Many Upset By School Board Chair's Remarks

Feb 11, 2015

Comments made at a recent Mill River Union school board meeting by the chairman have shocked and angered a number of parents and teachers who plan to present a formal complaint tonight at the board’s next meeting.

The remarks that caused the uproar came near the end of Mill River Union’s Feb. 4 school board meeting. In a video of the meeting, board chairman Brownson Spencer starts by saying: “This should probably go unsaid, but I’ll say it anyway.”

Spencer then briefly alludes to recent news reports of a controversial scientific breakthrough that allows the genetic material of three people to fertilize a human egg instead of two - a process that may help parents avoid certain serious birth defects.

“And if you have been following that,” Brownson goes on, “it has pretty awesome implications for education because we could probably greatly reduce the number of special ed. kids with this brand new biological technique.”

Shock and nervous laughter followed, but no one at the meeting questioned Spencer, which retired Mill River Union art teacher Peggy Angstadt found disturbing.

“If I had a student with a learning disability and I knew that the person who was chairing the decision making body of my school was making a statement like that I would be horrified,” she says.

Angstadt says Spencer’s comments infuriated her and others in the community. And she was troubled to find the remarks had not been included in the unapproved minutes of the meeting she found on line.  She wondered if other board members were embarrassed and wanted to cover up the comments.

School board member George Ambrose admits Spencer’s words took him by surprise.  But he respects Spencer and insists the board chair only wants the best for local kids. “The remarks that he came out with I think people inferred some different meanings that his intention certainly was.”

In a written statement, Brownson Spencer apologized. “If anyone thought I was being insensitive to the tragedy of birth defects he/she misunderstood the import of this genetic discovery. If some birth defects can be eliminated this is a good thing and will make many families happier. The fact that SPED expenses might lessen is only collateral.”

Peggy Angstadt says Spencer’s apology doesn’t change her feelings and she said she and likely others will call for his resignation at tonight’s school board meeting at Mill River Union.  

Comments by Mill River Union School Board Chairman Brownson Spencer can be found 80 minutes into this video captured at the Feb. 4 school board meeting.