After a disruption of the March 28, 2019 Action Meeting of the Board of Education, the Board members left the public auditorium and continued the meeting in a private room to vote on Agenda Items – a clear violation of the Sunshine Act. Below is our letter to the Board calling for them to reconvene to take a public vote on those Action Items.
April 1, 2019
Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board,
We write to you regarding the Board’s decision to hold a private meeting during its scheduled Action Meeting last Thursday.
After the meeting was interrupted by protestors, the Board voted to recess. Only four of the Action Items had been voted on. Over thirty public speakers had not yet been called. I left the auditorium after the recess was called and went down to the front desk to try to find out what was going on when I saw Board members walking toward the Board offices. I asked where the Board was going- twice- but received no response.
While waiting for the meeting to reconvene, we found out from someone in the audience, not from any District staff, that the Board was meeting in the Committee Room. A group of about ten to fifteen attendees, including APPS members came to that room and asked to be admitted. We were barred from entering by several school police officers who told us they had been directed not to let any member of the public in. We told them that no one in our group had taken part in the disruption of the meeting in the auditorium.
No matter the rationale or circumstances, a governing body cannot take votes on official items in private. An official meeting cannot be recessed in public then reconvened in private. Both the public and the media were shut out of the meeting. These are clear violations of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act. Section 714 of that law states that fines and costs may be imposed for violations.
The Board must take steps to remedy that violation. The votes taken in the private meeting cannot be considered valid. The Board must reconvene last week’s Action Meeting and vote on the remaining Action Items in a public meeting. The date of that reconvened meeting must be scheduled ahead of time and notice must be placed in the newspaper at least 24 hours in advance. The meeting could take place at any time before the next Action Meeting on April 25, including one hour before that meeting.
We ask that you please respond by Thursday April 4 on how the Board intends to rectify these Sunshine Act violations.
April 8, 2019
Dear Ms Haver & Ms Kilimnik,
Thank you for your outreach. We understand your concern and share your disappointment that we were unable to complete the March 28th Action Meeting as planned. We are taking our experience of this meeting as an opportunity to reflect on what we hope to accomplish at meetings. While we may make changes to the way in which we handle future disruptions, we do not believe it is necessary to retake the vote from the March 28th meeting. All speakers on items being considered on March 28th had already addressed the Board. Speakers on general issues will be able to speak at the next meeting. The entire meeting was live-streamed and broadcast on the District’s TV channel, as well as recorded an posted on our website. The Board’s votes, in this manner taken publicly, are consistent with the Sunshine Act. Thank you for your partnership as we learn and grow.