The Monroe Board of Education chose Republican, Donna Lane as its first-ever vice chairperson after creating the new position Monday night. But the vote was along party lines after Democrats, wanting minority representation among officers on the board, nominated their own candidate, Lee Crouch.
Republicans hold a 6-3 majority on the board and hold all three officer positions. Darrell Trump is chairman and Mark Hughes is secretary. Kelly Plunkett, a Democrat on the board, contended that at least one position should have gone to a member of the minority party.
Plunkett and fellow Democrats Crouch and Dr. Alan Vaglivelo claim that board Republicans know the agenda, background on the issues and how the votes will turn out before they do because of discussions in their party's caucuses.
"Three out of the nine board members are in the dark on a daily basis on what affects the children," Plunkett said before the vote to create a vice chair position. "I will be voting no."
Vaglivelo conceded that Republicans had the votes needed to elect their own choice for vice chair, but added, "I would request that you not keep us in the dark. Just try to keep us in the loop."
Jeff Guttman, a board member who is also chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said every board member wants what's best for the children.
"To allude that we're not informing everyone is a disservice to the board," Guttman said. "This is not you and me and us and them. We're all here to do a job."
"I agree with Jeff," said Mark Antinozzi, a board Republican. "We all make sure children are our number one interest."
Antinozzi said some other town boards put politics first, but not the school board, which he finds "refreshing."
Crouch had said the board should always strive to improve communication and transparency and Hughes said that is the goal.
Hughes said, "Part of the reason I wanted to create the office of vice chairman was to improve communication and transparency."
Trump has a lot on his plate as chairman, so timely communication is not always easy, according to Hughes, who said the vice chair will reduce Trump's workload.
Hughes also disagreed with Democrats' argument that information is sometimes withheld from them.
The vice chair position was adopted by a vote of 6-3.
A Board Election
Hughes nominated Lane to be vice chair, then Plunkett nominated Crouch.
Antinozzi said, "I think Ms. Lane is the most qualified from a financial standpoint, which is important to this board." He also touted her experience of serving on a PTO and involvement in events in the schools. "She will be an excellent vice chairman," he said. "I support her 100 percent."
Of Crouch, Plunkett said, "Of the nine people on this board, Lee is the most qualified." She talked about Crouch's 10 years of experience on the board, her having had children in the school system and her involvement in PTO's and committees. "I think she'd be a great fit for the executive board," Plunkett said.
Lane was chosen by a 6-3 vote along party lines.
"I'm honored," Lane said after the meeting. She said she was happy those who voted for her had confidence in her serving as vice chair.
Lane said she will work to ensure all board members feel more confident that the board is communicating well.