Last Wednesday Southbridge High Senior Sarai McNeill attempted to voice her criticisms of the school Superintendent during the Public Input session prior to the School Committee meeting.
She was quickly interrupted by School Committee member Brent Abrahamson. He opined that her remarks violated the committee’s policy against criticizing school personnel in open session. His point was just as quickly validated by Chairman McLoughlin.
What all the members of the School Committee apparently overlooked is the fact that Public Input is held before the meeting is called to order. As a result, the mandates of the School Policy Manual do not apply.
The policy that prevents such criticism of school personnel has no basis in law. It is interesting to note that such a policy is provided for in guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. However, unlike most such policies, no statutory basis is provided supporting it.
It is well within the purview of the School Committee to devise policies to govern its own operation. However, it is not within the purview of the committee to apply those policies outside the domain of its own meetings.
Since the Public Input portion of the evening’s agenda takes place before the meeting is officially called to order the policy against stating criticism of employees cannot be enforced.
Ms. McNeill should have been allowed to make her statement without interference from the dais.
My appreciation to the reader who pointed this out.