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Greenfield school officials respond to raucous meeting

Greenfield school officials respond to raucous meeting

By Keller Russell. CREATED Aug 22, 2011 - UPDATED: Aug 23, 2011

GREENFIELD - Police had to be called to the Greenfield school board meeting Monday when things got out of control.

It all started when a large group of union members tried to attend the meeting.

The board was discussing a new employee handbook and health insurance changes as a result of the collective bargaining law.

Witnesses say that when not everyone could fit in, it got heated.

"The start of the meeting was very loud. We tried to go in, they would not let us in," said Patricia O'Brien, an MPS teacher who came with other WEAC members to support Greenfield school teachers.

O'Brien said they were told the room was at capacity with 95 people and that more could not be let in due to fire code. When the crowd demanded that the meeting be moved to a different space, the board refused to do so.

Board member Dave Richland said their attorney advised them not to move the meeting as the notice had already been posted for the location at the high school and that moving it could be illegal.

When the crowd started chanting, the cops were called.

O'Brien said four officers showed up at the meeting but that no one was arrested. Another witnesses confirmed he also did not see anyone arrested.

"They just came in, looked at the crowd, contacted their dispatch and told them what was going on," said O'Brien.

Gail Milbrath, another MPS teacher, also attended in support of Greenfield teachers.

"I absolutely believe I belonged at the meeting. Any teacher, any person concerned about rights being taken away from Americans should be here speaking out," said Milbrath.

They were told the school district sent a letter to the local association (union members) stating that teachers would no longer be allowed to communicate their concerns at board meetings.

Superintendent Conrad Farner said that's not true and the district had not imposed any restrictions on people's first amendment rights. Farner said teachers were not allowed to negotiate with the board about the employee handbook, which replaces union contracts, as that would be breaking state law.

At 8:00 p.m. when the school board meeting was coming to a close, more yelling broke out; members of the audience yelling at the board and at times, the board yelling back.

Doug Perry is a fifth grade teacher and president of the Greenfield Education Association.

He said months of frustration played out as teachers still had wait for answers from the district.

"We have no idea what our rights, our privileges and our benefits are going to be with school starting tomorrow," said Perry.
 
Members of the board went into an executive session that ended about an hour after the open meeting.

Board member Dave Richland said the shouting during the meeting was uncalled for and doesn't accomplish anything.

Richland said the board did approve an employee handbook Monday.

The superintendent is expected to issue a press release on Monday's events.