School Board Ethics and Governance Take Center Stage in New Milford Meeting

In a recent New Milford School Board meeting, Stacy Cherry of the Law Offices of Fogarty and Harrah Board Council detailed the complexities of School Board ethics, emphasizing the importance of proper board governance and underscoring the Board’s responsibilities. The Board also touched on student disciplinary actions, discussed challenges with food balances, and unveiled transportation changes due to the addition of a preschool class.

Stacy Cherry’s presentation on board ethics drew attention to the delineated roles and responsibilities of the Board and its members, explaining that the Board’s powers predominantly stem from state statutes in 18A. Their duties revolve around overseeing school management, adopting budgets, hiring personnel, and formulating policies, often based on recommendations from Superintendent Danielle Shanley. She emphasized the crucial distinction between the Board’s role and that of the administration: while the latter manages day-to-day operations, the Board ensures the schools are well-run.

Cherry also elaborated on the intricacies of board member behaviors, highlighting prohibited actions such as intervening in daily administrative tasks or giving direct orders to school personnel. Drawing from real-life instances, she pointed out some oversteps, like a board member trying to review resumes without authorization or launching an individual investigation into an employee’s activities.

Discussion also revolved around the nuances of board members expressing personal opinions, especially in public forums. A highlighted incident involved a board member writing an op-ed endorsing candidates for the Board of Education. Though the member clarified their endorsement was a personal stance, an administrative law judge found the disclaimer lacking, leading to a recommended penalty.

Superintendent Daniel Shelley presented September’s suspension report, shedding light on disciplinary actions across various schools. He cited reasons ranging from defiance towards staff, fights, to even a social media threat. Shelley also took the opportunity to address global events, emphasizing unity and mutual respect within the New Milford community.

The board discussed the accumulating balances on student food accounts, particularly noticeable in middle and high schools, and now also in elementary schools. An immediate concern was voiced regarding the need for vigilance on food consumption and balance.

In transportation updates, with the Berkeley Street Elementary School set to host its first preschool class, necessary alterations in transportation routes and timings were discussed. This change prompted a plea from the board for family patience during the transition.

Board member Stephanie mentioned recent committee meetings, with particular attention to a county meeting that underscored the quest for sustainable state funding. Notably, the New Milford School Board was honored with an award for board certification at this meeting, marking it as the sole board to receive such recognition.

Lastly, Joanne elucidated on several professional development programs, emphasizing their diverse focus areas from improving pedagogical skills to sparking interest in specific subjects among students. The importance of aligning these plans with district goals was stressed, ensuring they are already accounted for in the budget.

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