The teachers’ contract, voted on Monday evening by the Hatboro-Horsham School Board, has gained quite a bit of attention. Since I attended the entire meeting, I believe breaking this down and offering facts and transparency to the public is essential.
The special meeting agenda was posted 24 hours in advance, including the action item that the board would vote on: the three-year contract for the teachers. The actual contract was made public approximately two hours before the meeting.
The superintendent started with his statement and recommendation to the board adopt the teachers’ contract agenda item. A gentleman immediately stood up and objected to the teachers’ contract not being available to the public 24 hours in advance.
After back and forth heated dialog, two recesses, and police presence, the board decided to vote on the teachers’ contract. After I read the entire Sunshine Act, the board is not in legal violation for this per the Sunshine Act, Section 709. Public Meetings c.1: The only item that needs to be shared with the community is the agenda, not the contracts or attachments.
While their actions last night were legal, they were not transparent or trust-building for the community. It is disappointing that the president of the school board, David Brown, and Solicitor, Sara Johnson Rothman, continue to hide behind legal technicalities, which in turn eliminate community trust due to their lack of transparency.
I made comments at the meeting, and even though they got overshadowed due to the chaos that ensued, they should not be ignored. In my opinion, the more significant issue here is a conflict of interest for President David Brown.
During my allotted three minutes, I shared my support for the teachers’ contract. I asked President Brown to abstain or recuse himself from the vote due to both a professional and personal conflict of interest. Mr. Brown’s wife is the treasurer of the PSEA MidEast Region, the teachers’ union, which includes the Hatboro-Horsham School District.
The textbook definition of conflict of interest is “a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.” Voting on a teachers’ contract that Mr. Brown’s wife could potentially benefit from is an apparent conflict of interest. Since he chose not to abstain or recuse himself from last night’s vote, his decision and action apparently will benefit his family while he sits in an official capacity.
It is my understanding that the solicitor of Hatboro-Horsham, Sara John,son-Rothman, is working on a statement to rebut my comments from the school board meeting in ab attempt to provide support for President Brown’s vote on the teachers’ contract.
However, all six school board members (David P. Brown, Jennifer Wilson, Theresa E. Brown, Susan E. Hunsinger-Hoff, and Denise J. Schultz) who received support from the Teachers Union Political Action Committee to run and win their election, might be expected t abstain or recuse themselves from the vote, as well.
Reasonably, I chose to ignore the professional conflict of the six listed and only asked for one recusal since the conflict of interest is both personal and professional. It is clear that the Pennsylvania Ethics Code acknowledges this action as a conflict of interest.
I am grateful that our deserving teachers could secure a contract for their tireless efforts in educating our children. However, I am disheartened that many teachers, even those in the audience, agreed that President Brown’s actions were unethical.