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November 2021 - Posts

We recently received a request from the Select Board posing a series of questions to the School Committee Chair and Superintendent. We have submitted our answers to the Select Board and, in the spirit of fostering improved communications among all, are sharing several of the questions that pertain directly to the schools on the LPS website. A few questions that were not included below were either a. confidential in nature; or b. not relevant to the education process or student services.

On Wednesday, December 1st from 6:30-7:30 p.m. we will be hosting our monthly Superintendent’s Advisory Council meeting. During this virtual meeting, we will provide updates on the state of the school and discuss some frequently asked questions. Interested parents and community members are invited to join us. The link will be posted on the LPS website, Wednesday, December 1st at noon. We look forward to your participation.

1. The School has posted for many positions lately, from management to entry level. Why are there so many openings? 

A:  We are not immune to “The Great Resignation Era” that is happening across the country. The pandemic has changed the way people think about their jobs and families. Each person who has resigned had his/her own reason for leaving and we keep that information confidential.

B.  With more than 200 employees, the school department frequently has open positions.

2. Please explain the reasoning and process behind the decision to hire an assistant superintendent and why his contract was not voted on in open session. How could the assistant superintendent be hired and start date set before any contract, or discussion by the School Committee ever took place? 

The School Committee had discussed hiring an assistant superintendent for many years. We developed the following FAQ on our school website that will answer your questions about the process: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wK9Qxg2yr9OdBKzcOvqBWP91KaKnKCKAGNsb8VZF1Wk/edit

 

3. How could the assistant superintendent be hired and start date set before any contract, or discussion by the School Committee took place?

In order for a candidate to give adequate notice at his/her former job, it is a customary practice to offer a hire letter for reasonable assurance of a position. The hire letter states, “pending approval of the School Committee on August 25, 2021.” As part of the interview process, the Superintendent always asks candidates, regardless of the position, on what date they are able to start work.

 

4. Please explain the source of funds for the following: 

a. $500,000 in charges associated with the oil leak that exceed insurance coverage 

b. $150,000 to pay for the new assistant superintendent? 

A.  We allocated funds at the end of FY21 to cover the oil spill.

B.  The Assistant Superintendent’s position was funded through the elimination of the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment’s position. Because the Assistant Superintendent’s salary was prorated and there was a lapse in the staff salary expenses, no additional funding was required. The Assistant Superintendent’s salary is $135,000.

 

5. Why are the school buildings in such poor shape? 

A:  Years of underfunding and lack of preventative maintenance for decades has brought us to the current state. Schools sometimes must make the difficult choice of cutting teachers, services or preventative maintenance, as the town often cannot support yearly operating costs.

 

6. Please explain why a recent records request for maintenance records was answered stating that none were available. 

The request, made in August, was for the following specific documents: “Inspection records for any/all inspection records/results for the generators that pertain to NFPA 99 and NFPA 110 for the previous 10 years. Monthly 30 min testing maintenance checklist for both generators as well by a contracted company.” The requestor amended the timeframe from 10 years to 2 years.  After a search by IT, no documents that responded to the specific request were located.

 

7. The School Committee has been accused of violating the Open Meeting Law on several occasions. Please list the complaints filed, and their status with the Attorney General. 

 

Complaint Made By

Status with AG

Matt Joseph

Pending

Joel Hart

Unknown

Tammy Tebo

Completed

Dylan Lambert

Pending

Tammy Tebo

Unknown

Tammy Tebo

Unknown

 

8. The School Committee recently voted to have School Counsel answer questions and handle public records requests. These matters normally can be handled by staff. Please explain the reasoning for voting to have School Counsel address questions and records requests. 

The school has received a significant number of public records requests over the last 2-3 months. As the RAO, the Superintendent has answered many of the requests with the assistance of LPS staff. Others have been referred to School Counsel for response due to the need for legal advice and/or due to the volume of requests received.

 

9. Please provide the amount of legal fees paid on items 7 and 8 above. 

A:  #7 - $8,547.28; #8 - $11,613. = $20,160.28

 

10. Why was the Town not notified of the oil leak right away? Please provide a final estimated cost for the oil spill and the anticipated completion dates as well as any concerns for long term air quality in Rooms 105-107 of the Elementary School. 

A.  The Town was notified right away. The school’s Director of Finance & Operations notified the Assistant Town Administrator on the same day the school learned of the leak.

B.  The school does not yet have a final estimated cost or anticipated completion dates.

C.  Please refer to the air quality reports on the Town’s website:  https://www.leicesterma.org/home/pages/oil-incident

 

11. Please explain the reasoning for the transfer from the special education stabilization fund that was recently voted by the Select Board. For what purpose are these funds being used? 

The Special Education Stabilization Fund allows the expenditure for tuition and transportation that are not budgeted. Once the budget closed, there were students who transitioned to other placements and the funds to cover those expenses are charged to the stabilization account. In the event there are any savings in the general fund, we shift money back to the stabilization account. This is an allowable practice that has been done every year.

 

12. There was a recent charge of $1,050 to process a public records request for documents relating to the new assistant superintendent. The charge indicates that there are many records to be provided. Please explain the volume of documents when there should be little to no emails and texts exchanged prior to the completion of the hiring process. 

A:  There seems to be a misunderstanding as to the breadth of the request made. It included five separate requests for documents involving multiple individuals, including parties outside of the school district, with no timeframe identified for the records requested and some with no subject matter. After consultation with our IT Department, due to the broad scope of the requests, we discovered that it will take many hours of searching to determine whether responsive documents exist and potentially many documents will be identified as possibly responsive—not necessarily responsive. Those documents will then all need to be reviewed to determine if they are (1) responsive to the requests; and (2) are actually a public record and not subject to an exemption. This is not a simple request for records, as you seem to have been led to believe.

 

13. Why is there a difference in the way the School Committee conducts its "Public Comment Period" compared to other boards? The Select Board allows topics NOT on the agenda to be discussed, while the School Committee allows topics ONLY on the present agenda to be discussed. The public should be allowed to discuss topics on the agenda during the time they're being discussed, not on a separate agenda item. The public should be allowed to discuss anything not on the agenda at this time. Please clarify. 

While the open meeting law does not require any type of public participation in a meeting, the School Committee routinely allots time for public comments. In an effort to respect everyone’s time, the School Committee limits public comments to topics on the agenda for that meeting.

Posted by feminos  On Nov 24, 2021 at 11:40 AM
  
 
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