I’m disappointed that the current School Committee members aren’t standing up more for the rights and responsibilities of a School Committee member.
I reached out to the Mass Association of School Committee’s to see what they felt about the City Solicitor’s “ruling” and the seeming willingness of this current board to let their responsibilities get hijacked by the Manager and Council.
Here is their reply:
Chapter 70B has nothing to do with the “education reform act”. The ERA was enacted in 1993 and did not deal at all with school buildings or site selection. Chapter 70B was enacted in 2000 to reform and revamp the state process of school building assistance. The School Building Authority, through Chapter 70B was given broad authority with the regard to the application process for state assistance funding. The language of both the law and the SBA regulations determine an “eligible applicant” to be a city, town or regional school district. The requirements for approval at the local level are ambiguous in the statute – Chapter 70B Section 5 – “statement of interest shall be approved by a vote of the applicable local government body or bodies as set forth and in a form prescribed by the authority (MSBA).”
Not having all of the facts and not being an attorney, I cannot argue with the determination of the City Solicitor. However, I would say this. If the School Committee and the City Council aren’t on the same page the MSBA may simply move on to other projects.
On the subject of control of buildings and grounds, I would agree that, short of another applicable statute (city charter or home rule statute) or a prior action of the School Committee, there would need to be an action by the School Committee before the City Council could have control of a school building. Again, without all of the facts, I cannot comment on the specific situation you raised.
I am not especially familiar with the Plan E form of government or with Lowell’s specific governance but in most communities the School Committee would have a say in both areas.
“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
“All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”
Here was my email:
My name is Gerry Nutter and I am a candidate for the Lowell School Committee. Recently the current Committee with support from the Mayor made it known they felt they should have a vote in selecting the location for a New Lowell High School.
However the City Solicitor is ruling that under the Education Reform Act the duties and powers of a school committee are limited and in fact in her view the Ed Reform Act over rides the powers and duties given to school committee’s under the City of Lowell Charter Section 51 and MA state law Chapter 43 sections 33 and 34
O’Connor wrote that those provisions are superseded by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 70B, which was enacted in 2000 and created the School Building Assistance Program. That law and the relevant regulations that followed its adoption give the City Council the authority to select the high school’s design and location, according to O’Connor.
“General principles of statutory construction provide that when the legislature adopts new provisions they are presumed to have knowledge of already existing provisions,” she wrote. “New provisions, in particular more specific provisions, prevail over the earlier provisions … In short, with the adoption of Chapter 70B, provisions of chapter 43 are subsumed by the more comprehensive legislative scheme set forth in 70B, and therefore are no longer applicable.”
In addition the City Council recently voted to declare The Laura Lee Therapeutic Day School which is currently an open school – The Laura Lee Therapeutic Day School takes in the students whose behavioral diagnoses, PTSD, challenging home lives, or all of the above make it difficult for them to attend traditional schools, as surplus in order to sell it in homes of buying another building but without any vote of the existing school committee to declare it surplus.
As a candidate, I’m trying to understand what the role, duties and powers are for a School Committee member and why none of the present members are speaking out against what is going on. It seems the role of a Lowell School Committee member is to vote on the budget, engage in contract negotiations and that’s about it.
What does MASC view as the role of a School Committee member, do they NOT have control over the present and future school buildings and what exactly is their function?
Thank You for your time and consideration.