HINSDALE, N.H. -- The school board voted on Wednesday to admonish fellow board member Angela Schill over a phone call she made to a grant director concerning the Hinsdale After School Program.
The phone call was mentioned in an e-mail from HASP Director Maryanne O’Malley, which prompted the school board to direct its law firm to conduct an investigation. Drummond Woodsum’s investigative unit in Portland, Maine, recently submitted its report to the board.
The whole issue stems from a Dec. 12 board meeting in which Schill had suggested converting HASP into a fee-based system, questioning whether locals should be forced to fund the program through tax dollars. The suggestion sparked a debate throughout the town and brought dozens of citizens to the district offices behind the high school for a school board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9.
The e-mail from O’Malley states she was told Schill called Suzanne Birdsall, a grant director for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which will fund HASP through June, and asked questions about HASP while also expressing her own opinions about it. Schill also allegedly relayed a complaint about hiring procedures. The school board voted on Jan. 9 to initiate an investigation into Schill’s phone call.
Hinsdale School Board Chairwoman Holly Kennedy read from the report, which stated school board policy makes it clear "that board members are not to act or make statements for the board unless they do so Š for specific actions taken by the board."
It further stated that board members must make it clear that they are acting as private citizens, not as board members, when they are doing so. Ann Chapman, who wrote the report for the law firm, interviewed several people involved, including Birdsall, who told Chapman she believed that Schill was calling about HASP in her capacity as a board member because it was on the matter of board business.
Schill said she mentioned she was calling as a private citizen, but Kennedy said Birdsall does not recall that.
One of the report’s other findings was that Schill stated she was not given adequate opportunity to provide input on HASP and how it would be funded when the 21st Century grant runs out. Kennedy and other board members said HASP has been a topic of discussion for a while and Schill has taken part in discussions about it.
The third finding was that any concerns that Schill had about hiring procedures within HASP should have been addressed to Hinsdale Superintendent Dr. David Crisafulli, in accordance with policy.
"We’ve talked about it over and over again ad nauseam that you don’t relay a complaint to anybody," Kennedy said.
Schill said it wasn’t a complaint about hiring practices.
Kennedy said board members must respect the letter and spirit of the board’s policies, which Schill said she totally agreed with.
Schill said Kennedy and board member Ed Patenaude Jr. had previously done something along the same lines. Kennedy asked what they were being accused of and Schill said she did not want to say it in public. Kennedy then said she would ask to hear it in private and decide if Schill’s comment was a defamation of her character.
After the board came out of non-public session about an unrelated personnel matter, Kennedy said Schill did not elaborate on her comment.
Before the board voted on the matter, Schill said she wants the board to act as a cohesive unit and not nitpick.
"It’s my contention that we were elected to do school district business," she said.
During a public-comment portion toward the end of the meeting, Schill’s husband, Richard, spoke in her defense from the audience.
He said he is unhappy with the way the board was handling the situation and said he would fill out a right-to-know request to learn how much the investigative report cost taxpayers. He said Schill works very hard, never collects her monetary stipend and is often bullied by other board members because she has a different opinion on how the school district should be operated.
Kennedy told the Reformer nothing will come of Schill’s admonishment, that is just official proof of displeasure for the record.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.