Letter to the editor: Superintendent Dr. Elsasser’s response to “CUSD board meeting violates policy and silences student voices”

April 22, 2020

Dear CHS Students,

I am writing in response to a recent Opinion piece, “CUSD board meeting violates policy and silences student voices” that was posted on the Wolfpacket webpage on April 19, 2020. Board President Dave Nemer has written a separate letter addressing the updated grading policy, and my letter is to clarify the events that took place during the April 16 board meeting.

The April 16 board meeting was set up through Zoom as an audio only meeting. It is a different Zoom meeting format than what most students are used to when collaborating with teachers. We established the audio only meeting rather than a video meeting because if we provide a video meeting, we are obligated to meet American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements which include closed captioning; we do not have the ability to provide closed captioning with our current system.

During the board meeting, it came to a staff member’s attention that some students turned on their video camera feature when entering the meeting and were displaying signs. The board and I could not see the students’ signs because the Zoom page being displayed was not set up as an interactive meeting and we were not seeing the same page as the public. The webpage being displayed in the board room only showed a list of names of the public who signed on to listen to the meeting. The only people who could see students holding up signs were other members of the public who were also attending the meeting.

The staff member who was notified that some members of the public had turned on their video cameras proceeded to mute the video camera feature so that everyone was only allowed to listen to the meeting as intended. We were later notified that some members of the public were stating that they had been removed from the meeting by CUSD. I would like to assure you that no member of the CUSD Board of Education or CUSD staff ever removed a member of the public from the meeting.

Upon hearing that members of the public were stating they had been removed from the meeting by CUSD, I directed my staff to contact Zoom the following morning to ask if there was a possibility that we inadvertently removed someone from a meeting when staff turned off the video camera feature. Zoom assured us that turning off someone’s video camera would not automatically remove them from the meeting. Although I cannot prove that beyond all doubt, I would again like to emphasize that no one knowingly removed any member of the public from the meeting.

The Opinion piece stated that public comment was not addressed appropriately. The April 16 Board agenda was published on Monday, April 13 to meet the requirement that agendas be posted 72 hours prior to the meeting. On the cover of the agenda that was posted on April 13, instructions were provided on how the public could make a public comment during that meeting. Those instructions stated, “Although not required, if you wish to make a public comment related to any item on the agenda or not on the agenda, please send your written comment, with pertaining item number if applicable, to [email protected]. Please submit all comments by 4:00 p.m. on April 16, 2020. Submissions will be read aloud during the Board Meeting by the Board Secretary. Pursuant to Board Bylaw 9323, public comment is limited to three minutes, or for a total of 20 minutes, on any one item on the agenda.”

In the event you would like to see the actual agenda, you may click on the link below. You will then see a box in the top center of your screen that says, “Meetings,” and the April 16 Board meeting is listed inside that box. Click on the April 16 meeting and it will take you to the page that includes instructions for public comment as described above.


There is an item on every Board agenda (including the April 16 Board agenda) that allows for public comment on items not included on the agenda. On April 16, my office received public comment from two members of the community, and both comments were related to the updated grading policy which was not on the agenda. When it was time for public comment on items not on the agenda, I read both of the comments that had been submitted to my office by 4:00 p.m. that day. As a reminder, when public comments are read on an item that is not on the board agenda, Board members may not discuss those public comments. Per California Education Code and the Brown Act, Board members are only allowed to discuss items that are included on the agenda. Board President Nemer explained that after I read both of the public comments.

Please keep in mind that remote board meetings are brand new to most districts, including CUSD, and we are working diligently to make sure we are meeting the updated statutes related to remote meetings as well as public comment. Although our process for asking for public comment by 4:00 p.m. on the day of a board meeting meets that requirement, I have directed staff to evaluate other options to ensure public comment is as easily accessible as possible while also maintaining the integrity of the meeting. We believe we may have found a way to take public comment live during the meeting. Our next Board meeting is May 7 at 6:30 p.m. and it will be held as an audio only meeting. However, if this new platform works the way we believe it will, the Board, staff, and public will all be on the same platform and the audience will be able to make public comments during that meeting. The details will be shared on the May 7 agenda which will be posted on the afternoon of May 4. In an effort to be as transparent as possible, we have also put instructions on how to contact a board member as well as how to make a public comment on the homepage of our CUSD website: www.cusd.claremont.edu. I encourage you to continue to check those instructions periodically as we work to make things easier for the public.

Thank you for your patience during this difficult time. I wish you all the very best as you finish the final seven weeks of this school year.


Dr. Elsasser, Superintendent of Schools, Claremont Unified School District