The janitor at the Burlington School District's Ira Allen Building on Colchester Avenue has had more company than usual during the after-dinner hours this week. That's because the Burlington School Board, with its lawyer in tow, held two extended closed-door meetings there on Tuesday and Thursday. A group of two to three reporters camped out in the hallway outside, joined by a single member of the public.
The first meeting last nearly three hours, ending just before 11 p.m. The second was shorter — board members met for a little over an hour.
The publicly stated purpose of these executive sessions was "discussion of appointment or employment or evaluation of a public employee." That's left Burlington residents speculating that Superintendent Jeanne Collins could be the subject of the confidential talks. Mayor Miro Weinberger and several city councilors have encouraged the board to sever ties with Collins, but so far board members have stayed mum about whether they plan to heed those calls. As long as there is no action taken, the public isn't privy to the content of those meetings, so there's no way to determine whether Collins' tenure has been under discussion.
During both evenings, the occasional crescendo of raised voices suggested that the topic at hand was contentious, but beyond that, those sitting on the other side of the door have had little to go on. Open meeting law prohibits the board from making any formal decisions during an executive session, but in both cases the meetings were adjourned immediately afterward. The board's next regularly meeting is Tuesday, May 13.
Normally, the school board meets monthly, but since voters struck down the budget in March, it's been convening more frequently to attend to its deficit problems and to redraft the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal. The latter task is finished, but the string of special meetings has continued, giving the newly elected board ample time for closed-door bonding. The board also met in executive session on April 17 to discuss "a personnel matter and a student discipline matter where premature disclosure could place the School District at a substantial disadvantage" and also on March 31 for "a personnel matter and real estate transaction where premature disclosure could place the school district at a substantial disadvantage."