Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Do They Call It OPEN Meeting?

 Regional School Committee meeting 7/14

Temporary Chair of the Amherst Regional School Committee Lawrence O'Brien is still sputtering over the successful coup d'état orchestrated by Vice Chair Trevor Baptiste.

Five duly elected members of the committee -- a quorum -- attended a meeting that was properly posted in three of the four towns and was briefly posted properly in Amherst but cancelled when the ruling establishment felt threatened.

Did the meeting violate the Open Meeting Law?  Technically, yes.

But not because of secrecy -- which is generally what the OML targets.  Since well over 50 members of the general public showed up, along with three TV news stations and reporters from two newspapers, I would deem that a pretty OPEN meeting.

The renegade meeting was called to countermand a memo criticising Amilcar Shabazz issued by three school committee chairs with absolutely no deliberation of the three public bodies they chair.  Now that sounds to me like a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

And the irony doesn't stop there.  They were critical of Dr. Shabazz for releasing information (not entirely correct) about a violent racial school incident where three black youths ganged up on a white youth doing real physical damage in the process.

As usual the super secretive PUBLIC schools handled it "internally," not breathing a word to anyone, including the Amherst Police Department or the local District Attorney, who certainly had grounds for a "hate crime" indictment.

At the 6/24 Regional School Committee meeting where O'Brien was elected temporary Chair the committee later went into Executive Session for "litigation" discussion even though the written published agenda stated it was for  "Collective Bargaining."

A clear violation of OPM.  And these days the Attorney General wants more detail published when going into Executive Session.  If for  "Collective Bargaining" then with what unions?  Or if it's "litigation"  is it a negligence suit filed over an injury or a MCAD complaint? 

This coming August the Regional School Committee will head to an undisclosed location for a weekend "retreat".  That strikes me as a violation of Open Meeting Law.

In 2010 FIVE school committee chairs (with no deliberations of their respective committees) issued an official memo to the District Attorney asking for an investigation of Amherst School Committee member Catherine Sanderson, hoping the DA would muzzle her.

The DA ignored their whiny request.

The more voices brought into the public process the better.  That's the very heart and soul of Open Meeting.


Anonymous said...

The retreat will be a posted meeting of the SC. I have attended their retreats before as a member of the public.

Larry Kelley said...

Well I hope they hold it in a handicapped accessible location.

Anonymous said...

Bum Rush the Retreat!

Anonymous said...

This town will never agree on anything: some will call the chairs admonishment and attempts to stop the meeting a "fraud", others will say we have to follow the letter of the law when we schedule meetings.

Regardless, one very important thing came out of this in my opinion: FINALLY a member and a leader of the black community has come out and said that white kids can be and are the victims of racism as well.

FINALLY we can begin to have an HONEST conversation about the racism that exists in our schools and community.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, you think they would come up with a better name considering the connotation now ascribed to "The Retreat."

Wouldn't be the first time said...


Bah, whatever.

-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Banana?

Anonymous said...

We look forward to reading the minutes of this meeting on your blog...

Larry Kelley said...

My drone should be operational by then.

Anonymous said...

Oh great Squeaky's back.

Anonymous said...

As far as the record that is created, this meeting looks like one of those baseball games that gets called because of rain before the fifth inning.

Interesting, but not official.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. This was not an official SC meeting.

Larry Kelley said...

And that's fine.

IF someone complains to the AG (and I believe you cannot do it anonymously) and they "strike down" the meeting it will have already served its purpose.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary it will have served no purpose.

Larry Kelley said...

Maybe you should apply for the part time PR flack position the schools are now advertising.

Anonymous said...

Same reason they call a gun law open carry. Mostly the school system of Amherst has to hide what they do. Occasionally a few rogue SC members want to show their guns to prove their power and their worthiness to their own cause, so holster them in the open. Sad part is that this stunt shows just how divided the SC is and further shows just how out of touch the school system is with the children, education, and purpose.

Larry Kelley said...

This country was founded on the principal of "majority rules." (But be nice to the minority of course).

Five-out-of-nine Regional School Committee members attended that meeting and voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

Maybe the four who didn't show up are now in the "rogue" category.

Larry Kelley said...

Make that "principle".

The principal is not your pal, as they say.

Michael H said...

Anon 8:03, I respectfully disagree. The unanimous vote of the Amherst Regional School Committee, "to unequivolcally disavow the process that led to the creation of the memo," inspires me and gives me great hope that, together, we may yet be able to muster the democratic courage and heart to manifest a more safe, just and inclusive school community for all children and teachers.
While I believe acting school chair O'Brien is a good man who means well, I respectfully disagree with his statement that, "Shabazz's statements...were profoundly harmful." And, I am extremely troubled that Mr. O'Brien's legal opinion is based solely upon the questionable advice of the same school attorney who was fired by the Amherst Regional School Committee 4 or 5 years ago, "as a Social Justice Issue." Suprisingly, all 5 Amherst school reps voted to fire her!

Anonymous said...

The attorney was not fired. The SC voted to hire a lawyer who was cheaper. This new firm proved to be ineffective and their ineffectiveness cost the district many thousands of dollars - much more than was saved by the cheaper firm.
So Ms Tate ' s firm was rehired. No one was fired for social justice issues. Some of the SPED parents did not like her, which is not surprising because she was on the other side in litigation.
Mr Hootstein you should learn the facts before shooting from the hip.
Also the town's counsel agreed with Ms Tate ' s firm on the legality of the recent SC meeting.

Anonymous said...

>>same school attorney who was fired by the Amherst Regional School Committee 4 or 5 years ago, "as a Social Justice Issue." Suprisingly, all 5 Amherst school reps voted to fire her!

Michael H - What was the social justice issue 4 or 5 years ago?

Anonymous said...

"... this stunt shows just how divided the SC is and further shows just how out of touch the school system is with the children, education, and purpose."

Exactly, they call emergency meetings when one of them is scolded, or when an adult has graffiti written about them, etc. Various groups show up to school committee meetings to fight with other adults, show how undaunted they are. In fact they encourage divisive behavior from the youth in the schools (Camila Carpio.) Never an emergency that has to do with a kid in distress. Kathleen Anderson was a divider when on the school committee, she-who-shall-not-be-named was a divider, Baptiste is a divider. They all have personal agendas that don't relate to the realities of what is going on in our schools, what our kids require of them. At the retreat the school committee members should spend all the time watching videos of functional committees in other places doing business.

Anonymous said...

Michael H. if you want to be the great healer you have to stick to the facts and not say slanderously false things about others, that should have been a lesson you picked up from all of this.

Michael H said...

Anon 12:25: The current school attorney who litigates against children with disabilities was temporarily replaced (effectively "fired") as a "Social Justice Issue" on Sept. 22, 2010 because of complaints reported to (then) school committee members by parents (including me) of children with disabilities who experienced being bullied and threatened by Ms. Tate.

Anon 12:12: Evidence in support of my comments is forthcoming... don't worry, be happy!

Anonymous said...

Wrong Michael. Watch the school committee meeting where they voted to hire a different attorney.

Michael H said...

Wrong Anon 4:16. A special thanks to Amherst Media for digging up the 2010 video of the school committee meeting when they: 1) fired Attorney Tate (as SPED attorney); and 2) hired Superintendent Geryk (who I like and admire by the way). Supt., please lead us to the promised land sooner, not later, please!

Anonymous said...

Wrong. She was not fired. They chose a different law firm. A firm that cost them thousands of dollars. Saner heads prevailed and gini tate ' s firm was rehired.
There was never any social justice issue involved. Period.

Anonymous said...

Why, oh why are we back talking about our attorney. Sheesh. This issue at hand needs to be our students. The members of the SC need to function in a collaborative manner in order to achieve our mission.

Bottom line, Shabazz acted inappropriately (and was not misunderstood) at a meeting he was appointed to chair; why can't he be held accountable? Especially, since he put the district at risk.

When did asking for your attorney's advice which was also supported by the town's attorney become something to disregard?

This is simple. We teach child to take responsibility for their actions, and so must the adults.

Anonymous said...

If Shabazz is so interested in retelling "rumors" that he heard in the community then he should have addressed the "rumors" that he told SEVERAL lies at the ETF meeting. Funny thing is the 15 ETF members who HEARD him tell the OTHER lies are apparently OK with it.

Can't wait to see what they "recommend".

We need to make sure we videotape these meetings from now on, Shabazz saves his lying for when there are no cameras around.

Anonymous said...

Michael, you really need to get your facts straight if you're gonna go on a crusade like you seem to be doing. You are flat-out wrong.

Desertification, cash-wise said...

"Oh great Squeaky's back."

Yeah I know right?

Don't do us any favors, right???


p.s. whatever