The newly constituted leadership of the Southbridge School Committee continues its pattern of setting a poor example for the youth in their charge.
In this installment of the ongoing soap opera “As The District Burns” we examine the lesson provided on paying attention in class.
Specifically we will illustrate how what one supposedly gains by attending a specialized training is useless if you cannot apply it in “real life”.
During the Chairwoman’s Announcements segment of the November 5 Southbridge School Committee meeting the following statements were made:
I have nothing against public officials participating in programs designed to improve their ability to perform their job. In fact, I enthusiastically encourage such efforts. However, I assume that attending such forums will result in the lessons taught in those classes being translated into greater diligence in applying what is taught.
That is why it is a lesson in not making such assumptions to watch what transpired later in the same meeting.
One of the precepts of the Open Meeting Law is that members of a public body cannot meet outside of a posted meeting to discuss business of that body in a number equal to or greater than a quorum. It doesn’t matter whether the members meet collectively or sequentially. Any such meeting is an illegal meeting unless it was properly posted publicly and in a timely manner.
Clearly the letter which was presented at this meeting was not the subject of any posted meeting. Nevertheless it contained a policy decision by the committee to state publicly to the Superintendent, “…the committee would like to retain you for another year.…”
The letter was signed by the six individuals who constituted the entire membership of the school committee at the time. Thus, it clearly constituted a violation of the open meeting law having indicated a discussion of school committee business and a decision about such business by a number exceeding a quorum of the committee.
The irony of comparing these two clips of the same meeting is inescapable. As noted at the outset of this article, they illustrate a clear inability to apply the lessons that should have been learned in attending the Attorney General’s Forum. Let’s hope that any students in the Southbridge school system do not emulate this as an example of what class attendance is supposed to yield in results.
From a practical standpoint, the action taken essentially stalls in its tracks the formation of any Superintendent Search Committee pending response from the Superintendent. Further, should he respond in the affirmative, the need for any such committee is apparently obviated.
It would appear that ample grounds exist for filing an Open Meeting Law complaint with regard to this action.
The form provided by the State for such a complaint includes the question, “What action do you want the public body to take in response to your complaint?”
I would think that the appropriate action would be to nullify the letter and to hold an open meeting on its substance where citizens might voice their opinions. Such opinions should not merely be limited to the letter itself, but also include discussion of the fate of a Superintendent Search Committee.
In closing, I hope that this example will constitute an object lesson to the regiment that has been attending the MASC/MASS Joint Conference in Hyannis. Pay attention to what you are supposed to be learning in those seminars!