LETTER: Marblehead’s Zoom gavel: School Committee’s hidden deliberations draw scrutiny

To the editor:

It is hard to conceive of a more transparently vengeful and cowardly action than the Marblehead School Committee’s pending invocation of an “early termination clause” in the contract of School Superintendent John Buckey.

Should the School Committee approve this at its extraordinary “virtual” Zoom-only meeting July 26, not only will its own reputation be discredited but our proud town will take its place alongside some of the more reactionary bastions of idiocy in the American polity.

The members – co-chairs Sarah Fox and Jennifer Schaeffner, Brian Ota, Alison Taylor and Meagan Taylor, will meet like a secret society in their own homes, and look at each other’s pictures on Zoom. Never mind that last Friday’s meeting was held in executive session, freezing out the public from witnessing grim deliberations that led to the calling of the July 26 session. Never mind new board member Brian Ota’s sudden aperçu, aided by the State Ethics Comissioner’s reminder that voting on the removal of a superintendent against whom one is pursuing a lawsuit, is illegal. (Reminder to self, Mr Ota: don’t vote.)

In fact our Commonwealth has given members of this School Committee a giant fig leaf to hide behind every time they are to conduct an even slightly controversial discussion. Under Section 20 of Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021, members now have every right to hide from their electors in the friendly byways of Zoom until March 31, 2025. No public meetings at all, if they so wish. One suspects they will milk this hall pass for all that it is worth.

Board members should look urgently to the advice that is flooding in from other parts of the commonwealth, most notably from Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. In case they missed his remarks reported elsewhere in the Marblehead Current, Scott laid it out for those whose own case of petty-mindedness blinds them to the consequences for our cash- and reputation-strapped town’s education system in the long term.

Marblehead has got to get their act together, said Scott. Despite mixed tenses which would be spotted by a middle-schooler, it’s a sentiment with which Marblehead residents of all grades can heartily, and even desperately, agree.

Rhod Sharp is a Marblehead elector. He was misled into voting for Mr. Ota, but is unlikely to do so next time.

Rhod Sharp

Franklin Street

Letter to the editor
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