Wednesday, October 10, 2012

South Bend School Board needs to get its house in order

Don Wheeler

I'm no fan of South Bend Community School Corporation Board Trustee, Bill "Common Sense" Sniadecki.

He routinely grandstands for the audience at Board Meetings.  He's been accused of attempted intimidation of female Trustees in closed meetings. He votes no on low bids if the contractor is not a local one - though state law requires our Board to accept the lowest bid.  And it is widely believed that it was he who leaked the details of the performance evaluation of  former Superintendent Robert Zimmerman which ultimately led to his dismissal.  Snaidecki opposed the termination bitterly.

More recently,  he revealed details of a closed meeting to the press (not anonymously), and the Board President Roger Parent, and Secretary Michelle Engel called him to task - insisting he apologize, and resign the office of Vice-President.  Mr. Snaidecki has refused.

From the South Bend Tribune:

Last month, Sniadecki publicly questioned the legality of an executive session of the board in which, he said, potential closure of schools was discussed, rather than just the decades-old consent decree, an order for desegregation of the schools.

In a South Bend Tribune article today , Parent, et al, upped the ante, calling for censure, and bringing new charges.

Parent said today that he and Schmidt then decided to conduct a "deep and broad" investigation into Sniadecki's conduct as a board member.

Among other examples of alleged misconduct they cite is a November incident in which Schmidt said Sniadecki dropped off an envelope for her -- when she was still the interim superintendent -- at the administration building marked "confidential."

Inside, she said, was a list of the 20 questions that would be asked of the candidates for permanent superintendent, a position for which she had applied.
Now why a subordinate (the Superintendent) would be involved in investigating one of her bosses is an intriguing question.  Particularly since she is a potential witness.

In between there was this story

Some exerpts:

South Bend’s school board president says the group’s executive sessions — closed-door meetings that are legally allowed under specific, limited circumstances — will now be recorded.

“Hopefully, this will encourage board member Bill Sniadecki to express his concerns about any issue being discussed during the executive session instead of improperly after the session is over,” Roger Parent wrote in an e-mail Wednesday that he sent to the news media, Superintendent Carole Schmidt and board members.

The e-mail, however, was not sent to Sniadecki.

Parent later said that was an oversight.
That's one possible description.


South Bend Community School Corp. spokeswoman Sue Coney said the corporation’s attorneys have advised that if the board wants to record executive sessions, it should first update its bylaws to reflect its intent.

oops, and:
 Jay Caponigro, another board member, said he thinks the decision about recording executive sessions should be decided via a consensus of the entire board.

“I think my main concern,” Caponigro said, “is Roger is making the decision on his own.”

Previously, Mr. Caponigro stated he had heard Mr. Snaidecki's complaint at the meeting, but thought it lacked merit.  Mr. Parent claimed not to have been aware of it.

I'm probably not the only one in town to think that perhaps this drama should not be played out in the press.  That maybe the complaint and cross complaint(s) should be dealt with in a meeting of the body.  In fact, it's hard to see what the desired outcome could be by using the local newspaper as an intermediary.

I would be less than astonished to discover that there is a good case for Mr. Snaidecki's removal - should it come to that.  But even if that is correct, there are many reasons to question what's gone on.

Generally speaking when one or two members of a group of seven go to the media about a topic not yet discussed by the group, I've got a problem with that.   And it was an eyebrow raiser when Mr Parent claimed that raising this issue in advance of the upcoming election wasn't politically motivated:

Bringing the issue out before the election and voting on it after, he said, seemed to be the most neutral position to take.
Well isn't that special?  Particularly in combination with Ms. Engel's intentions:

If Sniadecki is reelected in District 3, Engel said she will pursue the judicial process of having him removed as a board member.
So go ahead voters, elect him.  See what good that'll do you!

This would be funny if it weren't distracting them and us from the business of educating our children.

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