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Dear York Community Members,

I am responsible for the FOAA request that recently generated documents


related to York School Committee candidate Cheryl Neiverth. I would like to
address much of the speculation surrounding that FOAA request.
Most importantly: The FOAA request did not seek information related to Ms.
Neiverth’s family or any child. The request was limited to “correspondence that
is between the York School Department and York School Committee Candidate
Cheryl Neiverth concerning access to property.” No request was made for
information pertaining to Ms. Neiverth’s family, any child or student, or the
curriculum of any child, and I did not receive any such information.
Why did I initiate the request? Upon learning of her candidacy for the School
Committee, several concerned community members told me that Ms. Neiverth
had been restricted from accessing school property after exhibiting intimidating
or threatening behavior. These allegations left me with concerns about Ms.
Neiverth’s ability to work respectfully and collaboratively with school staff,
teachers, administrators, and parents. Because I had no independent knowledge
of these allegations, I used FOAA to determine whether any publicly available
records validated the allegations. To ensure my position on the School
Committee would not factor into the School Department’s consideration of the
FOAA request, and that I only received information that was publicly available, I
asked a friend with no association to the York School Department to submit the
FOAA request.
The publicly available documents I received in response to the FOAA request
spanned several years and multiple superintendents. They included
correspondence regarding limitations placed on Ms. Neiverth’s access to school
property and staff, and descriptions of the circumstances that resulted in those
limitations. One example includes an expired 14-day “Notice to Cease
Harassment” issued by the York Police Department to Ms. Neiverth, together with
associated police reports, ordering restrictions on contact with the persons or
property of Village Elementary and the York School Department.
I believe these documents corroborate the concerns raised by community
members. Recognizing that I am not a neutral party, I shared the documents
regarding Ms. Neiverth’s restricted access to school property with Deborah
McDermott of the York Weekly. I believe the York Weekly is best-positioned to
investigate the reliability of the documents, provide Ms. Neiverth with an
opportunity to respond, and ultimately determine whether the information is
relevant to our upcoming election.
I have no intention of sharing the documents publicly. I also had no intention of
describing them in any manner here. But due to the inaccurate information that
has been provided on this forum and the resulting fear that children’s
confidential information is at risk, it has become necessary to share this
information.
Anonymity: The several community members who originally raised concerns with
me about Ms. Neiverth’s behavior were unsure how to raise those concerns to
the community and were understandably fearful of professional or personal
repercussions. I also feared retaliation for myself and my family, and carefully
weighed whether to become involved. That is also why I initially provided the
documents to Ms. McDermott anonymously.
An unintended consequence of my anonymity is that a tremendous amount of
misinformation has been spread in the community, with a resulting unwarranted
backlash against the Superintendent and the staff of the Central Office.
In response to that misinformation, members of the community have expressed
understandable concern about the public release of private information
concerning Ms. Neiverth’s family. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no
release or publication of any information concerning Ms. Neiverth’s family other
than what Ms. Neiverth has divulged on Facebook. It is also my understanding,
based on Ms. Neiverth’s statements on Facebook, that Ms. McDermott has
offered Ms. Neiverth an opportunity to address the records. I do not know the
results of that offer but hope that Ms. Neiverth will avail herself of the
opportunity to discuss the documents.
If the allegations regarding Ms. Neiverth’s behavior are untrue, then Ms. Neiverth,
a bright and fierce advocate, may be an excellent addition to the School
Committee, and as either a citizen or a fellow servant, I would be pleased to help
her collaborate with the administration as they shepherd the schools through
ongoing transition and continue to work towards excellence.
I respect Ms. Neiverth’s passion. It is imperative that we advocate for our
children. And doing so often requires that we follow up where we feel others are
falling short. However, the ways in which we support our educators and
administrators, the tone and behavior we exhibit during disagreements, and the
manner in which we approach collaboration with staff are directly related to our
ability to effectively advocate for our children and our schools.
For those wondering, I did consider withdrawing my candidacy from the
upcoming election due to my involvement in this matter. But I strongly believe
I’ve done the right thing: pursuing public information though legal means is the
appropriate, ethical way to determine whether there is any merit to concerns
that directly impact our community. Indeed, I can think of no other way – without
these legal means, we are left collecting grains of truth from furtive comments
and online gossip. If you feel that allegations of threatening behavior towards
York school staff and administrators are not relevant to school committee
candidacy, then we just disagree, respectfully.
I continue to support York schools and York students, and welcome the
opportunity to continue to serve on the School Committee. I value honesty,
civility, integrity and respectful discourse, and I would appreciate your vote.
Meredith Schmid