Chapman asked for the board’s approval to add the item to the agenda after he received an email from Post 6 board member Rob Usher citing concerns that Chapman used the school board’s letterhead to convey his opinion about recent legislation calling for redistricting and the initial proposal of a countywide elected board chair, which Chapman called a “looming disaster.”
Usher, Post 3 representative Michael Geist and Post 7 board member Kim Cochran voted against approving Chapman’s actions. Cochran said she didn’t think a “sanction” was necessary.
After much discussion leading up to the vote, Usher said he was fine with Chapman expressing his opinion but opposed the use of the letterhead, because it could be interpreted as the official board position on the matter.
Chapman, however, contended he was voicing the majority decision of the board in the correspondence.
“My view was we had clearly unanimously voted for our legislative program,” Chapman said, adding that the board’s unanimously voted-on legislative program states the board does not wish to alter its governance model.
“This is done to make sure there’s clarity in my mind as the board chair,” Chapman said.
Chapman said he initially contacted Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancEd, because Board Attorney Tom Roach said having a board chair elected countywide could cause problems with accreditation.
Chapman made a motion to verify his actions taken so far were appropriate and while Board Vice Chair Janet Read seconded the motion, discussion continued.
“Everyone can say whatever they want because it’s a free world,” Usher said. “But when you use the school system letterhead, I think that may have crossed the line.”
Geist agreed, and voiced the same concerns of using the school system letterhead.
Chapman said any board member has the ability to send correspondence under the letterhead.
In response to Geist’s suggestion that this action may affect the policy of the board, Roach said Chapman’s agenda item was a matter of housekeeping.
“(Chapman’s) actions have been called into question by a fellow board member, and rather than deal with that via email he wants to just deal with it publicly,” Roach said.
Read said that because the legislative program was unanimously approved and the new maps contradict the program’s call for maintaining the same governance, she believed he was within his position to ask the governor to veto the measure.
Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo said he will defend the vote of the board, no matter the vote count.
“If it’s policy, it’s policy, and I’m going to defend that every single chance I get,” Petruzielo said. “(Chapman) wants to move forward and know that there is support for people doing the things they are charged with the responsibility for.”
Before the addition of the agenda item, Read asked if any board members wanted to reconsider their vote from August regarding the redistricting map. Read said responses from legislators wanted the vote to be unanimous, but the board’s vote had been 5-2.
Chapman said he wondered whether following the local delegation’s rules would change the outcome.
“What do their rules mean?” he asked. “They didn’t even follow the basic rules for reapportionment. It’s easy to draw the map a hundred different ways to leave all seven board members in their post. If for any reason the public doesn’t like what we do, we get voted out of office. It’s just that simple.”
Chapman’s comments were met with a round of applause from the audience.
“It really doesn’t matter whether or not they say it needs to be unanimous, I just want to see if we as a board wanted to come together,” he said, but neither Geist nor Usher were interested in changing their vote.
The move by Read was abandoned.