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School Committee Majority Rejects Controversial Meeting Minutes

The committee meets for more than two and a half hours to discuss the approval and release of minutes from recent executive sessions.

School Committee Majority Rejects Controversial Meeting Minutes

Reports differ on whether a motion was approved last month at an executive session (which takes place behind closed doors) of the Attleboro School Committee calling for the creation of a superintendent search group. Rival versions of minutes from the session released late Thursday tell opposing stories. The committee's legal consultant says the motion was never made.

A controversy erupted last week after School Committee member Brenda Furtado  that the majority of the committee had voted at a May 7 executive session to form a superintendent search group. School Committee member David Murphy told The Sun Chronicle after the meeting that he didn't know what she was talking about.

After more than two and a half hours of closed-door discussion on Thursday, the school committee voted 5-3 (opposing votes coming from Furtado, Ken Parent and Barbara Craw; Teri Enegren was not in attendance) to reject the minutes from the disputed May 7 executive session. However, the committee unanimously voted to release the minutes as well as the minutes of several other executive sessions. The decisions were announced to the public after Thursday's executive session concluded.

Shortly after 11 p.m., School Committee Chair Mike Tyler sent an e-mail to the local media featuring two sets of minutes for the May 7 session and an opinion on the minutes from attorney Edward Lenox. Both sets of minutes are signed by Craw, who serves as the board's secretary. She also e-mailed to Attleboro Patch, shortly after midnight, a copy of her handwritten notes that she said were made during the May 7 session.

[All the documents are attached to this article.]

Both sets of minutes state the following:

A motion was made to have the Attleboro Public School Committee direct the members of the Executive Board to offer a one (1) year contract extension, in accordance with the motion that was passed on June 8, 2011, extending the Superintendent’s current contract for the time range of July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 with the same salary and benefits as defined in the current contract for the 2011-12 School Year, with no additional contract extension or no new contract offered or provided.

The documents differ in the description of the discussion that took place after the motion was made. One document states, "[Furtado] stated the intent of this motion means there will be no new extension or no new contract offered or provided to the superintendent and that this committee would move forward with a superintendent search." The other document does not include this feature.

Both documents also state that Chair Tyler said, "the committee could send a letter defining the parameters and then tell the superintendent of their intent to go out for a full search for superintendent."

Furtado's motion was approved by a 5-4 vote, according to both documents, with Murphy, Chris O'Neil, Fran Zito and Bill Larson voting in opposition. 

Craw said Thursday that the minutes she submits to the board for approval are based on her notes along with possibly some additions and/or corrections based on the notes of district staff recording secretary Judy Nelson. With both sets of mintues for May 7 signed by Craw, it was not clear late Thursday/early Friday whose notes the documents were based on and which document (or if it was both) the committee had considered for approval (and rejected).

In his legal opinion, Lenox wrote that he had only read "the draft minutes prepared by recording secretary Judy Nelson." The attorney wrote that Furtado's motion made no mention of a superintendent search group and he noted Tyler's statement about a superintendent search. 

"Based on a review of the draft minutes, therefore, it is evident that the school committee did not vote at the May 7 executive session to move forward with a superintendent search," Lenox wrote.

Following the meeting, Murphy released a statement to the media:

The motion that passed in executive session on May 7th was poorly written and ill-conceived. It stated what was already true by virtue of the existing contract. By finalizing that contract, we did so to the exclusion of any other contract. The final clause was superfluous and legally meaningless.

There was no need to state that no additional contract was being offered when Dr. Durkin had not indicated any intent whatsoever to seek an additional contract. The drafting and disclosure of this motion was an attempt to reject something that was never proposed, in a petty attempt to harm the superintendent’s reputation. It was not an effort I felt compelled to join.

This motion did not even mention, never mind trigger, the initiation of a superintendent search committee. Any assertion to the contrary is a deliberate deception.

Patch will have more information on this story soon.

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