KINDERHOOK—The Ichabod Crane Board of Education recessed the December 7 meeting early due to audience members speaking when not recognized by the board and shouting at board members. The board reconvened the meeting later in that evening with an abbreviated agenda and a small number of audience members.
About 50 people attended the in-person meeting held in the primary school cafeteria/auditorium with everyone asked to wear masks. The meeting was also live-streamed, with about 35 people watching.
Only three people signed up to speak. One spoke about the need for lockers for students since they have to carry heavy backpacks. Due to Covid-19 protocols lockers are not being used in the middle and high school buildings this year. Another spoke against the use of masks, though she said she had no children in the district. And the third speaker talked about the district taking Covid-19 relief money and using it for non-Covid issues like supplies and a part-time social worker.
During the public comment period, audience members came to the podium to speak but were told they needed to have signed up to be recognized. Audience members began to say they had the right to speak at a public meeting and one person started making comments.
At that point board members started to leave the room and Board President Matthew Nelson recessed the meeting. All the board members and administrators at the table in front of the room left shortly after that. The live-stream then stopped and the message came on the screen saying “meeting delayed” about 30 minutes into the meeting.
Before the meeting was shut down, board President Nelson also had to ask people in the audience who were not wearing masks to put them on, saying that it was a state law.
According to the state Department of Health on August 27, the health commissioner released a “Determination on Indoor Masking Pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.61.” This guidance requires universal masking of teachers, staff, students and visitors at P-12 schools over the age of two and being able to medically tolerate a mask regardless of vaccination status. So all visitors to all the school buildings must wear masks.
‘…[I]t must be stressed that Public Participation is not deemed to be an open forum.’
Board of Education policy
Ichabod Crane School District
As for speaking at board meetings, the Ichabod Crane School Board policy says, “Any person wishing to address the board during [Public Participation] time period should sign in with the District Clerk. The Board President has the ability to impose a time limit for each speaker when necessary. Persons wishing to speak should first be recognized by the president, then identify themselves, any organization they may be representing at the meeting and the topic they wish to discuss.” The board did have a two-minute time limit on comments.
The board also offers “an additional Public Participation period just prior to adjournment into executive session or adjournment of a duly convened meeting. Participation at the end of the meeting shall be made available for ten minutes and shall be limited to comment on agenda items only, and at the discretion of the board, the ten minutes may be reduced or extended.”
Before public comment, the board president generally reads the statement, which is part of the policy, saying “residents, students, employees and business representatives of ICC may address the board on matters concerning programs and/or operations of the district, other than matters involving personnel. Members of the board do not directly respond to citizen concerns during Public Participation. While the board does not wish to infringe upon free speech protections, it must be stressed that Public Participation is not deemed to be an open forum. In addition, any remarks which may be considered defamatory or stigmatizing are prohibited and will be declared out of order.”
The board reconvened the December 7 meeting and tabled the academic reports and postponed committee meeting discussions. Board members did hear a report from the superintendent on enrollment and Health and Safety updates.
The board passed the consent agenda—part of the agenda that has several appointments and acceptance of donations, among other business—that the board does not discuss. They also heard a budget report. The updates for the 2022-23 proposed budget is online at the district website www.ichabodcrane.org
There was one comment from the public at the end of the meeting.
Calls to Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow about the meeting were not returned in time for deadline.
The district had a high rate of Covid cases when school opened for in-person classes this fall. On November 1, the district (listed as Kinderhook CSD on the state reporting website at schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov) had 88 total positive Covid-19 cases this year, which has now gone up to about 155 of positive cases, which includes students and staff. Reporting from the district on December 7 said there were 5 new cases, all listed as students.
The district sent out an email letting parents know that the county Department of Health has announced a free Covid-19 vaccine clinic at the A.B. Shaw Firehouse, Claverack, for children ages 5 to 11. Register children at the state DOH for the first shot of Pfizer pediatric clinic on December 20 from 3 to 6 p.m. with the second shot clinic scheduled for January 10.
The next Ichabod Crane Board meeting will be January 11 at 7 p.m. For more information visit the district website.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email email@example.com