Questions the School refuses to hear, let alone answer

The Acton-Boxborough Regional School Committee (SC) is stonewalling Acton Forum and members of the public about the recently announced resignation of School Superintendent Glenn Brand. For a town whose residents, children, and tax dollars revolve around the school system, Brand's sudden departure is big news.

The School now says they will have a public meeting this Wednesday night at the R.J. Grey library. They may want to move that meeting to the auditorium and plan on several hours of questions. Trying to control the local news media and refusing to answer questions from the public is going to be harder than they think.

Here is the statement from the "School Committee" in response to my repeated requests to speak with Amy Kirshnamurthy, the new Chair: "We are now in a period of transition and realize many in the community may have questions about next steps. There will be an open meeting next Wednesday, May 24th in the R.J. Grey Junior High library beginning at 7:30. This meeting will also be taped by Acton TV."

(For their initial statement and the problem with the School refusing to speak to the media, see below for article links...)

Charlie Kadlec and I have some history with investigating School problems and mistakes. Because of a couple of our investigations, the Attorney General's office or Middlesex DA has determined that the School Committee has violated the Open Meeting Law four times in the past few years. Our School Committee thus has a history of not following the law and not being open and transparent to the public.

For me, most of my concern has been about the bottom line: how much money is raised and spent, which directly relates to our property tax bill. As Actonians know full well, we have one of the highest property tax burdens in the state.

But this latest incident, other than the $200,000 being paid to Brand for not working after June 30, is not about spending, it is about good management and proper oversight of management by our elected School Committee. And something doesn't seem right here. Glenn Brand is the town's highest profile administrator and while his resignation has been described as "mutual and amicable," the abrupt departure with less than six weeks notice and apparently no publicly known problems which would justify such a hasty departure lead one to think that other things must be going on.

Asking a few questions and getting some simple answers might actually be helpful to the public which is hungry for clarity, which is why I tried hard to do that. But when it was clear that Krishnamurthy wouldn't even speak with me, the alarm bells really started to go off. This is eerily reminiscent of how my questions to Glenn Brand were not answered when I started asking about Liza Huber's sudden and mysterious departure. After two years of document requests and stonewalling, that mystery has not been solved and my (hopefully last) appeal is still pending with the state. Are we in for another such lengthy and expensive ordeal?

Posting questions is not my preferred method of having a dialogue, but the School leaves me no choice. If you have other questions you'd like answered, feel free to post them as a reply.

1. Has the School Committee improperly held meetings to discuss this topic without informing the public?

2. If such meetings were held in executive session (ES), will the minutes be released immediately, now that the purpose for the ES has been fulfilled?

3. Is there a signed Separation Agreement with Dr. Brand? Does the agreement include a "non-disparagement" clause and a "confidentiality" clause which would potentially void any payments to Dr. Brand if he speaks out?

4. Has the School Committee taken any votes on this issue, and what were the outcomes?

5. Has there been any sort of investigation or allegations of misconduct against Dr. Brand?

6. Has the SC improperly interfered with the Brand administration, thus making his leadership untenable?

7. Has the SC had any meetings on this issue without the presence of Dr. Brand?

8. When did this issue first surface? Was Dr. Brand given a chance to align with the "philosophical or operational" directives of the SC prior to his resignation?

9. Did the SC improperly withhold Brand's decision to resign until after the Acton and Boxborough annual Town Meetings?

10. Why did it take over two years to discover these "differences" in philosophy? Why was Dr. Brand's employment contract extended into a fourth year (in 2016) if there was this hidden friction?

11. Are there any School employees who may be candidates for the newly opened Superintendent's position that were improperly involved in Dr. Brand's resignation?

12. How is this friction suddenly coming to light despite at least two years of positive evaluations of Dr. Brand and comfortable raises in salary each year?

13. Is the recently conducted annual evaluation consistent with past evaluations or does it give Brand low marks and recommend no further extensions of his employment contract?

14. Where is the list of "educational and operational philosophies" upon which there is so much disagreement? Were these "philosophies" made clear to Brand when he was hired? Have they been disclosed to the public?

I will be filing several public document requests with the School district on Monday or Tuesday. I also plan on sending an email to my contact at the Secretary of State's Division of Public Records office to alert them about this issue, to try to ensure that the School does not succeed in delaying disclosure of public information like they did with the Huber inquiries.



School Committee Chair refuses to speak with Acton Forum: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/school-committee-chair-refuses-speak-acton-forum

Glenn Brand resigns from AB School District: http://www.actonforum.com/story/glenn-brand-resigns-ab-school-district

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Comments

Keep on them

As always, great to see the Acton Forum trying to stay on the Town in the best interest of the citizens. I do find it interesting that when you tried to get money from the "Rainy Day" fund to help out the taxes payers you were shot down. Apparently, the "Rainy Day" fund is to wipe away the tears of former employees. Steve.