School Board spat blows over

MONT VERNON – A controversy between School Board members over the chairman’s responsibilities has apparently subsided.

Board member William O’Brien had sought a legal opinion as to whether Peter King could be removed as chair. O’Brien had criticized King for acting on his own on board matters and not involving other members.

But O’Brien, in an interview Thursday, said the situation has improved, and that he feels the board can now focus on business.

“There is a need for better communication between the chair and the rest of the board,” O’Brien said. Board members have “had a good discussion with Peter, and I think he recognizes that.”

King also seems willing to put the controversy behind him and move forward with school matters.

“I feel that we need to work together to make progress and we haven’t been effective for a few months now,” he said Wednesday.

King said O’Brien objected to how SAU 39 Superintendent Howard Colter wants to communicate outside of meetings with only the chairs of the district’s four boards. SAU 39 encompasses the Amherst, Mont Vernon and Souhegan Cooperative school districts, and it has a fourth board – which includes the members of the other three boards – that represents the district as a whole.

King said he acted in a manner consistent with the other board chairs, and he was only serving as a go-between for the superintendent and the board.

O’Brien said he thought King exceeded his authority, and accused him of consulting schooldistrict attorney William Drescher and attending meetings without advising the board first. O’Brien responded by asking Drescher if King could step down as chairman before the board’s current term ended in March. King and other board members, though, had faulted O’Brien for making such a move.

O’Brien’s view was that the board chairman is equal to the other members and has no authority other than leading the meeting and drawing up its agenda, King said.

“But what the chairman has done is streamline issues from the board . . . the superintendent, his preference is to deal with the four board chairs and for them to deal with the boards. It’s worked OK with the other boards,” King said.

Colter defended the practice, saying that he does not intend to leave other board members out of the loop, but only wants to save time.

“I have 17 board members. It could get a bit unwieldy,” he said.

Some Mont Vernon School Board members have since asked Colter to provide them with a weekly communication, he said, but he will wait to see what that would entail. Colter said he would continue communicating with the four chairs when the boards are not convened unless he’s directed otherwise.

Added O’Brien: “Peter, who does care about the school, will respond to the board and show himself to be more communicative. I look forward to working together. We have a good situation.”