Letter from the Superintendent Regarding Recent Board Action
Dear Concerned Clinton School Community:
I understand that there are many people upset with the placement of our Indoor Track Coach on paid administrative leave until further notice. In addition to shock and disappointment, many who have sent us communication want more information about why, are concerned about the board acting in secrecy, and allude to the idea of vindictive action against the coach.
While I have been advised to respond with a simple “We cannot comment on personnel matters”, I know that the significance of this action and impact on our students, parents (present and former) require as much communication as I am legally able.
Privacy of Employees and Students is Important and Legally Protected
You need to know that the District recognizes and values the privacy rights of its employees and students, and that it is our general practice, consistent with Board Policy and applicable laws, to not comment publicly on matters of a sensitive or confidential nature relating to specific employees or students.
Indeed, there are laws prohibiting school employees and officials from publicly discussing certain matters related to students or staff in a public forum. When it is necessary to discuss information about students or staff that is of a confidential nature, and an appropriate basis to enter into an executive session exists, the Board will enter into an executive session within the meaning of the NYS Open Meetings Law to conduct that discussion. Except in an extremely limited circumstance, any formal action to be taken as a result of that discussion occurs by resolution adopted by the Board in open session. This process was followed at the recent meeting of November 16, 2021.
While I understand and appreciate the public’s interest in this matter and the public’s desire for information, the District is constrained from releasing any additional information at this time. I respectfully request that the community allow us the time needed to work through appropriate processes regarding this matter.
Speaking as someone who has recommended this coach nearly twenty times to coach in this district (as recent as October 26th), and has publicly lauded his accomplishments and those of his athletes many times over the years, I appreciate the impact he has had on the lives of many athletes and the excellence that has been achieved.
I assure you that we will continue to act with integrity, intelligence, and empathy for all concerned in order to understand and respond appropriately to this challenging issue.
P.S. Here are some addition important points and references:
- Students and staff have an expectation of privacy when it comes to sensitive and personal matters.
- The District’s general practice is to not comment publicly on matters of a sensitive or confidential nature relating to specific employees or students. This is to protect and respect the privacy of any individuals involved.
- There are also laws and policies that constrain the release of information regarding personnel matters. For example the District must follow the Policies adopted by the Board of Education, such as:
- Policy 9645 – Disclosure of Wrongful Conduct. When the District receives allegations of wrongful conduct by its officers or employees, it is obligated to conduct an investigation.
- Policy 1230 – Public Participation at Board Meetings. “The Board will not permit in public session discussion involving individual District personnel or students.”
- The Open Meetings Law applies to the scheduling and conduct of Board meetings.
- Executive Sessions are expressly authorized under the OML (Section 105) for particular purposes including discussion of most personnel matters related to specific individuals.
- The NYS Legislature, in adopting the OML with provision for executive sessions, “found that the public interest was promoted by 'private, candid exchange of ideas and points of view among members of each political party concerning the public business to come before legislative bodies'” [Legislative Intent of L.1985,ch.136,§1, as cited in this advisory opinion of the Committee on Open Government. In other words, sometimes, a public body such as a Board of education needs to receive information and discuss matters in private prior to rendering any final determination on an issue.
- The Board properly entered into an executive session under the OML.
- The Board consistently and regularly enters into executive session in accordance with the OML, as to most other school districts and BOCES, as well as other public bodies in New York (Town Boards, Village Boards, Library Boards, County Legislatures, etc.)
- The action taken by the Board relative to a particular employee was accomplished by resolution in open session, as required by the OML.