Council has no say on schools chief

By Rachael Scarborough King
Sept. 18, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — The Town Council does not have any legal authority over the Board of Education’s pick for a new superintendent, Town Attorney Tim Yolen told council members.

At its last regular meeting, the council asked Yolen to look into two questions concerning the Board of Education. The first related to whether the council could have a say in hiring the new superintendent, and the second concerned the Board of Education’s ability to prevent people from speaking on certain topics at its meetings.

Current Superintendent Robert Wolfe has submitted his resignation and plans to leave at the end of December. The Board of Education is currently conducting a search for his replacement.

At a Sept. 2 meeting, several council members said they would like to have a role in the interview and selection process. But Yolen said at Tuesday’s meeting that the council does not have a right under state statute to participate in the process.

“The statutes are pretty clear in terms of the autonomy of a Board of Education,” Yolen said. “The statute is really designed so that the Board of Education runs independently, autonomously and does not in fact have to report to the governing council.”

Council members said that they hope to work in a more cooperative manner with the Board of Education.

“I feel it’s very important somehow if they would let one of us sit in on the interviewing process for the new superintendent,” Vincent Caprio said.

Paul Calamita added, “We have been working better together.”

The second legal question arose from a June Board of Education meeting at which two parents who wished to read letters about a concern with a North Branford teacher were told that they could not discuss a personnel issue in public session.

At the Sept. 2 meeting, some council members questioned whether it was appropriate for the board and Wolfe to prevent people from speaking, but Yolen said that it appears they were justified in making that assessment.

“The Board of Education meeting, which may invite comment, is certainly entitled to limit any comments to matters on the agenda,” he said. “There may be some Constitutional or First Amendment balancing issues, but they tend to fall on the side of the Board of Education due to protecting students and protecting personnel.”

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