Thompson Board of Education meeting over before it began

Meeting cancelled after board failed to approve meeting agenda

By John Gardner
The Surveyor

The Thompson School District Board of Education’s Wednesday meeting only lasted approximately five minutes because the board was unable to approve an agenda, ultimately cancelling the year’s first work session before it began.

The entire work session fell apart when board member Lori Hvizda Ward requested to add an agenda item; an update on the activity that’s taken place on the design of the High Plains School project over the summer recess.

Immediately, board President Bob Kerrigan cited Colorado revised statute 22-32-108 (4) which states: At any special meeting, no business other than that stated in the notice of said meeting shall be transacted, unless all members are present and shall consent to consider and transact other business. Board Vice President Bryce Carlson was absent from the meeting and Carl Langner showed up after the meeting had already been cancelled.

“This being a work session with board members missing we cannot change the agenda,” Kerrigan told the board.

Kerrigan said that the issue wasn’t about what Hvizda Ward’s request, but is really about following meeting protocol.

“People don’t understand that there is a process that you have to follow,” Kerrigan said in an interview Thursday morning. “It’s not an open meeting like a homeowners meeting where you can show up and discuss what you want to.”

Hvizda Ward and board member Denise Montagu both requested that the High Plains item be placed on the Aug. 20 business meeting agenda to which Kerrigan responded that he and district superintendent Stan Scheer will discuss it and it may be placed on a future meeting agenda.

That did not sit well with either Montague or Hvizda Ward.

“It wasn’t an action item; just an information request,” Hvizda Ward said after the meeting had been cancelled. “It’s very frustrating because I wasn’t even asking for a business item.

“I wouldn’t have thought that this would happen,” she added.

Ultimately, Kerrigan called for a vote to approve the agenda and it failed with a 3-2 vote against: Montague, Hvizda Ward, and Pam Howard voted “no” while Kerrigan and Donna Rice voted to approve the agenda.

Kerrigan expressed disappointment with having to cancel the meeting.

“I was really frustrated with it, but I was really more appalled by it,” Kerrigan said of the action to not approve the agenda.

To approve the agenda would have only required a majority vote, whereas the amendment required unanimous approval. After the vote Kerrigan told the audience that the meeting wouldn’t continue.

“There is a way to conduct parliamentary business and we decided not to approve the agenda, so there is no meeting,” Kerrigan told those in attendance.

Kerrigan and Rice then gathered their things and left the room while Hvizda Ward, Howard, and Montagu remained in their seats, talking with community members who remained in the room.

The evening’s events weren’t the way that Howard wanted to begin the new school year.

“We have things that need to get accomplished, and that is what’s sad,” she said.

Montagu feels that her role as a board member has been diminished because, she claims, that she and other board members have no input regarding what items are on the agenda.

“One hundred percent,” Montagu said. “It’s zero. We have no voice.”

Howard claims that previous attempts to add items to meeting agendas, even if they are requested days in advance of the meeting, have been denied or ignored.

“Our constituents have no voice,” Howard said. “When [constituents] talk to me and say that they want to learn about this and can you get that on the agenda, I say I can ask, but it won’t happen,” Howard said.

Kerrigan said that the issue wasn’t with the request for information, but is a continual disrespect for following procedure.

“That is what this comes down to,” Kerrigan said; “A continuation of disrespectfulness of the chair from three board members and some community members that come to the meetings.”

Kerrigan said that before he was elected president of the board, he spent two years on the board and that he was never involved in setting the agenda. When asked if he’d ever requested items be added he responded: “I may have went back and asked for more information on [a] topic. I may have asked for added information and it may have been provided to me, but I really don’t remember.”

Meeting agendas are set by the superintendent and the board president prior to the meeting. Agendas are sent out to the other six board members and to the community about a week prior to the scheduled meetings.

Board member Rice, who voted to approve Wednesday’s agenda, was disappointed in the actions of her fellow board members and supported Kerrigan’s stance. Rice said that to add something to the agenda is a violation of the rules that the board has adopted.

“It’s disappointing that someone would try to highjack a legal meeting and a legal procedure; and that’s what was going on and we refused to be highjacked,” Rice said following the meeting. “We have got to follow the law.”

 Watch the video of Wednesday’s meeting here: http://thompson.k12.co.us/page/7831