Getting on the education agenda in Delhi is harder than it looks

Tonight is the May meeting of the Delhi Central School District Board of Education, which governs a school district that is angrily divided over Delaware Academy High School principal Richard Hughes, who has been accused by some parents of running the high school like a police state. But it's unlikley that the BOE will address the anger over Hughes at tonight's BOE meeting, or at any in the future.

Hughes' biggest critics, Delaware Academy parents Sandra and Mike Dacey, have been regulars at Delaware Academy BOE meetings since January, when they first complained that Hughes had their daughter searched for drugs in front of the school without probable cause.

They say that the BOE and its president, Dr. Thomas Flanders, promised to clarify the district's policy on the "reasonableness" of drug searches, only to later prevent such a discussion from occurring publicly.

According to the minutes of the February 22 BOE meeting, where many people spoke both for and against Hughes, the Daceys made a specific request that Flanders granted:

Mr. Michael Dacey requested that he would like to be placed on the Board Agenda for the March Board of Education Meeting to discuss the term “reasonableness.” He requested clarification of this term. Mr. Dacey asked if there was training or any sort of set criteria for using “reasonableness” as he feels the district has come very close to violating civil rights. He wants a definition of the word reasonableness. The Board thanked Mr. Dacey for his comment and President Flanders charged the District Clerk with placing this item on the next Board agenda.

But at the next BOE meeting, in March, there was no mention of "reasonableness" in the agenda or in the meeting's minutes. In an email to the Watershed Post last month, Sandra Dacey explained what happened:

A few moments before the meeting began the district clerk came up to us asking if Dr Flanders had spoken with us, which he hadn't. She then stated that Dr Flanders told her to remove our motion from tonight's agenda and that he would speak to us. After the meeting adjourned we tried to get his attention however he seemed to keep as far away from us so we left. There had been several people there that also wanted to hear just how the district planned to conduct training for this "Reasonableness" policy. Needless to say we again felt as if the Board really isn't taking ours and the Community's concerns seriously.

Reached by telephone last month, Dr. Flanders confirmed that he had taken the topic off the agenda.

"I asked the clerk of the Board to contact the Daceys and to ask them to meet with the superintendent [privately] to discuss the term 'reasonableness,' rather than take up everybody’s time," Flanders says. "As president of the Delaware Academy Board of Education, I set the agenda."

He adds that although the BOE has "nothing to hide," it is legally prohibited from discussing personnel issues publicly.

"We cannot respond to people who want to bring up those issues," he says. "It cannot be done, as frustrating as it is for people. We urge all parents, that if they have an issue, they need to really work with the superintendent to see if they can’t resolve the issue."