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Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez, President Barbara Gudwin, VP Glenn Wikle

School Board Divided on Comment Snafu

Member regrets not helping speaker

June 22, 2011, 1:00 am
By Wren Abbot

At least two members of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education feel that comments from a member of the public were unfairly squelched at last night's meeting.

Board president Barbara Gudwin was quick to shush speaker Cate Moses, who attempted to bring up the question of discrepancies in school district achievement data at the BOE's meeting Tuesday night. Here's a transcript of the beginning of Moses' comment:

CM: The document referred to in tonight’s agenda as 'data analysis audit'—

BG: Excuse me, it was outlined at the beginning of public comments, the session is not for the purposes of any identifiable personnel matters. To the degree that your comments are directed at any employee of the district your comments are not permissible.

CM: I’m merely stating facts. She’s a public employee. I’m going to continue. In this document it is irrefutable that [SFPS Superintendent Bobbie] Gutierrez manipulated SFPS student achievement numbers for the purpose of justifying her contract extension—

BG: You’re out of order, Miss Moses!


At that point, the crowd seemed to turn against Moses, telling her to sit down and attempting to clap over her words. A district employee then hastened to the front of the room to unplug the mic Moses was using. At the conclusion of Moses' comment, Gudwin told the assemblage, "I would like to remind all participants of the public forum we do not discuss personnel issues during public forum."


Board VP Glenn Wikle (who is also Moses' boyfriend) and board member Steven Carrillo both objected to Gudwin's handling of the incident, but Carrillo tells SFR he regrets not standing up more adamantly for Moses.


"I really regret not interjecting when Miss Moses was speaking, to support her right as a speaker during a public forum," Carrillo says. "I regret letting that unfold without having interjected."


Later in the meeting, after Moses had already departed, district counsel Tony Ortiz discussed the public comment policy with the board members to clarify the dispute. Ortiz tells SFR that he didn't witness Moses' comment and can't comment as to whether she violated policies. But he says that rather than a matter of discussing personnel, the issue is more the need to refrain from slander and maintain civility.    


"There are references throughout the school board policies to civility in all interactions—parents, community members," Ortiz says. "Interactions that degrade to personal attacks or abusive language are already barred by general policy...the board doesn't have to permit abusive language or potentially slanderous statements against people in the context of the public comment section of a meeting."


Carrillo tells SFR that if anyone at the meeting wasn't acting with civility, it wasn't Moses.


"With civility one has to ask who was being uncivil," Carrillo says. "Was it the board and was it the audience, or was it Miss Moses? She was really reading a statement of fact that  - I don’t have the text of what she read in front of me right now but I know she was commenting very seriously on how the numbers were calculated and if those numbers were used as a basis for extending the superintendent’s contract. I mean, that’s something that can’t be disputed. So I feel like it was inappropriate for the audience and perhaps even for the board to have tried to squelch her."


Wikle also criticizes the crowd, which was mostly composed of supporters of the Desert Academy-Kaune sale.

"The Desert Academy people treated her very disrespectfully and she wasn’t even talking about Desert Academy," Wikle says.  "Yeah, so they talked about how well-behaved they are as a school, and then look what they were doing. I don’t understand."


Moses tells SFR that she believes the board silenced her so quickly because Gutierrez had received an email she sent out Monday night about the issue she wanted to discuss at the meeting. She says she has a kid in the school district and therefore has a right to speak about her concerns at public forums. She's attended many BOE meetings over the years, she says.


"I've never seen anyone shut down like that," Moses says.


Gudwin didn't immediately return an email seeking comment.


 

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