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Concerns at BOE about Region One board member

NORTH CANAAN — The Board of Education has taken a stand on divisive issues on the Region One School District board. Members here engaged in an impassioned discussion at their Jan. 12 meeting, and plan to send a letter to the Falls Village boards of selectmen and education.Chairman Dolores Perotti raised the issue of a recent spate of emails, allegedly initiated by Falls Village’s Region One board representative, Gale Toensing. Perotti wanted to know if there had been a determination as to whether or not email between board members constitutes an illegal meeting. Region One Assistant Superintendent Diane Goncalves said it is a “gray area,” but the general rule is that it is OK as long as everyone uses “reply all.” The emails become public documents.The same issue raised by Region One Chairman Phil Hart at that board’s Jan. 9 meeting. Numerous emails were sent to various parties, in a quest for copies of documents from Central Office. Legal opinions are also being sought.The topics of the emails were not brought out. The issue was their sending and the propriety of there being email discussion of school board topics.Perotti called the emails “very upsetting,” and said bringing in a lawyer at taxpayers’ cost (along with the need for the superintendent’s office to review the emails) is “a waste of time and resources.”No one specified who the emails were sent to, but it seemed they were sent directly or forwarded to all school board members in towns around the district. The six towns in the regional school district are North Canaan, Falls Village, Sharon, Salisbury, Kent and Cornwall.Each town has its own elementary school and board of education. All six towns share Housatonic Valley Regional High School, which is governed by the Region One Board of Education.North Canaan board members discussed the issue at length, wondering exactly how to go about making their consensus opinion known and how to affect change. Perotti spoke at length, laying much of the blame on Falls Village voters for electing Toensing. Toensing was unopposed when she ran for the seat in last November’s elections.“Should we write a letter in support of Central Office, or write a letter to Falls Village and say ‘get a grip’?” Perotti asked. Board member Laurie Perotti spoke to the potential cost to North Canaan for legal fees.Board members voted unanimously to send a letter to Falls Village, and adamantly supported board member Dorothy Cecchinato’s advice to not use email or any means outside of a board meeting to confer on the letter. A draft will be prepared by Chairman Perotti and Principal Rosemary Keilty for review at the Feb. 9 meeting.The Region One board will discuss the email matter at its Feb. 6 meeting.

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