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August 22,

2016
Mitchell D. Chester Ed.D
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden MA 02148-5023
Dear Commissioner Chester,
We represent a number of members of the Amherst Pelham Regional School
Committee, to seek your assistance in dealing with a crisis in our community. Our
school committee has become dysfunctional and non-responsive to a significant
portion of the community. Certain members have incited members of the public so
that meetings of the School Committee have deteriorated in shouting matches
where certain people are threatened because of their race. The work of the School
Committee cannot move forward in this environment, and with the recent forced
resignation of the Superintendent, the school district is stagnating. We therefore
request that you consider offering us immediate assistance so that the important
educational work of the district can move forward and the students of the
community do not suffer the consequences of a school district in disarray.
Our district has a long standing commitment to academic excellence and social
justice. It is one of the highest performing districts in the state. We have been
recognized by the state for our success in meeting the needs of our diverse student
population. This record of success is now profoundly imperiled.
For several years our school administrators, especially our superintendent, have
been the target of harassment by a small group of community members and two
members of the regional school committee. This has included, but is not limited to,
threats, defamation, bullying, and breaches of contractual rights.
Six (6) weeks ago, in response to these attacks, our superintendent issued a
lawyers demand letter seeking a settlement to separate from the district. During
the ensuing six weeks, the school committee has met for more than twenty (20)
hours of executive session to negotiate a settlement and avoid litigation.
Although we believe the superintendent was unfairly attacked, this request is
separate from that concern. Our request is based on the ongoing inability of the
current school committee to function as a collaborative body. We no longer feel
capable of sitting in private or public sessions with two of our colleagues who
routinely engage in the following:
-Name-calling
-Bullying in meetings
-Obstruction
-Complete disregard for other committee members and the publics time by
stonewalling conversation by dominating the discourse
-Harassment by calling members multiple times a day
-Routinely leaking documents

-Posting negative and false characterizations of fellow committee members and


school employees on social media
-Publicly disrespecting the committee, the district, and its employees by
perpetuating false public narratives about individuals and bodies in the newspaper
and social media
-Harassing and accusing central office staff of not releasing personal property and
calling the police to the scene
-Knowingly violating the superintendents contract in the process of her evaluation
and refusing to redress the situation when given the opportunity by the regional
chair
-Consistently undermining administrators and committee members in public
meeting
-Rallying political supporters to augment the intimidation and bullying of school
committee members and school employees
As an example, in our most recent and fifth executive session regarding the
superintendent, one member threatened the committee with litigation if said
committee did not agree to redact names and personal information from executive
session minutes and the superintendent demand letter. When members expressed
concern about intentionally violating open meeting law, the individual member said
if the committee did not redact, he would definitely sue, and followed by saying, Ill
get you. When another committee member asked, Are you threatening us? he
replied in the affirmative.
We are continuously witnessing knowing and wanton disregard for the laws and
policies that guide our public service, and yet feel impotent to stop it if we are to
stay within the laws guiding our service as school committee members and not be
subject to vicious and public attacks by a small but vocal segment of the
community.
The level of vitriol by these two members has brought deep emotional distress to all
of us who are signing this letter. More importantly, however, it has rendered our
roles as public servants untenable and ineffective. The depth of bullying and
animosity has made our work literally impossible and puts the district at enormous
risk.
Two valued school committee members have recently resigned primarily due to the
dysfunction of the current committee.
Our inability to fulfill our obligations of school committee members is especially dire
given the important work coming up this year, including contract negotiations with
all three unions, ongoing discussions of our regional assessment method, and the
potential of consolidating the regional middle and high school, as well as an ongoing
effort to regionalize our elementary schools for fiduciary and educational reasons.
Finally, the district will need to search for a new superintendent. This is a difficult
task in any district, but one that is made nearly impossible in a district with the level
of dysfunction within our school committee.
We request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss this urgent matter.

Sincerely,
Laura Kent
Katherine Appy
Sarah Dolven
Anastasia Ordonez
Phoebe Hazzard
cc: Senator Stanley Rosenberg
Representative Ellen Story
Russell Johnston Senior Associate Commissioner, Accountability, Partnerships
and Targeted Assistance