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To the West Hartford Board of Education and the editor of We-Ha.com,
I was very disappointed to hear that the West Hartford Board of Education (BOE) is considering censorship of its citizens who wish to keep the BOE informed of important issues that could affect curriculum, students, and teachers.
The BOE changed the ByLaws only a short time ago, limiting the volume of public speaking about non-agenda topics. Now, the BOE is considering restricting free speech even further by only allowing the public to speak on agenda items at most meetings of the BOE.
This was NEVER the intention for the West Hartford BOE. One just needs to view the opening line of West Hartford BOE ByLaw 8355 (Meeting Conduct/Public Comment), which reads, “The Board welcomes public comment, as it represents an opportunity for members of the public to express their views to the Board on matters within the Board’s authority.” The West Hartford public has RARELY been disruptive or inappropriate in addressing non-agenda items at BOE meetings. So, it seems logical to question why the BOE would consider such an action.
Through several poor decisions, it is obvious that the Democrat majority of the West Hartford BOE is not interested in transparency nor is it interested in receiving feedback and learning about serious issues affecting our town and our schools. The Chair of the BOE controls the agenda. Reducing public speaking on non-agenda items to only once per month at the end of a meeting only contributes to the distrust of the majority party of the BOE that has been building over the past several years. It also provides the BOE Chair with an overabundance of power that does not serve the best interests of the citizens, students, teachers, and school administrative staff for the Town of West Hartford.
The success of West Hartford Public Schools does not come from the West Hartford BOE. What makes our school system successful is the involvement of parents and the public in shaping and supporting our children and our school system. Removing transparency, disrupting the balance of power and the censorship of speech, as this ByLaw change proposes to do, will continue to erode trust, and will demoralize voting citizens of West Hartford. Of course, maybe that’s what the West Hartford BOE is intending to do.
If this ByLaw change passes – I ask all voting citizens of West Hartford to pay close attention to how the BOE votes. It’s clear the Democrats of West Hartford feel they can do whatever they want without any accountability whatsoever. Come this November, I hope that West Hartford residents will send a clear message that they will not tolerate this kind of behavior.
I urge the BOE to vote against this proposal. I urge our new School Superintendent, Paul Vicinus, to show courage, lead by example and speak out against this proposal. It is not good policy for the BOE, and it is certainly not good for the town, students, teachers, or school administrators. Our town will lose a valuable voice.
Shawn Daly is chairman of the West Hartford Republican Town Committee