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March 26, 2014

Timberlane School Board bars members from talking to press

Chairman speaks for board, raising concern for some

PLAISTOW — The Timberlane Regional School Board has barred all members from speaking to the press, except the chairman.

The rule is one of eight approved by the board, 7-2, at its first meeting after Town Meeting.

“This is a rule which has always been in our operating procedure,” Chairman Nancy Steenson of Danville said. “Now, we have decided to just put some rules down on paper.”

The rule states that all communication with the press will be done by the chairman. Board members contacted by reporters are not allowed to comment, but are directed to tell them to contact the chairman.

“It makes a lot of sense because we want to send out a unified voice as a board,” Steenson said. “We’re here to serve Timberlane and we’re here to do the best by Timberlane. It wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest to do otherwise.”

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said he wasn’t sure if there were any laws in place to prevent the rule, but he said he doesn’t agree with it.

“An elected person has the right to speak their mind,” Scanlan said. “You don’t see the Speaker of the House saying, ‘I’m the only one to speak for this body.’”

Timberlane School Board members Donna Green of Sandown and Peter Bealo of Plaistow were the only members to vote against adopting the rules. Green declined to comment yesterday; Bealo could not be reached for comment.

But at the School Board meeting last Thursday, both spoke against the proposal.

“I understand that the chair speaks for the board, but prior to something being discussed and voted upon, I believe we each have the ability to discuss things with the press,” Bealo said at the meeting. “I’m not going to vote in favor of something that says I cannot speak to the press under any circumstances.”

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