Sunday, May 31, 2015

What If They Vote To Restructure?

Ken O’Brien

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.
 Injunctions
(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.

18 comments:

  1. Save our Schools --SOSMay 31, 2015 at 5:29 AM

    If any part of your second justification for a restraining order is true then, (and I am not a lawyer either) maybe someone should contact the US Attorney's office or the Justice Department and instigate a RICO investigation into this matter. Are certain members of the school committee conspiring to deprive people of their rights?

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    1. Individual liabilityMay 31, 2015 at 1:13 PM

      The good thing about something like you suggest is that individual members could be held legally liable.

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  2. I wouldn't consider that an impossibility. However, it may take too long to forestall substantial chaos in the school.

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  3. Overwhelming turnout? Were 3/4's of the people on a bathroom break every time the room was scanned by the cable TV cameras?

    There was an issue a few years back in which there were easily ten times as many people, and the Council and board of health ignored the wishes of the people.

    Too bad we can't have a special town meeting. So much for the Council form of government.

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  4. Its all about revengeMay 31, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    Your second reason to file a complaint is not at all a stretch. The ties between Gardner and Stanton are strong and longstanding. Remember the glowing words that Gardner had for Stanton when she introduced her to the school committee. There is clearly a vendetta at work.
    Its not a coincidence that this whole effort to restructure the schools only came up after Earls refused Stanton’s demand that she resign. And she’s not the only one on Stanton’s hit list. The only real question is why so many members of the school committee would be party to such an obvious effort at revenge.

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    1. The only real answerMay 31, 2015 at 3:54 PM

      The only real answer is that it isn't true , that it's political and that that this is an election season.

      You sight no real facts just the party line of an election story.
      There seems to be a vendetta alright it just isn't what you're saying. It is what you are saying.

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    2. We'll never know the real answerJune 1, 2015 at 1:42 PM

      Well, if it isn't true - then what's the rush?!?!? - Granted, Mrs Earls may not be the best choice for a Principal - but she has not had a review and she's been in place for less than a year - during which time she served 2 1/2 Masters (even tho Gardner hired her, the Buzz factor was certainly there);

      What happens when the State comes in in the Fall and decides that the 1 Principal model is the way to go??

      What happens when the new Superintendant is selected (or are we already assuming it will be Stanton and are just going thru the motions of a 'search??) and wants to hire/have input on the administrative staff - and is stuck w/everyone hired by Stanton - all w/contracts;

      It is JUNE, people - can we possibly post / collect & review resumes / vet and hire w/signed contracts an entirely new staff!?!?!? - don't forget - she wants only people w/minimum of 3 years experience - really ???

      Most administrators have already secured their positions for the 2015-2016 school season - so would Southbridge be getting the bottom of the barrel???

      And what about the people we let go? Where will they find jobs at this late stage? - but at least they will collect unemployment - and what kind of message does this send to potential candidates - if they do their homework - who in their right mind would come to Southbridge????

      As much as I can not stand Mr Abrahamson - can it be sooooo long ago that he was a teacher??? Gosh if they did this @ Tantasqua when he was there he would have gone off the deep end!!

      by the way...did anyone notice that the Class of 2015 - Valedictorian @ Tantasqua is from Southbridge???

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  5. Face the facts. The Council will talk big but do squat. Same for the minority members of the School Committee. The parents who are left don’t care enough about their kids to bother and the administrators will move on to other districts.

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  6. I am not sure if this question was asked but could the Teacher's Union file for the injunction?

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    1. Fr Peter - the administrators (Principals/Asst Principals) are not part of the teachers union (even tho they may have been, as teachers) - so I don't know if the teachers union could file - based on the impact it would have on them - and especially the students.

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  7. I wonder if this would be possible..can the school committee be abolished and have council take control

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    1. George, the simple answer is no.It would violate the Ed Reform Act and numerous other state statutes.

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  8. However, there might be a way to change how a school committee member gets to the school committee. Have the town manager appoint the board or at least a majority of them. Then you might get a committee that is more professional and knowledgeable on how schools are to be run.

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    1. As far as I know only Boston has an appointed School Committee. In that case they are appointed by an elected mayor. I don't know how comfortable we'd be turning everything over to an official appointed by the Town Council.

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    2. Even if this idea was accepted it would take time to change the town charter and this wouldn't solve the immediate problem.

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  9. Put Up Or Shut UpJune 1, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    Personally I think that this idea of seeking an injunction is a good one. It is also a matter of fact that the town council is best equipped to do this in the short time available to have a real impact. Lets see if they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

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  10. When the council came out with its no confidence vote the argument was that it was all that they could do. This action would be a demonstration that they are willing to do what can be done to back up that vote. If the council fails to seek an injunction against the school committee’s restructuring plan it will show that Moriarty, Carrasco and the rest of them are not willing to back up their words with action. Don’t tell us about the cost. We’ve seen a waste of money from this school committee that has been without equal. This plan will only entail more. The legal cost of seeking an injunction would be a pittance compared to the costs that the plan would bring about.

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  11. The TC shouldn’t wait. They should post a meeting of the whole tomorrow for Thursday to discuss their response if the school committee votes this plan. If the SC doesn’t then they can cancel the meeting. But if they do the lawyers can be prepared to file the injunction Friday or Moday.

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