The Madison School Board’s closed session meeting to discuss the appeal of fired principal Jeffrey Copeland Tuesday lasted just over 15 minutes without a decision.
“I can’t explain that,” board member Nicki Vander Meulen said, leaving around 5:16 p.m. and declining further comment. Other board members who left shortly after also declined to comment and said they could not share what happened.
District spokesperson Tim LeMonds wrote in a statement sent half an hour later that “no action was taken” during the meeting.
“The Board will be scheduling final action in the upcoming days,” LeMonds wrote. “This change was made to address a technical issue with the public notice in fairness to all parties involved.”
A group of about 10 Sennett staff stood outside the door at the beginning of the meeting, but most left about 10 minutes in as the board met behind the closed door, with one remaining to deliver the news to the others at the end of the meeting.
Because the meeting was held in closed session, as allowed under state law when a public body considers someone’s employment, board members are mostly barred from sharing information on what happened during the meeting.
Two board members — board president Ali Muldrow and vice president Maia Pearson — remained in the room with a small group of district leaders after the meeting, including general legal counsel Sherry Terrell-Webb and senior executive director of staff Richard McGregory. As a reporter stood outside the open door, another staff member closed it as the group continued to meet.
The School Board was set to have the final say on whether Copeland would be reinstated after he was fired Sept. 26 for comments he accidentally left on a teaching applicant’s voicemail on Sept. 6 that the district has deemed bigoted.
The candidate, with whom Copeland had spoken on the phone, speaks English as a second language and holds a doctorate from a university in the Dominican Republic.
Thinking the phone call was over and unaware his comments were being recorded, Copeland remarked to Assistant Principal Matt Inda that he could barely understand the applicant on the phone, and then made comments about “just giving people damn jobs.”
In an email to the Wisconsin State Journal this week, Copeland said he was expressing concern about teacher qualifications amid widespread school staffing shortages and not specifically referencing the candidate.
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