BENNINGTON -- The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Policy Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss changes to the student nutrition and wellness, appointment of administrators, and public participation at meetings policies.
The board had been scheduled to discuss a draft policy on employee expectations as well, but that agenda item was moved to their next meeting.
The board, which was shuffled after elections in March, is comprised of chairman Leon Johnson, who represents Mount Anthony Union, Sandy Foster, who represents Woodford, Bruce Lehrman, who represents North Bennington, Bruce Lee-Clark, who represents the Career Development Center, Jackie Kelly, who represents Bennington School District, Dick Franz, who represents Shaftsbury, and Frank Barnes, tech director at SVSU.
Lee-Clark expressed concern that, if interpreted incorrectly, the SVSU nutrition policy could be read to apply to the CDC as well, and asked the committee to consider including the federal definition of "campus," in the policy itself. "It’s just that, if I was reading this as a parent, I would think I understood what a campus is, but the feds are defining it differently."
The confusion, said Lee-Clark, stems from the fact that Mount Anthony Union High School and the CDC share a building, but are under the jurisdiction of two different school boards, and are thus considered different campuses by law. Recent changes to federal law, which the SVSU policy is being changed to reflect, prohibits the selling of unhealthy snacks during breakfast and lunch periods. While the CDC does not have a food service program, if the two were considered one campus, the CDC school store would have to be closed during MAUHS’s lunch and breakfast periods. Lee-Clark wanted clarification put into the policy, as the SVSU policy committee cannot dictate the CDC’s policies.
"When people look at the policy, they don’t separate the two [districts]," said Johnson, who is also on the district board that operates the CDC, "We have to be proactive here."
SVSU CFO Rick Pembroke mentioned that he had spoken with government officials in Montpelier who had suggested to him that MAU might have to put up a gate during lunch periods to prevent students from entering the CDC section of the building in order to comply with federal law. Johnson and Lee-Clark both said this would be impossible, due to the needs of students who need to move from one part of the building to another.
"It’s the same in Washington or Montpelier," said Pembroke, "When people make these laws, they don’t understand the practical implications."
Some board members, including Lehrman, suggested that the board seek legal counsel as to whether the CDC, which leases its space from MAU, is actually considered a separate jurisdiction, in order to avoid potential legal troubles in the future. Johnson disagreed vehemently, saying, "You cannot dictate to another school district what they can or cannot do!"
After much discussion, the committee agreed that a reference to the federal definition of campus should be included. That policy will now go before the SVSU board at their next meeting.
The appointment policy, which had previously been a single policy for all administrators, was split into two policies, one for appointing a superintendent and another for the appointment of all other administrators. Work on that policy is ongoing.
The policy on public participation at meetings is a new policy designed to keep order at meetings and give all members of the public who desire to speak the opportunity to do so, according to the committee. However, some members of the public have expresses concern that the policy is too restrictive. Under the policy, public comments will be limited to the "Public Comments" portion of the meeting or during the discussion of specific agenda items that are related to the comment. Residents will be required to give their name, address, and the group, if any, that they represent. The policy also notes that the boards will not hear "personal complaints of school personnel nor against any person connected with the school system," during public session. Community members with complaints of that nature are invited to follow proper protocols for submitted those complaints.
The policy also allows non-residents the opportunity to speak if time permits. Individual board chairpersons had made that decision in the past.
All of the policy drafts are available for view at SVSU.net.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Derek CarsonBB