Michelle Green

Michelle Luetjen Green

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BRATTLEBORO — Community members defended Michelle Luetjen Green in her pursuit for more transparency as other board members sought to oust her from the chairperson position of the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Board.

“Today I received a phone call from an SU board member asking me to step down as chair,” Green said at the start of Wednesday’s board meeting. “I was told that the board has collectively lost faith in my leadership. I’m uncertain how to process this request as I have received no previous communication from any board members referencing or identifying concern as to practices or my role as chair of the board until today.”

During a reorganization in March, when contentious supervisory union and Windham Southeast School District meetings involved the subjects of masking for COVID-19 and calls for Superintendent Mark Speno to be hired, Green was elected by the supervisory union board to be chairwoman. The district spans public schools in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney. The supervisory union provides services to the district and Vernon Elementary.

Green said she has used her time as chairwoman to collaborate with the superintendent, bring forward board development and training workshops, and outline effective communication and goal-setting strategies.

“I have been committed to pursuing ethical legal process and working towards seeking clarity on how our supervisory union might be more transparent and accountable when there has been a clear cry by our constituents, but they haven’t found those values to be represented,” she said. “Nor have I.”

Green suggested the discussion of asking her to step down as chairwoman could be a potential violation of Open Meeting Law. She said there’s an indication that a majority of the board discussed the topic.

“This could also be a violation of our code of ethics, which mandates that board members promptly address any ethical concerns of or with fellow board members first with the board,” she said. “Without prior communication or discussion, I’m unclear if this request is coming from an objective outlook of board members seeking to ensure we operate and fulfill our duties effectively. Truth be told, it feels like personal retaliation and the best of my efforts to instill and abide by correct process across the SU.”

Green said she is committed to being an effective board member and chairperson, and will consider the request once concerns are clarified. She welcomes feedback from the community, staff and administrators.

Other board members voted to amend Wednesday’s agenda to reconsider March 16 election results to vote for the chairperson of the board. Board member David Schoales moved to call the question and end discussion but Green allowed for some public comment.

Board member Liz Adams and Green had differing opinions on how the meeting would be run if Green was voted out of the position. They had butted heads before, at the Aug. 9 school district board meeting, when Green called for a finding before heading into executive session, then Adams yelled at her. At the same meeting, school district Board Chairwoman Kelly Young also became upset with Green. They all serve on both boards.

Contentious School Board exchange erupts over differing views on executive session

On Wednesday, the motion to reconsider the election was tabled after community outcry.

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“I can’t express how disappointing and upsetting this is, that this is brought before the board with no prior warning, no opportunity to explain to the public why you’re making this decision and clear evidence that you will discuss this out of the meeting because it’s the first we’re hearing about it,” said Jaci Reynolds of Brattleboro, former board member. “Four of you voted in favor of this. You clearly discussed it before. You are definitely out of order and in violation of Open Meeting Law, and I think we need to stop what you’re doing right now before the problem becomes worse. Wildly inappropriate what you’ve done.”

Robin Morgan of Brattleboro called the motion “extremely shocking” and “a very bad look for this board” as Green has continuously asked for more transparency. Morgan urged the board to reconsider and discuss any issues with board leadership in open meeting.

“For the rest of the board to try and oust her in some sort of process that is extremely opaque to the public just seems like you are doubling down on doing things without being transparent and public about that,” she said.

Tammy McNamara of Dummerston expressed concern about “such a large topic being brought up” without being warned on the agenda.

“It’s not a good look, you guys,” she said.

Schoales said two board members discussed the motion and were careful not to engage others.

“I was asked to make a judgment about how to go about it and I shared what I knew about it, and the intention was to avoid having to go through a long description of the challenges and reason that the board has lost confidence in the chair,” Schoales said. “Given what I’m hearing from people that I deeply respect in the public, I would like to table the motion until our next meeting, which means that it will be on the agenda and it can be passed by simple majority.”

Adams said Green is “causing havoc” at the school district meetings by continuing to raise issues about executive session after Young, as chairwoman of the district board, had tried to end the interaction.

“This is unbelievable,” said Melany Kahn, a parent who has been critical of the two boards’ use of executive session. “This is a disaster for our kids in this community, and you all should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Young, vice chairwoman of the supervisory union board, defended the board and said members have “seen and been subjected to different behaviors or different experiences that have not been brought up. And I’m not sure whether that’s appropriate to bring it out to the public, but I think that’s something that the board will have to determine.”

Reynolds called the board “the opposite of transparent.”

“And now they are telling the public that they won’t give us the details around such an enormous and strategic move? Michelle is a problem but you won’t tell us why?” Reynolds told the Reformer. “If there are, in fact, concerns about Michelle’s work as WSESU chair, this is something that the community deserves to know about. Failing to share this information is wildly inappropriate and instills more mistrust in the board.”