By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ALTON — A thaw in the strained relations between a majority of the Alton School Board and a group of parents critical of the decisions it has made in recent months became evident at a meeting of the board Tuesday afternoon at which Board Chairman Steve Miller was applauded after he called for a community forum in July at which concerns of the parents over the direction of the school system can be discussed.
"We can't fix everything overnight, but if we don't start fixing things the kids are going to get hurt and that's something no one wants," said Miller.
He said that a recent extended meeting he had with school officials and parents Kelli Tibbs and Anne Ransom had addressed a number of concerns, including communication, transparency and understanding other peoples' points of view and had been conducted in what he described as a ''dignified and civil atmosphere."
Miller said the ideal time for a community forum, which would be conducted in an open format allowing for a give and take between the public and members of the board and school administrators, would be in early July, once the district's new superintendent, Pamela Stiles, has taken over the reins.
The school board and the parents have been at odds ever since February when a petition calling for the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Maureen Ward, Alton Central School Principal Cris Blackstone and Special Education Director Jennifer Katz-Borrin, which was signed by 242 people, was presented to the school board.
Miller said at that time that the board would discuss those concerns at its April 4 meeting, which was recessed abruptly after there was a 2-2 tie vote between him and new board member Peter Leavitt for the chairmanship. The majority of the board, Miller, Sandy Wyatt and Terri Noyes, then voted to hold an emergency meeting on April 25 which Leavitt and the other new board member Michael Ball, were unable to attend.
Miller was elected chairman at that meeting, which drew more than 60 people who protested the board's action in voting without the new members present.
Jeffrey Clay, a member of the public who has been critical of Alton town officials, repeated his call for Miller, Wyatt and Noyes to resign from the board, maintaining that they were in violation of the state's Right-to-Know law and had violated the trust of the public,
He said that Miller is "incompetent" and had acted beyond the powers of his chairmanship by meeting with the parents and school administrators without a vote of authorization from the school board.
Clay, who was arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct while speaking at a meeting of the Alton Board of Selectmen in February 2015, was awarded $42,500 by the town of Alton in settlement of the federal civil rights suit he brought against the town for violating his constitutional right to freedom of speech.
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