Editorial: School board should fix voting error

By Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing

Whatever your view about the appropriateness of the Green Mountain High School team name and mascot, there is one thing we should all be able to agree on: That what happened last night at the school district’s board meeting during and after the vote is nothing short of distressing.

A poorly worded motion plus spotty internet set the whole process on its ear.

Thinking that she was voting the opposite way, a board member ended up voting that the controversial name of the school team, the Chieftains, did not violate school and state policy against racist or demeaning names. That waylaid vote by Katie Murphy of Chester, who was on Zoom, sent the board into a 5-5 tie vote that was broken when chair Deb Brown also voted that the name did not violate policy.

By the time Murphy realized the error, fellow board members Dennis Reilly and Kate Lamphere of Cavendish had resigned and left the meeting. Murphy also emailed her resignation. And Superintendent Lauren Fierman, who oversees the two districts within the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, has tendered her resignation, telling The Telegraph late last night that while she has disagreed with the board on other decisions that it has made but is still able to support them, “this is not only a decision I do not agree with, it is one I cannot support.”  She has been a rock for the schools for the past three years and her loss will be felt deeply.

And now, Green Mountain is left with a mascot name thanks to a poorly worded motion and a spotty internet, and not because of a clear-cut vote.

The Telegraph spoke with Brown and Reilly last night and Murphy this morning. It is obvious that their anxiety over the situation is quite similar although their votes were not.

Like Murphy, Reilly and Lamphere can and should rescind their resignations.  Their voices are needed on the board.

Knowing that the vote is tainted by confusion, school board chair Deb Brown could allow a revote on the issue. Afterall, why  let a vote stand when it does not truly reflect the wishes of the majority of the board and has already caused so much disruption?

Should the majority vote that the mascot name does indeed violate school policy against racist or demeaning names, the board should then make a motion to urge Fierman to remain as TRSU superintendent, and throw its full support behind her. It is doubtful that she will stay, but she deserves the effort to keep her.

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Filed Under: CommentaryTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Otis Nelson says:

    The wording of the Motion was clarified at least twice before the vote! If there was still an issue about its understanding it could have been brought before the vote! It was also offered to have a written ballot as a voting procedure. That was pushed aside by some on the board. Also, I would add at no time during the meeting I heard Ms Murphy state that she was having internet or spotty service issues! Which should and could have been brought up before the voting took place!

  2. G. Donohue says:

    I agree. I also would like to say that board members should attend meetings in person and realize that their actions matter and not what they say or think before or after voting. I agree all the directors who resigned should rejoin and fight bigotry in all its guises. Thank you to those who stood up against prejudice and hatred. I also think that board members need to be educated on their roles. They should be taking informed direction from the professional administrators they hire, not vice versa.

  3. Linda Diak says:

    Thank you. I agree.