In Support of Mayor Kennedy- Defining School Committee Responsibilities

If a School Department and School Committee have to vote a certain school building isn’t needed, would they not have the same responsibility to say where one is needed?

If BOTH the School Committee and City Council have to vote to submit a Statement Of Interest to the MSBA why shouldn’t both have a vote in the location?

It’s been mentioned that the School Dept will keep the Freshman Academy and COULD choose to keep the 1922 building if they wanted to. That seems to add credibility to the Mayor’s position that the School Committee has a say in a school building.

City Life Host George Anthes always says that if you get 5 lawyers in a room you will get 5 opinions. Who has the right to decide the LHS Site will have to be ruled on by a court.

The City Lawyer ruled its the Council but I have spoken to other lawyers like the Mayor has, who say by MA State Law Chapter 43 and the City Charter they believe the argument could be made that it’s the School Committee or like the need for both the Committee and Council to vote on the letter of intent both should have a vote on location.

As someone seeking to join the School Committee I want to know what the exact law is and what my responsibilities and duties are as a School Committee member so I strongly support Mayor Kennedy in pursuing this.

I’m disappointed that some Elected School Committee members and candidates are not interested in finding out the exact legal responsibilities. To me fully knowing what the duties and responsibilities are, should be a big concern. How can you do your job if your duties and responsibilities aren’t clear?

Ive been complaining about the lack of involvement and leadership by this Superintendent and this School Committee in many instances and in the entire High School Project. They should have been asking the questions that I asked Thursday after they got elected in January 2016 but chose instead to mostly be silent.

If people are worried or wondering why these questions haven’t been addressed prior to now, ask the current committee! Their lack of fiscal questioning or leadership is what drove me to enter the race. I stumbled upon the Charter and Mass Law but the City and Mayor should have had all these items answered years ago.

This Committee has taken many votes and not followed them up, at one point allowed $80,000 of the Supt. salary to be charged on paper to a food service account and avoid publicized controversy at every opportunity.

I’d rather ask questions and be thought of as a pain in the rear or rabble rouser than a non entity who wants to go along to get along. Shutting up to get elected or reelected isn’t my style. If I have a question on the why or way something is being done I’ll ask. If many members of the community are against a decision and questions around that decision exists then they should be answered.

The Mayor and I don’t agree on most things, in fact it was his pushing to declare the Laura Lee School Surplus that initiated my search on who has control on school buildings which led me to find the Charter and Chapter 43 of MA. Law. The Mayor and I are on the same page for a change and I hope he pursues this to get a final ruling.

The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 is legislation passed in Massachusetts mandating several modern educational reforms over a 7-year period. The Legislature created the MSBA in 2004 to replace the former school building assistance program administered by the Department of Education (now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education).

Nowhere in either of those Acts does it state that the creation of either nullifies or supersedes Chapter 43 or that it nullifies the specific exceptions still to this day listed in Chapter 43 sections 97 – 100.

As someone who wants to be a School Committee member I see a conflict that needs to be cleared up.

If Councilor’s and the MSBA state School Departments have to declare a school not needed by a formal vote and the MSBA also requires the School Dept to vote on the letter of intent to even apply for consideration, where does it exclude them from voting on the location when MA State Law seems to clearly shows they have that responsibility? Even the MSBA official in yesterday’s Sun said it was a local issue on who votes.

I appreciate former School Committee member Kim Scott reaching out to me to express her belief and understanding that once the School Committee makes the vote for the Letter of Intent that was the end of their voting. Obviously I don’t read it the same but at least Kim reaches out to explain and try to get her points across in a civil way.

Nowhere in Chapt 70b does it clearly state that this act, establishing the MSBA supersedes MA State Law Chapt 43 and in fact speaks repeatedly refers to the district instead of the municipality.

I’m not a lawyer don’t play one on the radio, I’m just an average joe who likes to ask questions and get things explained to me clearly and hopefully in the simplest of terms. So I hope a magistrate can make a clear ruling.

Here are some of the reasons and exception points in Chapter 43 and Ed Reform that to me and others show the School Committee should have and should have wanted to be included in the vote despite what the City Solicitor says.

Chapt. 43 Section 95 of the Mass State Law for Plan E shows the following:

It clearly reads: except that the city manager shall have the authority hereinafter specified, that the general management and conduct of the public schools of the city and of the property pertaining thereto shall be vested in the school committee,

Section 97 talks about duties and powers of the City Council

and that states CLEARLY: except as such powers are reserved by this chapter to the school committee and to the qualified voters of the city.

When it talks about the City Manager’s power it shows:

and even then clearly states: except such as are by this chapter conferred upon the school committee or are otherwise provided for thereby.

These two sections of Chapter 43 clearly (at least in my view) show the Powers and duties of the School Committee.

So while the MSBA talks frequently about the District and the Manager is the representative of the district the above MA State Law is not overruled by the policy of the MSBA in my view.

In fact if two votes are required to even submit a statement of interest shouldn’t the same two entities have a say on location?

I find it interesting (but not surprised) that the City Lawyer agrees with the Manager but I disagree with her assessment that she cites regarding the Ed Reform Act. The ACT doesn’t take away the duties and responsibilities of a School Committee but defines their role in the delivery of educational services.

Further it states: the framers of the Education Reform Act established a system that assumed that, with foundation levels of spending, local districts would have the human capital, expertise, and general capacity to identify their own needs and respond in an efficient and effective manner to meet the new state standards. In addition, through the expansion of parental choice through charter schools, the Education Reform Act provided incentives for local districts to address low performance.

The Education Reform Act was a detailed and far-reaching piece of legislation that affected many aspects of K-12 education beyond the core reforms of standards, assessments, finance,and accountability. A short list includes educator licensure, professional development, educator evaluation, vocational education, charter schools, school budgeting and accounting, district hiring authority, and technology utilization.

Nowhere does it say it vacates MA Law Chapter 43 or parts 33 or 34. The School Committee still manages the buildings for Educational purposes. Even the MSBA shows that it is the School District that has to vote give up a school and state it no longer has educational value.

The former City Manager declared in a SUN story that the School Dept. had control over the building and the City needed permission. She was the Solicitor then. Nothing has changed in either law so why do school departments have control over buildings in some cases and not others?

If her assertion that Ed Reform eliminates Chapt. 43 sections 33 and 34 why does the MSBA require School Dept to vote to declare Schools no longer needed? By her opinion issued on Friday the school department and committee have no say in using a building for a school.

Then why can’t the City declare the present site surplus now and see who might be interested redeveloping it and put it out for bid stating the city would pay rent until a new school is built? My guess is the law won’t allow it but as someone who may or may not have to vote on declaring a building needed or not for educational purposes one day I’d like a more defined ruling.

The city owns the building. City Manager Bernie Lynch said to sell it, the School Department would have to declare it as surplus. Additionally, it would have to be put out to bid before any offers are entertained.

Here’s hoping a State Court, makes a law based ruling on who exactly has the power and responsibility.

If a School Department and School Committee have to say a certain building isn’t needed, would they not have the same responsibility to say where one is needed?

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One thought on “In Support of Mayor Kennedy- Defining School Committee Responsibilities

  1. Joe Smith

    If there is an added $3.2M cost to the annual expenses of the school committee, then it is fairly obvious that they should have a say. If the City council forces the school committee to accept this cost, then it would be incumbent on them to provide that revenue. And that commitment raises the 30 year cost of the Cawley option by at least $96M, for which the taxpayers should have a say.

    Reply

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