Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Viewer’s Guide To Tonight’s Southbridge School Committee Meeting


Tonight’s School Committee meeting has seven action items on its agenda (including a late addendum).

Five of these items are flawed illustrating the members’ lack of knowledge about their own rules and proper procedure as well as vague policies.

The first of these is Item XII. C. Vote to establish an Ad-Hoc Wellness Committee.


It is clear from a reading of the regulation that this is a permanent committee with regular annual duties. As such it is not an ad hoc committee.

Duration of Committee. Ad hoc committees have limited duration.
  • Committee members and chairmen can be removed by the board without prior notice and without cause.
  • Entire committees may be dissolved or decommissioned at any time with or without prior notice or cause.
  • Committees cease to exist automatically whenever a new board is elected. This is true even if there is a partial change in board membership, i.e., only two of five directors are elected at the annual meeting. However, this does not apply to the individual replacement of directors who resign or who otherwise vacate their seats. (Robert’s Rules, 11th ed., p. 488-489.)

The next item is XII. D. Vote to appoint a Vice-Chair for the School Committee for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year.

The are several things wrong with this item. First, the committee already has a Vice Chair, Mrs. McLoughlin. What is lacking is a Chairman. Mrs. McLoughlin is the acting Chairman in the absence of a Chairman as a result of Mrs. Woodruff’s resignation. Second, the election will not fill the post for the remainder of the school year but until the next reorganization meeting. Third, it stands in contradiction to the School Committee’s own policy which states:

SUBCOMMITTEES OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE      File: BDE
Subcommittees may be created for a specific purpose for Committee action.
1. The subcommittee will be established through action of the Committee.
2. Subcommittee chair and members will be appointed by the Committee chair, subject to approval by the Committee.
3. The subcommittee may make recommendations for Committee action.
4. The Committee chairman and Superintendent will be ex-officio members of all special
subcommittees.
5. A subcommittee will be dissolved by the Committee upon completion of its assignment, or it may be dissolved by a vote of the Committee.
ADOPTED: OCTOBER, 2007

This also points up the problem with the addendum, which reads:
“Vote to suspend the rules of Policy BDE to allow Mrs. McLoughlin to chair the negotiations Subcommittee through the current contract negotiation with the Southbridge Education Association.”

The addendum to the agenda is based upon the belief that the committee chairman cannot chair a subcommittee. It is worth noting that, until an election is held per the policy manual, Mrs. McLoughlin is not the chairman. She is the vice chairman acting as chairman. The committee could ultimately choose someone else as chairman.

The policy would indeed prohibit the chairman from being chair of a special subcommittee since they are an ex officio member. But the negotiations subcommittee is not a special subcommittee. It is a standing subcommittee established by the school committee at its organizational meeting. There is nothing in this policy that prevents the chairman from being a member of or chairing a standing subcommittee. Consequently there is no need for this agenda item. It only serves to perpetuate a misunderstanding.

Will they now violate the Open Meeting Law by adding an agenda item which, if they knew their own policies, clearly could have been anticipated?

The final problems are with Agenda Items XII. E. and F.



There is of course the easily corrected typo of 2015. Beyond that, though, what kind of decision are they making, and what kind of certainty are they offering parents, students, faculty and tour operators when they “conditionally approve” these trips subject to “…all preparations for the trip hav[ing] been completed including, but not limited to….”. The “not limited to” leaves open a completely undefined basis for cancelling the plans. What deposits (potentially non-refundable) might be required prior to the 90 day window being specified? If not finally approved, what will be the disposition of any fundraising receipts? The problem in this case arises not entirely from the actions of this committee but an overly vague policy. The policy needs to be revisited to offer greater certainty for all parties. (Policy JJH specifies final approval no less than five weeks prior to the scheduled trip, not ninety days. In this regard the committee has, to some extent, mitigated the problems with the policy, while not entirely overcoming them.)

It will be interesting to see if the committee owns up to these issues or simply pretends that they don’t exist.

14 comments:

  1. It's-all-about-me McLaughlin continues to be the major cause of the downward spiral of our school district. Too bad Donovan doesn't recognize that, she's going down with her.

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  2. At the last SC meeting the Superintendent and senior administrators gave a presentation detailing the abominable 2013 MCAS results.Since Moodruff, Prencipe, McLaughlin and Donovan took over the district, along with the MCAS tests, have been on a downward spiral.

    Nearing the end of the Superintendent's comments he mentioned that monies have been set aside for staff raises this year. Can he be serious? In industry, pathetic results like those presented would be met with NO RAISES and probable termination.

    I strongly recommend that the SC sub-committee for negotiations be dissolved, as they should not have any work this school year.

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  3. Where does the attorney get that there is no specific guidance in the committee policies? Did I just imagine Policy BDA? This was the policy followed when Tarantino left. This is absolute bullshit!!!

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    Replies
    1. File: BDA
      SCHOOL COMMITTEE ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING
      The School Committee, at its first regular meeting following the town's annual elections, will elect from its membership a chairman, a vice-chairman, and a secretary all of whom will hold their offices for a term of one year, or until a successor is elected.
      A majority of the members will constitute a quorum. The election will proceed as follows:
      1. Nominations for the office of chairman will be made from the floor. The chairman will be elected by a majority roll-call vote of the members present and voting. If no nominee receives a majority vote, the election will be declared null and void and nominations will be reopened.
      2. Upon election, the new chairman will preside, calling for the election of a vice-chairman, secretary and recording secretary, in order. The procedure used for their election will be the same as that for
      electing the chairman.
      Any vacancy among the officers occurring between organizational meetings will be filled by a member
      elected by the School Committee. The election will be conducted as described above.
      ADOPTED: OCTOBER, 2007

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  4. I have sent the following email to attorney Moschos, Brian Lee at the T&G and Chelsea Davis at the SEN:

    Dear Attorney Moschos:
    I am at a loss as to how you could render the opinion provided at the October 22 meeting of the Southbridge School Committee. You stated that reference to Robert’s Rules was based upon the lack of specific provisions in the school district policies on filling a vacancy in the chairmanship.
    However School Committee Policy BDA provides as follows:
    File: BDA
    SCHOOL COMMITTEE ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING
    The School Committee, at its first regular meeting following the town's annual elections, will elect from its membership a chairman, a vice-chairman, and a secretary all of whom will hold their offices for a term of one year, or until a successor is elected.
    A majority of the members will constitute a quorum. The election will proceed as follows:
    1. Nominations for the office of chairman will be made from the floor. The chairman will be elected by a majority roll-call vote of the members present and voting. If no nominee receives a majority vote, the election will be declared null and void and nominations will be reopened.
    2. Upon election, the new chairman will preside, calling for the election of a vice-chairman, secretary and recording secretary, in order. The procedure used for their election will be the same as that for electing the chairman.
    Any vacancy among the officers occurring between organizational meetings will be filled by a member elected by the School Committee. The election will be conducted as described above.
    ADOPTED: OCTOBER, 2007
    [emphasis added]
    See: http://southbridge.k12.ma.us/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/474046/File/School%20Committ ee%20Policy/Section%20B%20BA-BE%20May%2013,%202008.pdf

    Page 10

    This is precisely the procedure that was followed when Maryellen Prencipe (then the vice chairman) filled the vacancy created by the departure of Chairman Lisa Tarantino.

    Sincerely,
    Kenneth M. O'Brien

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we ever needed proof that attorneys for public bodies render the opinion desired rather than one based on the law and facts this is it.

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    2. So Moschos violated both policy and precedent in his opinion. No wonder people have such a low opinion of lawyers.

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  5. I noticed that when she talked about suspending rule BDE McLoughlin left out the word "special" when referring to committees on which the chairman and superintendent were ex officio members. You were right, they just ignore whatever doesn't serve their purpose.

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  6. How much did it cost the town for Moschos to come and give this bogus "opinion"?

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    Replies
    1. With travel time, etc. I'm sure it was in the hundreds of dollars - probably close to $1,000.

      Delete
  7. It will be interesting to see if either the Telegram or The News bring any of this up. The News didn't even report on Woodruff's resignation.

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  8. Citing the project manager in his article about the presentation on Southbridge’s Master Plan, Brian Lee wrote, “Ms. Politis said Southbridge was not unique in that it has an outspoken negative faction. She said this frustration and disappointment are often seen in communities that have been at a higher place and fallen.”
    One of the main causes of negativity, as well as apathy, is seeing local officials bend the rules to their own advantage as was done at this SC meeting.

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  9. Kudos to the Ozone for calling out BS with this tote out the lawyer to attempt to justify your way. McLaughlin, you're no Jack Kennedy!

    Notice the other policy issue discussed - teachers and staff now included and being called perps in relations to the bully policy. The policy has yet to include students and administrators being perps against Teachers. Bullying is a two way street given todays social media and work environments. Yes some teachers have made made bad national news but this week alone two teachers have died at the hands of some students. A good policy is inclusive to all and therefore the current bully policy is not a good policy.
    How about it girls while you're rewriting the educational world how about doing it correctly and protecting our teachers too?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make an excellent point.
      While the policy that was adopted was in compliance with the state mandate, there was no reason not to go beyond it to address the issue that you raise.
      However, the likelihood that this group would exhibit that kind of vision given their current conduct is on a par with expecting beach weather in February on Cape Cod.

      Delete

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