School Committee chair Chuck Robinson took full responsibility for “an error in open meeting law” that the School Committee made at its December 19 meeting. Robinson admitted at a specially-called January 2 meeting that a School Committee vote regarding an extension of the superintendent’s contract by one year that was made in executive session “should have been done in open session.” He also assured the public that the mistake “wasn’t done on purpose.” Robinson continued stating that, according to counsel, the vote taken in executive session was not binding.
Robinson explained that Superintendent of Schools John Doherty addressed the possibility of a contract extension to him in November. After consultation with Vice-Chair Jeanne Borawski, it was agreed that the issue would be brought up on December 19 for committee discussion and possible vote. The current contract, which expires at the end of June 2021, allows for the committee to vote an extension prior to the end of June 2020. Robinson felt that the choice to vote on whether or not to extend the contract was one he could not make on his own, but belonged to the entire committee.
Robinson also apologized for the vague nature of the agenda posting for the topic on December 19. “In this instance [the agenda] should have read, ‘superintendent’ instead of ‘non-represented personnel.’” Robinson promised that this adjustment would be made on future agendas.
Robinson concluded his statement suggesting that the committee postpone a vote on an extension of the superintendent’s contract until after the March 3 election. There will be three new members of the committee at that point as both Borawski and Linda Snow Dockser have announced that they are not running for reelection. “I don’t think the timing is right,” Robinson commented.
Committee member John Parks agreed with the chair stating, “The vote for me was a hard decision.” Parks shared that, upon reflection, he believes a vote on extension should wait until the new committee is in place. Parks also shared blame with Robinson for the error in procedure. “We made the mistake together,” Parks stated. Borawski agreed with both the blame sharing and the postponement, “If we don’t postpone, do we create distrust and undermine the person we are trying to support?” Borawski queried.
Snow Dockser disagreed. She argued that the town elected the members of the committee to make these kinds of decisions. “It’s the job of our committee to decide [these issues] in a timely manner.” Snow Dockser urged. She continued stating, “The superintendent deserves to have a decision made by a committee that has worked with him.”
Candidate for School Committee Carla Nazzarro said that as a candidate she would “appreciate being afforded the same opportunities as past members.” Snow Dockser countered by stating that the current committee also deserves the same consideration as the future committee would receive. After continued discussion and public input, the School Committee voted 5-1 to postpone a vote on the superintendent’s contract extension until after the March 3 election. Snow Dockser was the only dissenting vote.
The School Committee adjourned at 7:55 pm.