Board of Education: Looking to minimize misunderstanding

At its July 21 special meeting, the Board of Education discussed the way in which it communicates with the finance board about the investigation of special education settlements agreements.

Superintendent Kevin Smith told the board he and Financial Director Ken Post participated in a conference call with Lynne Vanderslice, who is serving as finance board chair for matters pertaining to the investigation.

“For the Board of Finance, they’re interested in knowing what are the controls that govern settlements, and what’s the decision-making process, so we walked her through that,” said Dr. Smith.

Board of Education member Chris Stroup asked Dr. Smith if the communication had solely been oral, which Dr. Smith confirmed.

“We did not provide anything in writing to her,” Dr. Smith told education board members.

Mr. Stroup questioned if oral communication between the two boards was the best idea.

“Is it not advisable, as oppose to just communicating orally to Lynne Vanderslice, to have it documented with a piece of writing?” he asked.

Mr. Stroup said he is “a little anxious about a process by which we answer questions orally and then someone else then infers,” and suggested written correspondence in order to avoid “a situation where there’s a disagreement about facts.”

“The person that controls the pen controls the message, and if it’s our responsibility for managing and we have things in control, we should at least be able to describe what we do,” said Mr. Stroup.

“Others will take the opportunity to validate and verify and assess — which is perfectly fine — but prospectively, I guess I’d like a situation where ... we actually respond in writing, so we minimize the risk of misunderstanding.”