Two members returned to GM District Board Anger, confusion reigns in meeting attended by 100+

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

By the end of an especially chaotic meeting on Wednesday night, the Green Mountain Unified School District Board did not interview candidates for principal of Cavendish Town Elementary nor did it appoint a new principal, as was on the agenda. Instead, it formally accepted the resignation of one board member and allowed two others who had resigned to return, this following  last Thursday’s vote that the Chieftain’s name did not violate the school’s nondiscriminatory mascot policy that prompted the resignations in the first place.

Wednesday’s meeting at CTE left Cavendish residents angry and frustrated with some board members.


Steve Perani of Cavendish was the only member in the room at CTES.

The meeting took place with an audience of around 20 people in person at CTES and upwards of 80 attending on Zoom. Of the eight remaining board members, only Steve Perani – now the lone representative of Cavendish after Dennis Reilly and Kate Lamphere resigned – was in the room at Cavendish Elementary. The rest attended on Zoom.

The agenda for the evening had one item aside from the usual meeting boilerplate: that the board would meet in executive session for an “Interview with Finalists for CTES Principal Position.” It was marked for discussion/action, which in the past has meant that the board would appoint someone to head up the Cavendish Elementary in the next school year.

Board Chair Deb Brown of Chester opened the meeting by saying she wanted to add two items to the agenda. The first was to change the interview with finalists to “next steps” in filling that position. Asked what the change meant, Brown said, “We will not be doing interviews and hiring someone tonight … we’re going to have a discussion on how we move forward” within the executive session. That was quickly approved by the board, although such a discussion does not fit any of the exemptions to the Open Meeting Law for going into a private meeting.

The second agenda change is where the meeting took a turn. Brown asked for a motion to add an item on “unfinished business” to be put ahead of the public comment period and said it had to do with handling resignations. Jeff Hance of Chester made the motion, adding “for the purpose of accepting resignations.”

Board member Perani then said that because this was not on the warned agenda, the two members who wanted to rescind their resignations would be unaware of the item and therefore would not come before the board to explain. He added that because the resignations had not been accepted, they were still members and should be part of the meeting.

Then the board quickly accepted the written resignation of Dennis Reilly of Cavendish in a 4-3 vote, along a split that would become familiar during  the rest of the meeting.

Board member Josh Schroeder said he did not want to make a hasty decision and had not had time to read the resignation letters.

As the board took up the resignation of Katie Murphy of Chester, Josh Schroeder of Chester objected saying that he had not even had time to read the resignation letters. Murphy had offered her resignation on Thursday night when she said she erroneously voted to agree that the Chieftain name did not violate school’s non- discriminatory branding policy. 

“The fact remains that they resigned and walked out in public,” said Brown. “That should be enough right there.”

Schroeder said he did not want to make a hasty decision and had not read Murphy’s resignation letter. Brown then read aloud the email sent by Murphy and called for the vote, which was also 4-3 to accept the resignation.

Perani noted that both Murphy and Kate Lamphere were attending the CTES meeting on Zoom and that Lamphere had not officially resigned. Brown again maintained that Lamphere had resigned and walked out of the meeting. Lamphere told The Telegraph last week that she had shut off her camera but remained on Zoom for the remainder of the meeting.

Kate Lamphere told the board that she had resigned verbally but had sent an email retracting that shortly thereafter.

At this point, audience members began to weigh in on the proceeding, saying that the board had not yet accepted Lamphere’s resignation and she should be participating in the meeting.

Brown replied that she had not heard from Lamphere since she resigned on May 18. Lamphere, however, said she had sent an email retracting her resignation, but Brown said she had not received it.

Lamphere read the email saying that, had she known that the will of the board was to not violate the law (counting Murphy’s explanation that she was confused by the wording and her internet connection), she would not have resigned.

Brown accepted this and said the board would have to re-vote Reilly’s and Murphy’s resignations. But several members contended that the meeting needed to be restarted from the beginning, with Kate Lamphere participating as a member.

The ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario

Before the restart of the meeting, Perani moved to adjourn the meeting and Schroeder seconded it. But Brown said she was not entertaining a motion and started the meeting over as asked, with Lamphere back on the board.

With a motion made to change the wording of the executive session, Perani attempted to use Parliamentary procedures several times to end the meeting. When a vote was finally taken, the board tied at 4-4 and Brown broke the tie, voting against adjourning. Perani sought an adjournment one final time.

At that point, audience members began shouting comments regarding their displeasure with the meeting including “let Katie (Murphy) vote.” The motion to again take up “unfinished business” tied 4-4 with Brown voting yes to break the tie.  Dennis Reilly’s resignation was accepted by the board again with Brown breaking the tie.

Board member Adrienne Williams asked Murphy if she would ‘be there for the board and stay the course’

While members made motions both to accept Murphy’s resignation and to accept her withdrawal of it, Brown recognized the former made by Rick Alexander of Chester and ran through another roll call vote as Schroeder asked “what happened to discussion?” More public utterances came from Zoom saying that the board needed to “let Katie vote,” based on the idea that she was still a member until her resignation was accepted. Again, the vote was tied and Brown voted to accept Murphy’s resignation

Lamphere objected saying that she had made a motion to allow Murphy to withdraw her resignation before Alexander and it had been seconded so the board should have acted on that. Brown said that — with all the commotion —  she had not heard it and there had been a motion and a vote and Murphy’s resignation had been accepted.

Lamphere renewed her motion and Brown said that while that was not the proper procedure, she would allow the motion. In response to a question she said that once a resignation was accepted, the proper procedure under Robert’s Rules is to submit a letter of interest to the board.

Scott Kendall was the only board member to vote against bringing Murphy back on the board.

Board member Adrienne Williams of Baltimore told Murphy she had no issue with her but asked Murphy if she was “going to be there for the board…to stay the course.” Murphy said she wanted to stay and fight for children and taxpayers. When the motion was put to a vote, Murphy was re-instated 7-1, with Scott Kendall of Andover voting against.

After more than 40 minutes, the meeting arrived at item three on the agenda – public comment – when Perani again moved to adjourn and Brown would not entertain it.

Between public comment periods, Brown asked for a motion to go into executive session to discuss “next steps” in filling the principal position at Cavendish Elementary. This time, the withdrawn resignations made the difference with the motion failing 5-4. Citing resentment toward the way Cavendish is treated by the school district, Perani said that if the principal is named without people in Cavendish hearing from her, she will fail.

With an executive session off the table, members wondered how they would move forward in selecting the next principal. Brown said she would talk with outgoing TRSU Superintendent Lauren Fierman on what they would do next and Fierman said she would try to find a day next week for a special meeting. Fierman had also resigned last Thursday night, saying that while she has supported actions by the board in the past that she did not agree with, she could not support the vote to keep the mascot name.

Public comments and chair Brown speaks

Two lengthy public comment periods revealed a great deal of anger as well as fear. Chester-Andover teacher Amy Hamblett told the board members that their action were “leaving us leaderless,” while Angela Cartier of Cavendish worried about sending her 5 year old to CTES in the fall.

CAES teacher Amy Hamblett told the board its actions had left the schools leaderless.

Tara Lochlan called the meeting distressing and told the board it needed to do better for the kids since it sets the tone. Saying that the board “should be ashamed of itself,” Peggy Svec asked the board to apologize to principal candidate Amanda Tyrrell in writing.

Dennis Reilly of Cavendish, who was on the board until his resignation last Wednesday,  said the board needs new leadership.

And outgoing Cavendish Principal Amy Bohren said that she’s been at every meeting this year and the board started going wrong was with the change in the board president. She said that was the elephant in the room and she didn’t see a way forward in collaboration “until that elephant is taken out of the room.” Bohren said her comments were professional and not personal.

Board member Deb Brown tells the meeting that all board members are working to improve children’s education.

Board member Lois Perlah of Chester said that she agreed “with all the horrible things they are saying about us.”

Just before adjourning, Brown said,  “None of us got into this for any reason other than to make education for our kiddos the best it can be and all of this other stuff is a just a distraction.

“I’m doing the best I that I can and I would challenge anyone to sit in this chair tonight and try while 80 people are all talking at once and try to make sense of it. I did do the best that I can and continue to do the best that I can.

“I am here for the kids and, like I said last week, I really hope all this energy around other stuff can be put into making our education that much better because that’s really what we’re all here for.”

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  1. Raymond Makul says:

    I am reminded of the movie, “Animal House”, where the marching band is led down a dead end alley and cannot get out.
    This entire controversy has led our supposed “leadership” down a dead end alley they can’t seem to escape. Change the mascot to “scholars”, put it behind us, and move on to more important things. Such as, the actual education of students. As a taxpayer, I think the management of our tax dollars has been eclipsed by the dead end alley issue of mascots.