The Board of Education voted Tuesday evening to allow members to participate at Board of Ed general and committee meetings using a phone or computer software.
A new policy regarding the issue was brought for a vote at the February regular meeting of the Board of Education, and was sent back to the policy committee for revision. Those revisions were brought to the full board on Tuesday evening, and immediately amendments to the amendments were suggested.
In fact, Board member Deborah Cain, whose participation in meetings via phone from the UK, was the first to offer amendments.
Her first amendment suggested removing a line in the new policy which limited the ability of a single member to take advantage of remote participation more than two times. After two times, a majority vote of the Board would be required to allow an exception to the two-time rule.
The Board voted on the proposed amendment, and ended in a tie, which meant that the proposed amendment failed.
Cain proposed a second amendment which struck two words from a clause that required a remote participant to be able to "see and hear" other members of the board, and all materials involved.
After the second amendment there was a flurry of discussion, mostly by Republican members of the board, objecting to the process by which the policy came to the Board, the way it was amended, and the way in which the amendments were being amended.
"Do we need a policy, we do," member Linda Szynkowicz said. "But it needs to be thought out."
Szynkowicz objected to the basic notion of remote participation, and complained that work had been done in the policy committee that was being undone in the board amendments.
Board chair Vinne Loffredo insisted that the discussion was straying from the strict discussion of the motion on the floor, and directed Szynkowicz to confine her comments to the proposed amendment.
"That's why we have Roberts Rules of Order," Loffredo reminded.
Board member Sheila Daniels also objected to the basic tenet of the policy, and to the methods by which the amendments were being offered.
In the vote, the Board voted, along party lines, to allow the deletion of the words "see and" making the policy require only that a member have voice communication to participate remotely.
After the amendments were offered, Szynkowicz made a motion to send the total amended policy back to committee for more work, saying that there was no need to make such an immediate change.
Board member Christopher Drake, who is the author of the new policy, objected to Szynkowicz's portrayal of the policy as not well thought out.
"This policy reflects a great deal of thought and consideration," Drake explained. He noted that he found many districts similar to Middletown where electronic participation is welcomed and allowed.
The motion by Szynkowicz to send the policy back to committee was rejected, once again along policy lines, and in a similar vote the new policy was approved as amended.