Lighthouse kerfuffle; Mattacheese f-bomb

First: Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School brouhaha

Charges of ethics violation were untrue

By Walter Brooks

We are blessed on Cape Cod with having a system of almost exclusively excellent public schools. But one of the prices a good but strict school pays for its achievement is the resentment of parents who don't get what they think is their due, or simply a rumor which races through the institution.

That is often true as in the case of Nauset Middle School Principal Maxine Minkoff arbitrarily dropping the school's acclaimed merit-based classes without informing parents or justifying the decision, and perhaps, not even informing her superintendent before embroiling the school is a major snit-fit.

It is equally untrue, however, in the case where some parents at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School (CCLCS) heard the school was under an ethics investigation by the state for unethically accepting gifts from a local business. The resultant brouhaha threatened to tarnish the school's well-earned reputation.

A phone call to CCLCS Director Paul Niles was answered immediately, the rumor dispelled, and a quick email to us explained in detail what actually happened, see the email below.

Dear Mr. Brooks,

There is no truth to the rumor that staff at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School have received preferential treatment towards free memberships at the Mid-Cape Racquet and Health Club.

In December of 2011, officials at the club made staff at our school aware of a promotion that the club was running. The promotion was for a free 3 month trial membership. This is a common marketing promotion that the Club makes to a variety of targeted audiences. At various times, the promotion may be directed towards residents of a certain community, members of certain professions like teachers, or people from mailing lists targeting special demographics.  This is a common marketing technique for health clubs on Cape Cod in the winter.

Before club personnel made school officials aware of this offer, we were assured that our solicitation was part of a more general marketing strategy. In fact, staff were told they could make anyone aware of the offer, reinforcing the fact that this was part of a wider marketing strategy.

For the record, only a few school staff members availed themselves of the marketing offer. The Mid-Cape is an excellent Club. I myself am a member independent of this promotion. People interested in membership opportunities should feel free to call Vickie Burke or Bob Majewski at the club.

Second: The f-bomb and worse did occur at D-Y's Mattcheese Middle School

Math teacher throws fit, then desk, were the students in danger?

It was a totally different story and response when we called the Dennis-Yarmouth Region about several reports we received from readers about a problem this week at the Mattacheese Middle School in Yarmouth.

The two responses demonstrate perhaps the difference between a 21st century school and a 20th century one. It may also demonstrate why the D-Y Region is bleeding students through school choice.

We have meet with D-Y's superintendent twice at some length, and wonder why a phone call wasn't considered where she might have talked personally and off the record to end this kerfuffle sooner.

Three days ago we received a series of emails detailing what happened.

The first email said that some students were let out of gym 15 minutes late for a math class. Upon arrival the teacher was infuriated, gave them extra homework and uttered the f-bomb in some sort of manner.

A second email added that the teacher "lost it" and threw a desk across the room. Another said he is not known for being the best math teacher, and that parents have actually refused to have their child in his class.

The rumor now has it that the Mattacheese principal sent him home, and he has to take some sort of anger management class, and he hasn't been back to school since.

We were also informed of the teacher's name which we will withhold unless asked by police to disclose it.

The sad part of this tale is that it took us three days to get a response to our repeated emails and phone calls to the D-Y superintendent's office.

The complete text of an email from Carol Woodbury which arrived today is below.

Good Morning Walter:

I am writing in response to your request to confirm and/or respond to information on an incident that others have informed you occurred at the Mattacheese Middle School.  I am sure that you are aware that I cannot comment on or confirm any information related to personnel matters. 

It is our typical protocol to separate the staff member
from the situation.
By law, I cannot disclose the details of a personnel matter because such information is considered "personnel information" and is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Law, either verbally or in writing. However, I can tell you the procedures the District uses in the case of an allegation against a staff member. 

It is our typical protocol to separate the staff member from the situation.  Often times this takes the form of administrative leave with pay while the District investigates the allegations, because allegations are not proof that someone committed certain behavior and employees should not be disciplined until the allegations are proven.  Depending on the nature of the complaint it could be just a school investigation which involves interviewing people (often other staff, students, and parents). 

It could also involve notifying the police, depending on the nature of the allegations.  The actions taken by the District after the investigation is completed are based on the findings.

Assuming that the alleged conduct is confirmed, a range of actions are possible, from a verbal reprimand to dismissal, and everything in between.

As I am sure you are aware, it is important for me to follow the law while protecting our students and staff, so that the process is fair and equitable and so I do not jeopardize the outcome of any personnel matter.  While this can be frustrating for some, my job is to make sure the right outcomes are reached for the sake of the  students, staff, and the families that entrust their children to our care.


Carol A. Woodbury
Superintendent of Schools
Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District
Administration Center
296 Station Avenue
South Yarmouth, Massachusetts 02664-1898
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