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Hartford Schools: Error Made In Banning Media From Public Meeting

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

February 15, 2012

HARTFORD The school system said Wednesday that it made an "error" in excluding the media from a public meeting Monday night between Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and parents, staff and students of Classical Magnet School.

Schools spokesman David Medina blocked a Courant reporter from attending the meeting in which Kishimoto addressed concerns over the mid-year transfer of Principal Timothy Sullivan Jr. and an assistant principal to the Latino Studies Academy at Burns.

At the time, Medina denied that the gathering was of Classical's school governance council, even though the term was used in an email Medina sent to reporters notifying them that the meeting was closed to the press. A participant also said that at least several Classical council members were in attendance.

Meetings of school governance councils composed of parents, students and staff are considered open under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

On Wednesday, the school system released a statement indicating that the "error" was a technicality and that its intent to bar reporters remained.

"It was the intention of the district to hold a private meeting between the superintendent and families of Classical Magnet School ... that would not fall under the FOIA's definition of a public meeting," according to the statement.

"Upon consultation with our attorney, we have been advised that because the term 'School Governance Council' was used to invite parents to the meeting and in communications with the press, the meeting was considered a public meeting."

The statement made no mention of a recent community meeting at Burns School that also was closed to the media. In a staff memo released Wednesday, Assistant Corporation Counsel Melinda Kaufmann concluded that such a gathering between Kishimoto and parents is not public and cited an exemption to the FOI law that covers "an administrative or staff meeting of a single-member public agency."

However, Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission has consistently ruled that the exemption applies only to routine administrative matters discussed among city officials or employees.

Courant staff writer Matthew Kauffman contributed to this report.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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