So five local school committee chairs have officially requested in writing the District Attorney create guidelines about how and when a blog may or may not violate the Open Meeting Law--key word being "Open".
The irony simply abounds. The joint letter apparently was the idea of Shutesbury School Committee Chair Michael DeChiara, you know the guy who recently got the state legislature to pass a new law allowing towns to withdraw from school unions.
Shutesbury apparently had a beef with a shared Superintendent hiring a pricipal for only one year when most folks wanted them to get three. The issue caused Shutesbury to rethink Union 28 which shares the expenses of a Super between Leverett, Shutesbury, Erving, Wendell and New Salem.
So how is this any different than Amherst considering a withdrawal from Union 26 with Pelham where Amherst funds 94% of expenses and only has a 50% say in administration?
But back to the blogosphere. The issue of Amherst withdrawing from Union 26 has gone from obscure non-issue to raging controversy mainly because of the discussion on Catherine Sanderson's school committee blog.
The other School Committee chairs wonder if perhaps some Anons posting comments could be School Committee members thus potentially bringing together a quorum discussing something outside a posted public meeting.
Forgetting for a moment that a blog is public, these Chairs are not showing much faith in their fellow School Committee members if they honestly believe an elected public official would cowardly cower behind a cloak of anonymity.
The next question asks about the propriety of comment moderation where the blog owner could slant the discussion by nixing opposing comments. So it's the old "damned if she does, damned if she doesn't" routine?
What's a blogger to do? You can't allow Anon comments because it could be cowardly elected officials in disguise and you can't moderate comments because you could censor them. Hmm....
Gotta love the part about "Every committee has mechanisms and policies for making sure that its discourse is appropriate and civil," suggesting ways should be found to extend that control to a blog. Sounds like the South Hadley School Committee chair who was recently chastised by the ACLU for censoring public comments he did not find "appropriate and civil."
Another irony is that Irv Rhodes, Amherst School Committee Chair, currently in the center of the storm on the Union 26 issue and as a direct result of what he considered disrespectful behavior on the part of Regional Chair Farshid Hajir and Union 26 Chair Tracey Farnham, came up with a "Pledge" that he made to fellow Amherst committee members.
The opening one states:
"To be open, honest and transparent about any and all matters that come before the Amherst School Committee and keep you informed about any events that directly or indirectly involve the work of the Amherst School Committee."
Mr Rhodes, however, signed the letter sent to the District Attorney without giving Catherine Sanderson--the obvious target--a common courtesy heads up call.
And that official letter pretty much constitutes a (secret) joint meeting of five School Committees. Physician heal thyself!
Shutesbury's Internet chat room PDF of letter to DA is at bottom of "discussion". And notice the only two folks who chime in are also Shutesbury School Committee members thus, with DeChiara (if he was still online) makes for a quorum.
The Bully covers Shutesbury School Committee Chair Michael DeChiara's crusade