An angry March 5 Thompson School District Board of Education meeting that erupted over the question of public comment ended in catcalls, applause, and plentiful use of the chair’s gavel as revealed in video of the meeting. The Loveland Reporter-Herald’s education reporter, Alex Burness, provides background on the brouhaha:
Buried Wednesday within the latest school board dispute was a small but significant action by board member Carl Langner, who singlehandedly restored order from President Bob Kerrigan’s move to cancel the night’s agenda altogether.
In the heat of another tense argument over how much public comment is appropriate at Thompson School District Board of Education meetings, Kerrigan cut off an incensed Denise Montagu, who, with the help of minority allies Lori Hvizda Ward and Pam Howard, had taken another stab at allowing audience members to speak to the board.
“We’re going to do the work,” to revise the public comment policy, Kerrigan said. “We’re going to bring it back next week. We really need to move forward.”
Montagu continued talking and was met by the slam of Kerrigan’s gavel, and a request from the president for a motion to adjourn the meeting, even though a two-hour presentation from the district’s Master Plan Committee had not yet started.
The dispute continued on for several tense minutes, with both sides exchanging words.
Kerrigan repeatedly gaveled down Montagu, who insisted on her right to speak during the meeting.
Montagu told Kerrigan and others in attendance, “Oh I’m not stopping, I’m not stopping …I can have 30 minutes at any meeting to discuss whatever topic I choose to discuss.
“I am allowed to do that,” she continued.
Neither Kerrigan nor Montagu offered comment to Burness following the meeting.
Montagu, in an email obtained by Loveland Politics, had earlier this year encouraged supporter to stack a BOE meeting in order to precipitate a “public relations nightmare” for the “reformers” on the board:
“If you read this morning’s Reporter Herald, you might have the impression that the entire board of education is now joining hands and singing Kumbaya. Let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. The reformers are going to a great deal of effort to give the community the impression that they are becoming reasonable and transparent so that you all back down. The large crowd at the December 18 meeting made them extremely uncomfortable, and they want to avoid a repeat performance, particularly since THEY HAVE SOMETHING UP THEIR SLEEVES FOR THIS WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15.
If this isn’t bad enough, someone (likely Kerrigan; he slipped a reference to himself the other night when informing us of this) reported the December 18 meeting to the fire marshal, and we will be prevented from filling the board room. It’s been suggested that we move the meeting to a larger venue to allow all interested community members to participate, but the reformers won’t allow it. Ms. Rice has stated that she will not support large numbers of attendees, citing a loss of decorum at the December 18 meeting; This does not mean don’t come; it means exactly the opposite. This will be a public relations nightmare for the champions of transparency if they are found to be deliberately keeping members of the public from participating. Come one, come all, and come early.”