Despite an overwhelming turnout at the public hearing against the plan to restructure the Middle/High School, it appears that the School Committee is set to support the proposal.
Barring a last minute change of heart by a member of the majority a plan that was revised as recently as last Wednesday and the impact of which was still being discussed at a subcommittee meeting on Monday night will take effect on Wednesday.
Essentially all administrators at the Middle/High School will be given notice that their employment contracts are nullified and that they must reapply with no guarantee of being rehired.
In addition there are the further costs associated with unemployment compensation, potential lawsuits, increased uncertainty for staff and students and further lack of public confidence in the central office and school committee.
If the committee does approve the plan, the question arises as to whether there is anything more that can be done to stop this seeming fait accompli?
One option may exist under Civil Procedure Rule 65 of the Massachusetts Court System.
(a) Temporary Restraining Order; Notice; Hearing; Duration. A temporary restraining order may be granted without written or oral notice to the adverse party or his attorney only if it clearly appears from specific facts shown by affidavit or by the verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant before the adverse party or his attorney can be heard in opposition. Every temporary restraining order granted without notice shall be indorsed with the date and hour of issuance; shall be filed forthwith in the clerk's office and entered of record; and shall expire by its terms within such time after entry, not to exceed 10 days, as the court fixes, unless within the time so fixed the order, for good cause shown, is extended for a like period or unless the party against whom the order is directed consents that it may be extended for a longer period. In case a temporary restraining order is granted without notice, the application for a preliminary injunction shall be set down for hearing at the earliest possible time, and in any event within 10 days, and takes precedence of all matters except older matters of the same character; and when the matter comes on for hearing the party who obtained the temporary restraining order shall proceed with the application for a preliminary injunction and, if he does not do so, the court shall dissolve the temporary restraining order. On 2 days' notice to the party who obtained the temporary restraining order without notice or on such shorter notice to that party as the court may prescribe, the adverse party may appear and move its dissolution or modification and in that event the court shall proceed to hear and determine such motion as expeditiously as the ends of justice require.
The first question that arises is who, with legal standing, would undertake such an action?
Four possibilities come to mind. They are the Town Council, the minority members of the school committee, an ad hoc citizens group consisting of parents of children in the system or the administrators whose jobs are threatened.
If it were the Town Council they clearly have at their disposal the financial and legal resources to undertake the action.
If it were any of the other three they would have to gain access to these necessities. They might conceivably gain financial support through a Go Fund Me campaign among other possibilities. They would have to move quickly in securing legal representation in order to file the action in the courts before any concrete action can be taken by the administration.
The second question to be answered is on what legal grounds could an injunction be sought?
I hesitate to answer this definitively because I am not an attorney. However, it would seem that there are at least two bases that could be cited:
· The above cited waste of public resources associated with unemployment compensation, potential lawsuits, and irreparable harm to staff and students; and
· The argument that the proposal is little more than a transparent and hastily devised attempt to undertake a purge of personnel against whom no real reasons for dismissal can be concocted.
I stress that a competent lawyer could most likely expand this list and I would rely on their advice.
Aside from hopefully winning the proposed action which would end the issue, it must also be stressed that delay is in itself an end to be achieved. A town election takes place four weeks after Tuesday’s meeting.
If any decision in a proposed legal action can be delayed for that length of time, then it can be hoped that a newly reconstituted School Committee could rescind the vote and end the whole matter.