Brighton School Board Will Return To Hybrid Meeting Format
April 13, 2021
By Tom Tolen & Jon King / email@example.com
NOTE: This story has been updated with new comments from Superintendent Outlaw.
At Monday night’s Brighton Board of Education meeting, the board reached an informal consensus that future meetings will involve a hybrid format, in which board members will attend the meeting in person and the public will be able to participate in the meeting virtually.
Since last fall, the hybrid procedure has been the practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But prior to this Monday’s meeting, it was announced that those wishing to address the board for that meeting needed to fill out a form on the district’s website and comment in person. School Board President Roger Meyers explained at the beginning of the meeting that the district had been advised to go to that format after the state orders allowing online public meetings expired on March 31st, while capacity requirements for indoor gatherings remain in effect until April 19th. Superintendent Outlaw said that they had since learned the City of Brighton's resolution for a State of Emergency did apply to the district, which they previously did not believe was the case.
The process in place for Monday's meeting, however, was interpreted by one legal expert to violate the Open Meetings Act. Steven Liedel is a district parent and attorney who specializes in government policy and practice with the Dykema Law Firm in Lansing. He says the Open Meetings Handbook from the Michigan Attorney General's Office makes clear that requiring a participant to fill out a form in order to participate is prohibited. "The meetings are open to any member of the public. The only reason someone could be excluded from a public meeting is from a breach of the peace that actually occurred at the meeting." Liedel says the form also asked for the topic that the participant wished to inquire about and that is also prohibited by the Open Meetings Act. But with the decision to go to a hybrid format with full virtual participation, those concerns would no longer be an issue.
Superintendent Outlaw told WHMI today that “online participation form was not required to participate in the meeting. It was a courtesy to the district for planning purposes as well as the required COVID-19 self-screener. Forms were also present at the door and we had participation from community members that did not submit a Google form. The good news is that this will not be necessary in the future as the meetings will be returning to the hybrid format."
The meetings are held in the board meeting room of the Brighton Education and Community Center, commonly known as the “BECC” building — at Church and Main streets in Brighton.
At Monday’s meeting, only three persons addressed the board. One of them was Anna Pinella, a parent of four in the Brighton Area Schools who criticized the COVID testing required by the state in order for students to participate in spring sports. The announcement was made in March and involves all student-athletes ages 13-19. She said it’s unfair that athletes are required to be regularly tested, but students in other school programs where there is close contact, such as drama, are not required to be tested for COVID. Pinella said, “The students are going through something that’s very unnecessary,” stating that COVID rates for student-athletes are very low. Nonetheless, she complimented the district for having in-person classes instead of virtual as are some other districts, saying, “It’s a transparency issue.”
Christina Kafkakis, also the parent of four district students, said she learned at a Hilton School PTO meeting that the contact tracing figures are not accurate. She said one of her sons is quarantined through the 21st because a child tested positive last week, but that is not reflected in the figures. Supt. Matthew Outlaw explained later that it’s the health department, and not the district, that compiles the quarantine figures. Stating the health dept. is very busy, Outlaw said, in his words, “The Livingston County Health Dept. gives us the list…We follow what the health dept. says.” He said the list is updated daily and that would be the case on Tuesday.
The only other person who commented at the meeting was a child who asked that more ice cream be made available in the hot lunch program.