Bullying by D-Y selectmen is unacceptable

Budget should not be threatened over personnel flap
It's time for the Dennis and Yarmouth selectmen to stop their bullying. Wiki Commons.

The continuing dispute between the Dennis and Yarmouth Boards of Selectmen and the D-Y Regional School District took an ugly turn this week with the implication that disharmony over a personnel matter might carry over into the school budget process.

D-Y has enough trouble with their budget without implied threats to school funding by selectmen who are, in this editor’s opinion, on the wrong side of the issue.

In their letter of September 2, 2015, the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee states that “state law, including student records laws and regulations, FERPA, and state privacy laws prohibit us from disclosing more details.” 

Please note that the school committee isn’t hanging their hat on any local personnel policies – they cite only state and federal law.  This should be the end of the story.

Instead, we hear selectmen complain over the scolding they received in the school committee’s letter.  Perhaps the selectmen need a timeout to remind them of everyone’s obligations under the law. 

We hear talk about adding recall capability to the district agreement.  Truly, we support every elected official being subject to recall. 

However what would be the grounds to recall members of the school committee – that they refused to violate state and federal law?  Will future school committee elections be framed over whether a candidate will uphold state and federal laws?

Put yourself in the administration’s shoes

Meanwhile, D-Y Superintendent Carol Woodbury remains the lightning rod for selectmen and parents alike. 

Does anyone honestly think that Superintendent Woodbury (or Mattacheese Principal Ann Knell) wanted to keep a teacher in the classroom after he was accused of a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student?  When the police found no prosecutable offense, the administration’s hands were tied by the law.  They made the necessary reports to the state teacher licensing authorities and a process apparently commenced at the state level which led to the teacher surrendering his professional license.

Student privacy, employee privacy and the Dennis-Yarmouth teacher contract are the framework within which the administration is forced to work.  Had the teacher been charged with a criminal offense, we expect he would’ve been suspended while the case was adjudicated.

In terms of Ms. Woodbury reporting to the school committee on individual teacher personnel matters, that all changed under education reform some twenty years ago.  The Education Reform Act of 1993 shifted teacher hiring from the school committee to the administration.

I believe Carol Woodbury would have more than plenty to say if she could.  Carol remains silent because her hands are tied under the law.

Stop the bullying

It’s time for the Dennis and Yarmouth selectmen to stop their bullying.  I don’t agree with the law anymore than the selectmen do, but the school committee and superintendent are acting as required under the law.

Dennis-Yarmouth is one of the Cape’s most troubled school districts.  It continues to hemorrhage students and money to school choice and charter choice.  The perennial school budget battle between the two towns has undermined staff morale and parents’ confidence in the schools’ ability to serve their children. 

Meanwhile, there’s a group trying to form a new charter high school specifically to target under-served students from D-Y.

Any selectman who even implies that this dispute might affect the school budget process is no better than a schoolyard bully.  The school committee and administration can’t fight back – they just have to stand there and take the beating.

If Dennis and Yarmouth devoted half the energy to improving their schools that they devoted to spitting venom over this personnel matter, D-Y would be a far stronger school district.

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