifically designed for board policy manuals. • The ability to search other online districts for sim­ilar policies or language. • A happier staff that will have less paper to deal with.

If you would like additional information on CABE’s Connecticut Online Policy Service (C.O.P.S.), call Vincent Mustaro at 860-571-7446 or email vmusta­ro@cabe.org for full details

Current vacancies include: Superintendent MARY BRODERICK, ED.D

Groton

SENIOR CONSULTANT

For more information contact

CABE Search Services

81 Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield, CT 06109

860-608-1763

Equal Opportunity Employer

Think of your Association,,

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when you do your shopping! When you shop @AmazonSmile Amazon will make a donation to:

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

11

CABE’S VIRTUAL SUMMER LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE

CABE Consultant Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris presented A Continuation of Our Conversations about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in session 3 which was moderated by CABE Executive Director Robert Rader.

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona and Deputy Commissioner Desi Nesmith spoke about schools reopening in session 1 which was moderated by CABE Executive Director Robert Rader.

Adam Lustig of the NSBA Center for Safe Schools presented a session on Trauma/ Adverse Childhood Experiences in session 4 which was moderated by CABE Executive Director Robert Rader.

CABE Sr. Staff presented a session on Unprecedented Leadership: Navigating Legal, Policy, Advocacy and Governance Issues in session 2 which was introduced by CABE President Donald Harris (Bloomfield) and First Vice President Elizabeth Brown (Waterbury).


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

CABE Business Affiliate the S/L/A/M Collaborative provided a webinar for board members on building considerations for reopening schools.

ANNUAL REPORT

(continued from page 1)

the State. While we discontinued this provision of membership benefits to nonmembers on July 15, we were delighted that a number of the nonmember boards are expected to rejoin the Association. We took a number of other steps to help Boards and Superintendents during the crisis: Board Chair Check-Ins and Updates, which occurred every week for at least an hour since March 20. These gave Staff a chance to provide updates and Chairs a chance to discuss issues with each other, including their successes and challenges. Among the “guest speakers”: • Ellington Board Member Michael Purcaro; • Newtown Chair Michelle Embree-Ku; •L  earn from Home Taskforce

BOOK REVIEW

(continued from page 4)

the racism DiAngelo sees in all whites. Still, the book is pernicious because of the authority that its author has been granted over the way innocent readers think.”* For whites to be truly open to understanding and helping with the challenges faced by people of color, they must be guided by those who can

Chairs Superintendents Paul Freeman (Guilford) and Nathan Quesnel (East Hartford); • President of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities President Michael Freda (North Haven);  • CT CAS/CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini;   •C  T School Counselors Association Executive Director Michelle Catucci; and, • S DE Bureau of Special Education Consultant Jocelyn Mackey. Other webinars, that were open for ALL Board members and Superintendents, with Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and his Cabinet; “Dear School Boards, Your Students and Staff of Color Are Not Okay,” with Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris; “Announcement of Return to School Plans for 2020-21”; and, Review of Guidelines from the State of Connecticut. • Provision of communications from the State

Department of Education to All Board Chairs and Board Members; •A  nalyses of Executive Orders and Guidelines from the State; •D  evelopment of policies and regulations concerning response to the pandemic, including on Board Meetings during the lockdown; masks; distance learning plans and other subjects; and, •A  dditional use of the CABE Board Chair listserv to give Chairs the opportunity to ask questions and network with other Chairs. In addition, Staff continued to provide individual workshops, and provided support to ALL districts which solicited our services. During this period, the CABE Board of Directors reached out to Board Members and decided to freeze dues for the FIFTH year in a row and made it possible for nonmembers to

become Trial Members after being out go the Association for three, rather than four years. With school districts under continued and, in some cases, increased budget pressure, the CABE Board of Directors and Staff continued to strengthen our work in four core areas: advocacy, policy, professional development, and communications. CABE’s first-ever Strategic Plan had been adopted by the Board in February and its direction continues to inform our work. Your Association continues to be affected from pressure on school district finances and the loss of funding from the State for some of our most important programs. However, your Board decided that continuing these programs remains a priority for the Association so that they are continuing.  Please feel free to reach out to members of our Board or Staff with any questions or comments. 

enable them to see the truth of what people of color have to live with every day. To do this, people must be willing to face and absorb facts that might not have been apparent to them before. To do less undermines the opportunity to grow as much as possible. That is not an easy or comfortable journey. I know. I am still on the path.  White Fragility does not take a person by the hand and lead them to a better place; on the contrary, I think

most whites will feel like they were being thrown into an environment where guilt, defensiveness and barriers to learning surface. I encourage all Board members and superintendents to take a journey in understanding what others in our society face. But this is not the guide I would recommend. I asked Dr. Brackeen-Harris to recommend some books on these issues that might be more beneficial on

the issues. She recommended: Waking up White by Debbie Irving; White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise; and, Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. I guess I have a lot more reading to do! *https://www.theatlantic.com/ ideas/archive/2020/07/dehumanizing-condescension-white-fragility/614146/​


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

13

CABE: Working for YOU

Individualized Workshops | Professional Development Opportunities Legal Services | Policy Services | Representing You Statewide and Nationally Below are the highlights of activities that the CABE staff has undertaken on your behalf over the last month. We did this:

B  y providing opportunities for members to learn how to better govern their districts: zM  et with Hartford Foundation for Public Giving Senior Community Investments Officer Michael Wotorson and CABE Consultant Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris on diversity, equity and inclusion issues. zH  osted a meeting of the CABE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. zM  et with Commission on Women, Children and Seniors Executive Director Steven Hernandez and Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris on equity issues. zD  iscussed equity issues with the Brookfield Board of Education. zH  osted meeting of the CABE/CAPSS Convention Committee. zR  esponded to 83 requests for policy information from 44 districts, two out-of-state school board association, the state department of education, and two educational consultants providing sample materials on 34 topics. Further, districts continue to access CABE’s online Core Policy Reference Manual and/or online manuals posted by CABE for policy samples. The topics of greatest interest again pertained to pandemic policies especially face mask/face covering, COVID-19 emergency measures, and travel advisory/quarantine. Other topics of interest included Title IX and distance learning. zP  lanned and implemented successful virtual CABE Summer Leadership Conference.

B  y helping school boards to increase student achievement: z S ent was one issue of “Policy Highlights” via e-mail listserv covering topics that affect student achievement. Included topics pertained to student health assessments and required immunizations, new

COVID-19 related policies, and student testing. zF  acilitated self-evaluation with the Stamford Board of Education.

B  y ensuring members receive the most up-to-date communications: zP  repared materials, as part of the Custom Policy Service for Danbury, Enfield, Region #15. zD  eveloped new policies pertaining to COVID-19 issues. zP  resented at a session of the CABE Summer Leadership series on policy issues related to the pandemic.

B  y promoting public education: zP  lanned School Governance Council for principals with CAS and SDE. zP  articipated in a webinar pertaining to facility modifications for school reopening. zP  articipated in video conference with the crowd sharing company Donors Choice regarding policy issues.

B  y providing services to meet member needs: zF  acilitated weekly Board Chair CheckIn and Update Sessions. zF  acilitated CABE Summer Leadership Conference. zF  acilitated roles and responsibilities discussion for Darien Board of Education retreat.

CABE website with new COVID-19 related policies.

B  y attending Professional Development to strengthen staff knowledge and skills. zA  ttended Hartford Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Group’s webinar on Financial Scenario Planning in a Changing Environment. zA  ttended workshop on Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Nonprofit Sector: The Role of the Consultant. zA  ttended NSBA Leadership Enrichment workshop on “Anticipating What’s Next and Future Ready Response for Your Members”. zA  ttended American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting. zP  articipated in NSBA Council of School Attorneys, NEASC, CASEL and law firm webinars. zA  ttended weekly “Trainer’s Tuesday” professional development workshops by the NSBA Federation of Trainers (FEDTRAIN). zA  ttended the first four of eight weeks of “Facilitating for Students’ Sake” – training in non-verbal communications and facilitation skills.

B  y representing Connecticut school boards on the state or national level: zM  et with and facilitated S/L/A/M Collaborative webinar on its plan

of issues to consider as schools are reopened. zA  ttended NSBA briefing session and Town Hall meeting in preparation for NSBA Delegate Assembly. zH  osted meeting of the CABE Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. zR  epresented boards of education on Partners meetings (Commissioner Cardona and representatives of CABE, CAPSS, CAS, AFT-CT and CEA) on reopening issues. zP  reviewed CT Voices for Children’s and Columbia University’s Model for High-Quality Equitable Distance Learning. zA  ttended meeting of the Steering Committee of Connecticut Career and College Readiness Alliance. zA  ttended Governor Lamont’s weekly telephone calls with municipal leaders. zA  ttended meetings of State Executive Directors with NSBA. zA  ttended State Board of Education meeting. zP  articipated in NSBA Delegate Assembly briefing. zP  resented at CASBO webinar on staff leave issues. zD  iscussed school reopening plans and resource needs with FOX 61 – The Real Story. zA  ttended Discovering Amistad Board of Directors meeting. zC  haired meeting of the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology’s Digital Learning Advisory Council.

zF  acilitated CABE Leadership Institute virtual reunion discussion. zP  osted policies online for districts utilizing the Connecticut Online Policy Service (COPS) for Avon, Chaplin, Sherman, Region #18, Orange, Portland, Preston, Griswold, Windsor, Bristol, Region #12, Brooklyn, and Cheshire. zU  pdated the online Core Policy manual. zU  pdated the policy section of the

CABE Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy appeared on FOX 61’s The Real Story to talk about schools reopening.


14

The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

The Media Message by Ann Baldwin, President and CEO, Baldwin Media Marketing, LLC

SOCIAL MEDIA AND COVID-19:

Now is the Time for Your District to Ramp Up Its Social Media I think that it is fair to say that this is the first time any living generation has experienced a pandemic of this scale, and we are just beginning to understand social media’s role in all of this. With remote learning, comes remote communication. I have been around as a consultant for CABE long enough to remember that many districts had to be encouraged to start social media platforms. With the advent of social media in the 21st Century, not only are many relying on social media for the latest news updates, but hopefully as a district you are also utilizing platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to provide critical and updated information to students, parents, teachers and your entire school community. Here is a fun fact,

“Facebook and Instagram have seen a 40% increase in usage due to COVID, with views for Instagram and Facebook Live doubling in the 1st week.” If you are not utilizing these platforms, in my opinion you are making a mistake and here is why: your target audience is spending more time online than ever before and you want to stay connected to them and keep them informed. It is also important to know which of these social media channels will help you reach your audience and here is the rule. Facebook is now for the adult audiences; Twitter and Instagram are for the younger audiences and if you really want to get crazy then you might want to consider TikTok! (But I do not recommend that.)

So now the question is, “What should your district be posting on social media right now?” Turn your social media platforms into a valuable and “go to” resource for your audience. The district should focus on engagement first by providing good useful information that is current, creative, and/or addresses concerns, maybe new policies and procedures and of course good news as well. No one wants to engage with any social media platform that is all doom and gloom. A second question is, “What should board members be posting on social media right now?” Share your district’s social media posts without editorializing. Now is the time to support your superintendent, administrators, teachers, and staff and the

difficult work they are doing to safely reopen schools. Remember, COVID-19 is affecting everyone in the world, but in different ways. Think outside of your situation, have empathy for your followers and offer compassion. With this in mind, you may want to think twice before posting memes. The bottom line is, no one is an expert in the do’s and don’ts of social media, especially during a pandemic. YES, there are ALWAYS going to be critics, but your district can only do the best it can during this time of heightened anxieties and uncertainty. Hopefully, there will also be a larger audience who will support your efforts and transparency and communicate gratitude.


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

15

UNDERSTANDING CONNECTICUT’S FOIA

More on COVID-19 and FOIA Related Issues

Mark J. Sommaruga, Esq. Pullman & Comley, LLC

In my last column, I addressed the impact of COVID-19 and Governor Lamont’s Executive Orders upon how boards of education could conduct their business while complying with Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). Since then, 1) it has become (arguably) more feasible to conduct public gatherings, and 2) Connecticut’s schools have had to grapple with developing reopening plans.

Can Public Agencies Meet In Person During The Current Pandemic?

like). The board could even permit public attendance up to the applicable limitation on gatherings set by the local health official. However, the board would still be able to limit or even prohibit attendance by the public, as the FOIA open/in-person meetings requirements are still suspended by Executive Order 7B. Indeed, in order to avoid a situation where demand for space at the meeting by the public exceeds the in-person capacity limit, it may be best for the meeting notice to urge the public to participate by remote means.

So What Happens To Remote Meetings If/When The Governor’s After declaring a State of EmergenExecutive Orders Expire?

cy, the Governor issued Executive Order 7B, which provided that the in-person open meeting requirements of the FOIA were suspended so as to permit a public agency to 1) meet without in-person, public access to such meetings, and 2) hold such meetings remotely by conference call, videoconference or “other technology”, provided that certain conditions were met (e.g., the public having the ability to view or listen to each meeting “in real time, by telephone, video, or other technology”). However, while Executive Order 7B permits public agencies to meet remotely (with no public attendance), it does not require such remote meetings. Indeed, the Executive Order that limited indoor gatherings for social and recreational purposes (Executive Order 7N) expressly stated that it did NOT apply to government operations/ functions. That being said, boards considering the possible resumption of live meetings should first contact their local health officials, and such officials may look to the (current) 25-person limit on social and recreational gatherings as being instructive. Consistent with the Executive Orders, a board of education could then have a “hybrid” in person meeting, with board members being able either to attend the meeting in person or participate remotely, and with the public largely attending remotely (e.g., by Zoom, livestreaming, and the

Remote meetings (without in person attendance by the public) have now become the norm. Executive Order 7B, which has permitted this new normal, expires on September 9, 2020, and it is unclear if this Order will be extended. If Executive Order 7B expires, along with any limitations on public gatherings, the “old” FOIA public meeting requirements would return. Public officials would still be able to remotely participate in meetings (provided that members of the public can hear and identify all participants to a meeting); Understanding Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, by Mark J. Sommaruga (5th Edition 2018), pp. 6-7. However, the provisions of the FOIA requiring that meetings generally take place in public (and that the public be able to attend such meetings) would likely reemerge, although it is possible that Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission (“FOIC”) could issue an advisory opinion or decision endorsing or adopting some of these Executive Order provisions for “normal” times.

What About “Reopening” Committees?

As part of the process of developing and submitting “reopening” plans to the State Department of Education, school districts have formed reopening committees to work on specific issues and make recommendations to

the superintendent of schools (and/ or the board of education). Simply put, it is a sticky wicket as to whether such committees are covered by the FOIA. A committee that was formed by a board of education (and includes board members) will likely be viewed as a public agency subject to the FOIA’s usual posting and public meetings requirements (with the use of “executive sessions” permitted where appropriate). Arguably, a committee that was formed by the superintendent and consists of staff members (and no board members) may be exempt from the commands of the FOIA under the “administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency” exception. For example, in Carrier v. Tools for Schools Committee, #FIC 2005-599 (July 26, 2006), the FOIC found that a committee consisting largely of staff

members (but also parents) that was formed by a superintendent in response to a statutory mandate to adopt and implement an indoor air quality program was not covered by the FOIA where there was no board of education involvement in the committee’s formation and where most of the work was performed by staff members during the school day. However, in light of some arguably inconsistent FOIC decisions; (Understanding Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, at pp. 19-21); school districts should proceed with caution with respect to the operation of such committees. Attorney Sommaruga is the author of “Understanding Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act” (5th Edition 2018) amd a regular contributor to the CABE Journal. Pullman & Comley, LLC is a CABE Business Affiliate.


16

The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | September, 2020

Trusted Legal Counsel in Extraordinary Times Now more than ever, school districts, their boards of education and their administrators are turning to Pullman & Comley’s School Law practice for informed, accurate and timely information on the unprecedented legal issues they face in the age of COVID-19, including those surrounding the safe reopening of schools, remote learning, PPE protocols, and labor and employment matters. At the same time, our attorneys are counseling clients on new laws affecting school districts, including the Title IX regulations effective in August 2020, transgender athlete policies and the sexual harassment training obligations mandated by October 2020.

Please visit our Education Law Notes blog for up-to-the-minute alerts, commentary and insights on critical legal issues affecting educational institutions. Schoollaw.pullcomblog.com And, for critical information on the legal implications as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 Focus page at pullcom.com to view recent publications, receive alerts, and to register for and view our webinar series related to the pandemic.

Our attorneys are accessible to their clients, responsive to concerns and always available to answer questions on these issues as well as on the challenges schools face on a routine basis in their daily operations.

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William R. Connon 860.424.4385 wconnon@pullcom.com

Zachary D. Schurin 860.424.4389 zschurin@pullcom.com

Melinda B. Kaufmann 860.424.4390 mkaufmann@pullcom.com

Stephen M. Sedor 203.330.2137 ssedor@pullcom.com

Michael P. McKeon 860.424.4386 mmckeon@pullcom.com

Mark J. Sommaruga 860.424.4388 msommaruga@pullcom.com

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Profile for Wilmarie Newton

The CABE Journal - September 2020  

Volume 24, Number 9

The CABE Journal - September 2020  

Volume 24, Number 9

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