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BRATTLEBORO — A contentious exchange over entering into executive session was addressed by Windham Southeast School District Board Chairwoman Kelly Young, who called for the board to have a better understanding of the procedural rules and to cure a potential violation of Open Meeting Law by bringing a matter up in public.

As a motion was being made for the board into its third executive session at its Aug. 9 meeting, board member Michelle Luetjen Green raised a point of order. That is “the official way board members can protest a motion and it’s part of Robert’s Rules, which Vermont statute requires to run a meeting,” Young said at the board meeting Tuesday.

“Robert’s Rules has been around for over 140 years and assure meetings run smoothly and also assure every member has a voice,” she said.

Young recounted how Green considered the motion to be incorrect and the board lacked authority to go into executive session. Green believed the board needed to state more specific findings before entering executive session. She called a second point of order when board member Liz Adams began yelling out her name, which did not come up at Tuesday’s meeting.

Green and Paul Smith, curriculum coordinator at Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, have also pointed out that the board did not vote to go into executive session after the exchange. Green, Young and Adams had become argumentative over Green’s contention.

“First, it’s possible in the chaos of the moment that the board did not actually into executive session,” Young said Tuesday. She also spoke with an attorney and said if it is determined the board violated Open Meeting Law, “I believe it would be cured by the board’s discussion of board trainings.”

Later at Tuesday’s meeting when the board spoke of trainings in public session, Young said the executive session that caused contention was “in regards to something that happened prior to the VSBA [Vermont School Boards Association] training.”

“I can’t go into what actually happened but the board needed to determine how they were going to move forward with this participation and training,” she said.

Young described the agenda at the Aug. 9 meeting as “questionable.” However, she noted board members have an opportunity before the meeting to raise concerns since agendas are emailed 48 hours in advance.

“But there was also an incorrect assumption about an agenda item topic,” she said.

Green had mistakenly been thinking the board was going to discuss board trainings that should have been a subject for the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Board to take up. She chairs the supervisory union board. The district is part of the supervisory union.

Continued protests after a chairperson rules is a violation of Robert’s Rules of Order, Young said.

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According to Robert’s Rules, an appeal is a procedure that allows two board members who disagree with the ruling to force a vote on it. An appeal must be made immediately.

Young said the VSBA urges board members to “reach out personally to other members to resolve questions and problems, and not to do this during a board meeting.”

“This saves meeting time for all of us because clarification is more easily and efficiently done offline,” she said. “It’s a waste of time. It’s a disruption. It keeps the board from doing its work. It also seems like a willful attempt to undermine the chair.”

Young said Green might not have understood Robert’s Rules nor the bad precedent set when board members do not follow those rules.

“I regret that I did not pause for this serious possibility and assure the board I will do my best to assume a lack of knowledge and try to review Robert’s Rules in the future if board members are out of order,” Young said. “However, I also expect board members to model lifelong learning and I also acknowledge that I will follow this is as well, and improve their parliamentary skills as a model for our students.”

Young said she forwarded several resources on Robert’s Rules of Order to all board members for their review until an adequate training opportunity” can be identified. Later, the board unanimously voted to purchase books about Robert’s Rules for board members.

Smith previously told the Reformer he believes the exchange became contentious “because there are some very different interpretations” of the law. He has been wanting the district and supervisory union boards to get a legal opinion on proper procedures for entering executive session in order to have better clarity on the issue.

“I think it’s really just everyone coming to a common understanding on what the law says,” he said.

Green previously told the Reformer she believes “it’s fair and reasonable to explain to the public why you’re going into executive session.” For contracts, she said, the board recently learned it needs to specify a reason to go into executive session.

“Sometimes, it’s easy,” she said, such as when a discussion requires confidentiality for an employee. “Other topics are not so straightforward.”

Following Open Meeting Law is “part of our ethics,” Green said.

“It’s there for appropriate check and balance, and it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “No one [on the board] would intentionally violate Open Meeting Law but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for growth and understanding.”