The Board of Education will add 2 high school representatives soon: one senior and one junior, both from Staples.
There are caveats. They cannot vote or read board correspondence. They will not attend executive sessions (which may deal with personnel, security and other sensitive matters). They must be in good academic standing.
It’s not a novel concept. At least a dozen other districts in the state — including Madison, where superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice previously served — have student representatives on their Boards of Education.
All 4 Democrats voted in favor of the proposal. All 3 Republicans opposed it.
Most public comment was positive. One resident, Camilo Riano, wondered why students should have more rights than he does in addressing the board.
Staples PTA co-president Michele Carey-Moody noted that any adult who wants a voice on the Board of Ed could run for a seat on it.
Now Riano has taken his concerns a step further.
He retained attorney Vincent Marino, who emailed 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.
Marino says, “the Board will grant these new appointees the privilege to participate during each meeting ‘seated at the Board table’ with the right and expectation ‘to contribute to the Board’s decision-making process.’…
“The student representatives are expected to recommend suggestions and topics. for discussion and consideration by the Board.’ The student representatives are further expected to ‘speak on any issue on the Board meeting agenda or motion before the Board.'”
Riano charges the Board with illegally creating 2 ex-officio membership positions, not authorized by the town charter or Representative Town Meeting.
Riano says that the charter does not establish or authorize ex-officio positions, or give the board the authority to increase its membership, and that all members shall be elected.
Marino emailed Tooker because, he says, “if such authority exists, it rests with the RTM or with you as First Selectwoman, not with the Board itself. The Board’s action is, at a minimum, an illegal usurpation of legislative authority.”
On behalf of Riano, he requests that Tooker rule the board’s action out of order, “and void ab initio.”
He adds, “If permitted to stand, the Board’s illegal action creates a precedent that boards and commissions can circumvent the RTM and unilaterally disrupt the composition of their membership, including the partisan balance.”
Scarice and Board of Ed chair Lee Goldstein said they had been advised by the board’s attorney that the board could add student representatives.
Late yesterday, 1st Selectwoman Tooker could not be reached for comment.
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