SANDOWN – At the Timberlane Regional School District Board’s April 2 meeting, superintendent Earl Metzler came back with an exact transcription of the Feb. 28 public hearing on amending the district’s Articles of Agreement, saying they were for “the historic public meeting,” a comment made by school board members in a previous meeting as they directed that more complete minutes be rendered for it.
After some discussion at the board’s March 19 meeting the majority of the board agreed that the minutes for the hearing should be more in depth, in part because of the importance of that meeting.
It was noted specifically that certain presentations and documents given during that meeting should be attached physically to the minutes, but others also wanted more narrative of certain presentations.
Sandown’s Donna Green made that motion on the 19th.
“They’re about halfway done,” said Metzler as he handed out the minutes. “It’s actually every single word that was spoken by every single person.”
The cost, he said, is $1.25 a minute to create the document, but Metzler argued that it was less expensive than having human resources director Nancy Danahy, who typically writes the minutes, transcribe the meeting.
“We’re not doing this for every meeting. It’s because it was a historic event that people felt needed to be enhanced. Am I right?” asked chair Nancy Steenson to Metzler.
Steenson was against the initial proposal to expand the minutes.
“For historic meetings you can document every single word. Perfect,” said Metzler. “We’re not asking you to vote on that tonight because we’re waiting for the second half because it takes quite a long time for somebody to write the ‘Tale of Four Towns,’ or the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ or a book about a meeting, but here you go! This is it.”
On a question by Green, it was noted that the total cost for the minutes will be $122.
Green noted that the board had authorized an enhanced version of the minutes but did not authorize what the superintendent had provided.
Green questioned why the decision had been made to go verbatim and Metzler said he didn’t want to guess what should be included in the record of “a historic meeting” and as such went word for word.
Steenson argued that meeting minutes should be very brief, otherwise they ended up being editorialized by the minute taker, as that person would have to choose what to include and what not to include, and as such enhanced minutes necessarily became non-objective.
The board typically relies heavily on a website called Vimeo.com, where the meetings are posted in their entirety, and Steenson argued that was a more objective way to present the meeting.
Others have argued that the district should not rely too heavily on the site as they create and maintain the minutes of district business.
“Who made this decision?” asked Green.
“I made this decision. I don’t need authorization from you or the board to make decisions as regards to the business of this operation,” said Metzler.
Member Peter Bealo said he understood the decision and was fine with it.
“I’m not good with it,” said Green. “I think it’s something called malicious compliance. We asked for these minutes to be enhanced, we did not ask for a legal transcript. I find that it’s either all or nothing. If we want the minutes enhanced, then we need to spend $122 and we get a legal transcript. Otherwise we can’t use our judgment? There’s no human judgment that can be applied to our minutes? This is malicious compliance and don’t think I don’t notice it. Thank you.”
“Thanks for noticing,” said Metzler.