Vince O'Connor told SB the school controversy brought "shame & disgrace" to Amherst
The Amherst Select Board received an earful of pent up frustration from speakers decrying the Aisha Hiza affair, the single mom banned for ten weeks from public school property for standing up in a forthright manner for her 7-year-old bullied daughter.
Aisha Hiza (center) Vira Douangmany Cage (far right)
This was their first session in six weeks back at Town Hall since they had been meeting in a hard to find back room in the Middle School while Amherst Town Meeting is in session, something that takes up way more time than it should. And because of time constraints on their agenda they did not take Public Comment during those abbreviated meetings.
But last night they got back into the swing of regular meetings in a five-hour marathon that started on a somber note with a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando massacre.
Connie Kruger led the SB into a moment of silence
Then they moved to an upbeat celebration of two new AFD firefighters and Steve Gaughan's promotion to captain, as well as announcements of our public school students winning the Human Rights Commission "Heroes award."
Chief Nelson welcomes Joshua Steininger (left), Michael Sawicki
Steve Gaughen promoted to Captain
But then things became contentious when Chair Alisa Brewer announced the next item would be the Select Board response to Vira Douangmany Cage's fiery email from a few weeks backs asking if we are "in the deep Jim Crow South," because the Select Board had been silent on the Aisha Hiza affair.
Connie Kruger read to the board her reworked letter response of last week's draft version that board members were unhappy with me for releasing.
It played out along the same "not my problem" theme: The controversy was a school issue and the Select Board has no jurisdiction over the public schools. And they had complete faith in APD Chief Livingstone (who attended but did not speak), Superintendent Maria Geryk and the Amherst School Committee (neither in attendance).
Moreover, they were not privy to all the details of the matter so could not make an informed judgement in the particular case of Aisha Hiza being banned for over ten weeks via the stay away order.
Click to enlarge/read
Temporary Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner took some heat for his statement two weeks ago that he knew more than the Select Board and based on this secret knowledge deemed the situation not a matter of social justice.
Aisha Hiza was the last to speak from the floor, directly asking Mr. Hechenbleikner if he would blindly sign a legal release without knowing what that allegedly incriminating information was?
And if the School Superintendent wanted to have a signed okay to release said information, why can't she release it to the person in question first?
The board voted unanimously to support Ms. Kruger's response and the letter will be mailed to Ms. Cage today.
The Select Board then, appropriately enough, went on to an extended discussion of medical marijuana.