Tempers flared again at the Lancaster School Board meeting when a controversial proposal calling for updates every meeting to answer questions previously asked by the public was predictably voted down by the board majority.
The motion by new board member Kelly H. Depczynski, which met stiff resistance in December when she first brought it to the board, again played out in ugly fashion with verbal jabs between both blocs on the seven-member board.
With board member Marie MacKay absent, the board voted 4 to 2 to defeat Depczynski’s motion, with only Depczynski and Brenda Christopher supporting it. They had lobbied it would lead to greater transparency and responsiveness to the public.
“I don’t see the problem in adding anything to the agenda and changing the format,” Depczynski said. “I do think it’s very important for this community to hear questions and the answers to the questions.”
She wanted board meetings to include a segment where administrators would answer questions raised publicly by residents at the previous board meeting.
But opponents of the measure said it wasn’t necessary. They said the proposal seemed like micromanaging. They also said putting it to use could lead to a mischaracterizations of what was communicated in private conversations.
Underlying it all – the opponents believe it’s a backdoor way to bring back last year’s Redskins mascot debate.
Depczynski and Christopher both won seats on the board on a pro-Redskins mascot platform after the school board ended the use of the “Redskins” name and imagery.
Board agendas typically include a standing order of business that is followed, including old business, new business, presentations and matters to be voted on. Sometimes, administrators answer questions raised at meetings, and other times, they take them under review.
Board President Patrick Uhteg reiterated that any kind of update should fall under old business. “We’re going to have to agree to disagree,” he told Depczynski.
Then it got testy. Depczynski and board veteran Kenneth Graber exchanged sharp words.
Graber said the public should ask questions of the administration during the week and characterized her proposal as “an attempt to publicize” things and a situation where “people are put up to ask questions” and embarrass the board. “Our role is policy,” he said.
“Well, that was pretty insulting,” Depczynski said to him.
Graber responded: “It’s not insulting.”
Depczynski shot back: “You are rude.”
She noted that taxpayers elect board members to be responsive and deal with questions.
Uhteg then jumped in and told Depczynski there was “no need to grandstand.”
Depczynski insisted she will address questions in old business and told Graber: “It’s not about your personal agenda, Mr. Graber.”
Graber said the “questions that are posed” come from “your people” to embarrass the board. He also said to her that people in the community have figured out what is going on with what is behind certain questions asked of the board.
In the end, Uhteg referred to the antagonistic behavior that occurred at meetings last year over the elimination of the Redskins nickname. He insisted that board meetings are not public meetings, but rather meetings held in public.
“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” Uhteg said.