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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 Committe, 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 intervention or 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. ur district has a long standing commitment to academic excellence and social justice. Itis 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 bas 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 lawyer’s 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, ur request is based on the ongoing inability ofthe 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 public’s 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 -Hrassing and accusing central office staff of not releasing personal property and calling the police 0 the scene “Knowingly violating the superintendents contract in the process of her evaluation and refusing fo redress the situation when given the opportunity by the regional chair “Consistently undermining administrators and committee members in public meetings “Rallying political supporters fo augment the intimidation and bullying of school committee ‘members and school employees [Asan example in our most recent and fifth executive session regarding the superintendent, one member reatoned the committee with litigation if said committee did not agree to redact names and personal information from exeeutive session minutes and the superintendent demand letter. When members expressed concer about intentionally violating open meeting law, the individual membes said if the cr ievite did not tedact, he would definitely sue, and followed by saying, “I'll et you. When another committee member asked, “Are you threatening us?” he replied in the affirmative. \We are continuously witnessing knowing and wanton disregard forthe laws and policies that guide our public service, and yet feel impotent to stop it i we ae to stay within the laws guiding our serics Be rae nal 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 tha later, More importantly, however, ithas rendered our roles as public servants untenable and sa fective, The depth of bullying and animosity has made our work literally impossible and puts the district at enormous tisk. ‘Two valued school committee members have recently resigned primarily due tothe dysfunetion ofthe current committee. Our inability to fulfil our obligations of school committee members i especially dire given the important car tpming up tis year, including contract negotiations with all three unions, ongoing discussions of Mirrepional assessment method, and the potential of consolidating the regional middle ané high school, ou fel as an ongoing effort to regionalize our elementary schools for fiduciary and educationa! reasons, Finally the district will need to search for anew superintendent, This is adifiult askin any disc but eine Ge 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 mater Sincerely, Laura Kent shone Katherine Appy| phone| Sarah Dolven ‘Anastasia Ordonez Phoebe Hazzard ce; Senator Stanley Rosenberg Representative Ellen Story peerett Tohnston, Senior Associate Commissioner, Accountability, Partnerships and Targeted Assistance