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School Committee Majority Rejects Controversial Meeting Minutes

The committee meets for more than two and a half hours to discuss the approval and release of minutes from recent executive sessions.

Reports differ on whether a motion was approved last month at an executive session (which takes place behind closed doors) of the Attleboro School Committee calling for the creation of a superintendent search group. Rival versions of minutes from the session released late Thursday tell opposing stories. The committee's legal consultant says the motion was never made.

A controversy erupted last week after School Committee member Brenda Furtado  that the majority of the committee had voted at a May 7 executive session to form a superintendent search group. School Committee member David Murphy told The Sun Chronicle after the meeting that he didn't know what she was talking about.

After more than two and a half hours of closed-door discussion on Thursday, the school committee voted 5-3 (opposing votes coming from Furtado, Ken Parent and Barbara Craw; Teri Enegren was not in attendance) to reject the minutes from the disputed May 7 executive session. However, the committee unanimously voted to release the minutes as well as the minutes of several other executive sessions. The decisions were announced to the public after Thursday's executive session concluded.

Shortly after 11 p.m., School Committee Chair Mike Tyler sent an e-mail to the local media featuring two sets of minutes for the May 7 session and an opinion on the minutes from attorney Edward Lenox. Both sets of minutes are signed by Craw, who serves as the board's secretary. She also e-mailed to Attleboro Patch, shortly after midnight, a copy of her handwritten notes that she said were made during the May 7 session.

[All the documents are attached to this article.]

Both sets of minutes state the following:

A motion was made to have the Attleboro Public School Committee direct the members of the Executive Board to offer a one (1) year contract extension, in accordance with the motion that was passed on June 8, 2011, extending the Superintendent’s current contract for the time range of July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 with the same salary and benefits as defined in the current contract for the 2011-12 School Year, with no additional contract extension or no new contract offered or provided.

The documents differ in the description of the discussion that took place after the motion was made. One document states, "[Furtado] stated the intent of this motion means there will be no new extension or no new contract offered or provided to the superintendent and that this committee would move forward with a superintendent search." The other document does not include this feature.

Both documents also state that Chair Tyler said, "the committee could send a letter defining the parameters and then tell the superintendent of their intent to go out for a full search for superintendent."

Furtado's motion was approved by a 5-4 vote, according to both documents, with Murphy, Chris O'Neil, Fran Zito and Bill Larson voting in opposition. 

Craw said Thursday that the minutes she submits to the board for approval are based on her notes along with possibly some additions and/or corrections based on the notes of district staff recording secretary Judy Nelson. With both sets of mintues for May 7 signed by Craw, it was not clear late Thursday/early Friday whose notes the documents were based on and which document (or if it was both) the committee had considered for approval (and rejected).

In his legal opinion, Lenox wrote that he had only read "the draft minutes prepared by recording secretary Judy Nelson." The attorney wrote that Furtado's motion made no mention of a superintendent search group and he noted Tyler's statement about a superintendent search. 

"Based on a review of the draft minutes, therefore, it is evident that the school committee did not vote at the May 7 executive session to move forward with a superintendent search," Lenox wrote.

Following the meeting, Murphy released a statement to the media:

The motion that passed in executive session on May 7th was poorly written and ill-conceived. It stated what was already true by virtue of the existing contract. By finalizing that contract, we did so to the exclusion of any other contract. The final clause was superfluous and legally meaningless.

There was no need to state that no additional contract was being offered when Dr. Durkin had not indicated any intent whatsoever to seek an additional contract. The drafting and disclosure of this motion was an attempt to reject something that was never proposed, in a petty attempt to harm the superintendent’s reputation. It was not an effort I felt compelled to join.

This motion did not even mention, never mind trigger, the initiation of a superintendent search committee. Any assertion to the contrary is a deliberate deception.

Patch will have more information on this story soon.

Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 11:23 AM
My other at large vote went to Mr. Tyler. I enjoyed him when he was on to board a while back. I think he is great at keeping the meetings moving and is very professional. It was a struggle to watch the meetings over the last two years because they were so off the wall and went in no particular direction. Mr. Tyler has brought organization and professionalism. People say the committee is dysfunctional and unprofessional. Have you seen school committee meetings in other towns where there are a lot of differences in opinion? Have you watched town meetings? Have you been in other political venues? If not, you should. Attleboro is no different; it is because it’s happening in our hometown and more noticeable. I’d rather have this board then the last and I’m especially glad to have this board over the board that sat 5+ years ago where parents and residents had no voice and no representation. I'm done now. I've been holding back my comments for 2 12/ years!
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Ms. Robinson, no one every said that Mrs. Zito is not a contributing member of the community. But, if you watch the meetings you can't help but notice that at many times she does not know what the commiteee is voting on and when the camera pans over when her neighbor is speaking, there are times when she is nodding off. No insult here at all, just actual observations. She is a sweet lady and a large contributer to this community but not a very large contributer as a member of that particular group.
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 12:08 PM
All I can add to this is, have you met Mr. Lancaster? I am not impressed. Let's not support someone just because they are bashing. Let's be real and base our opinions on what we know first hand, personally. Not by rumor or based on someone's article.
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Helen, I feel embarassed for you. Mrs. Zits???? Not nice!
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I have had the pleasure of talking with Mrs. Zito at community events. She is a sweet lady who cares but hasn't come to realize the needs of our children in 2012. It's not just about crayons and kudos. It's much, much more. Our children face serious challenges in these times and she just hasn't kept up. No disrepect at all.
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Youre right, she won't read this and won't ever get an email I send her with concerns. She isn't keeping up with the times and understanding what we as parents go through compared to the way things used to be. Our schools are micromanaged by our state's goverment, otherwise we wouldn't have MCAS! If I had my way it would be "let the teachers teach!" They know best -- NOT the State of Massachusetts!
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Seriously?
Sarah Curtis June 30, 2012 at 12:59 PM
@ Wendy thanks! As a parent, a good parent...all of you are going to want to hear the way my child who let me just add is a child on the spectrum (Autism...for all u uneducated ones) has had his IEP violated multiple times, services flat out not being provided in and ya didn't meet ANY of the projected goals that were written. That's just a couple of the things that are a problem. But Wendy mark my new web page it will be up by the end of this weekend and going National!! www.schoolsneedchange.com Please support us!!!!
Wendy Stavros June 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Good for you! I have heard first hand from friends that our district is having issues with service (not) being provided for our special ed students. That is shameful! Again, my opinion is being based on factual information given to me first hand from friends and their experiences, not from reading about others or from rumors.
Sarah Curtis June 30, 2012 at 01:23 PM
These are facts for sure I also have docs to back up everything I say! I am loud, and an in your face kind of person even when happy but always speaking truth!! Not only services not being followed but punishing him for telling??? I heard there is some policy about that??? And punishing him as a direct result of his disability because they failed to provide him those services...again proof to back my story!! It keeps on going. If u want to know more just keep checking back to our website, we are trying to tie up all the legal loose ends now.
Steve fuller June 30, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Sarah, I support you, I guess I just don't like the way you write..
SD June 30, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Good point Wendy....it is the state of Massachusetts that manages education in our state. Dr. Durkin takes her direction from them to be sure that she is implementing what they mandate. People meme it sound like she makes this stuff up as she goes along.
Sarah Curtis June 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM
@ Steve...Thanks..?...Sorry for that as never claimed to be a superstar in ELA! And with a max character field I feel pressured and bothered!! But I am a very loving, supporting, caring, nurturing and ohhh determined mother to set records STRAIGHT so our son can start 6th grade next yr like he so rightfully is GOING to CORRECTLY! (period)
blueskies June 30, 2012 at 02:19 PM
As long as they never discuss SC issues at family events...they are a quorum of the executive sub committee...so that could violate open meeting law
RANDERS June 30, 2012 at 02:42 PM
@blueskies. The executive board is not a subcommittee. They do not vote on issues. So, they can discuss all they want and not be a quorum. You may want to check Roberts rules of order.
blueskies June 30, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Really? Didn't realize this...thought they were the one's negotiating with super before that situation blew up. Must admit I don't watch meeting et al...get most of what I know from writers here... Thanks for correcting my misconception.
RANDERS June 30, 2012 at 03:01 PM
@blueskies, it's my understanding that they are supposed to negotiate parameters with the superintendent and then bring those back to the committee. They do not get to vote as a separate body like subcommittees do.
blueskies June 30, 2012 at 03:06 PM
@randers..you are probably 100% right..like I said I follow them by what is written here...and sometimes that is very confusing...thanks again
RANDERS June 30, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Did anyone notice the mis-statements of Mr. Murphy. In this article and in the Sun Chronicle yesterday he was quoted as saying ""This motion did not even mention, never mind trigger, the initiation of a superintendent search committee........" But in the minutes of the closed meeting it states that there was discussion, it just wasn't part of the motion. I feel that I was led to believe that the conversation never took place. It mentions Mr. Tyler's suggestion to split the motion and inform the Superintendent that a search would be formed and Mr. Murphy is noted as being against the search. The conversation did take place it just wasn't a part of the motion. But if you vote to not extend or offer a new contract and only approve a contract that ENDS in 2013 then you have no other choice but to seek out a new superintendent. Otherwise, why would Murphy have voiced his objection if it wasn't part of the discussion? I dont' understand. Also, it was discussed that if the Durkin wanted to stay beyond July 2013 she could reapply.
K. Taylor July 01, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Blue skies - Please take this respectfully, but you cannot always get the truth on these postings. You should contact committee members and ask questions and then read the attachments that Patch has posted. Many of the posters here are the same people for example - Ty Smith and Fedex are Helen Johnson - who lost to Furtado in the last election, she tried to defame her in the election and is a sore loser and trying to defame her here on Patch. It is also known that Robbie Willehmere (I know I spelled this incorrectly) is posting under and alias. She backed Helen Johnson in the election and also was devasted when she was ousted out of the school committee due to allowing the Superintendent to run the show. There was a conflict of interest because Durkin's husband was either Robbie's boss or her husbands so she would not challenge Durkin because she was afraid of reprecussions. I have read all the minutes from the meeting. Apparently the recording Secretary and the School Committee secretary both show that a discussion was held regarding a superintendent search. Mr. Murphy and Mr. Tyler both acknowledged this. So how can Mr. Murphy state that he did not recollect this. Then try to turn it around to say it was not in the motion. I don't believe anyone denied it not being in the motion. The issues is with him implying that it was never discussed. Blue skies at least this the truth. You cann look up these facts on your own.
s. bothelo July 01, 2012 at 02:11 AM
I see everyone blaming the school committee again for Dr. Durkin's short commings. The prior committee was blamed and now this new committee. How many committees do we have to go through before the blame is put where it is deserved? on Dr. Durkin. It seems to me she has trouble getting along with most people and unless she has her people on the committee she is not happy. It gets pretty old to keep blaming everyone else for your own faults. The committee is not at fault here only Dr. Durkin and it is right that her time has come to an end. We need to focus on repairing our school system and not on someone who has reached her maximum potential as a superintendent.
blueskies July 01, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Thanks for the advice k.Taylor...will keep what you say in mind...I have seen the comments that Helen is Ty and fedex...I am amazed as I sure don't know how one can figure that out...I didn't know Robbie w was here using an alias..that is something I will definitely watch for! One thing I do know about her tho...(a friend o mine knows her sister)..mr durkin is not and was not her boss. He is a teacher in a special needs program that has "mini-programs " all over southeastern MA(I had a foster child in this program ) and he is definitely 'only' a teacher. Robbie is more like a principal in the program but a totally different population and age group than mr. Durkin. Actually Robbie has the requirements to be a superintendent...not just in the special program, but even in a city like Attleboro
Steve fuller July 01, 2012 at 01:54 PM
They all need to go, rehire, reinspire, and find a group that can come back and work together as a team.
Sarah Curtis July 01, 2012 at 03:22 PM
AMEN @ Steve Fuller!!! The whole administration is rotten right down to its core!! I mention my website on here and what I'm going to be doing and just like that 2 actual telephone calls from committee members yesterday....hummmm!!! Problem is parents shouldn't have to feel pressured to go to these lengths to get help..
Gretchen Robinson July 01, 2012 at 07:44 PM
None of us on Patch was at that executive session so all you critics of one side or another are just recycling arguments about something you didn't see on video or in person. That means we fall into two camps and lob arguments at one another. More and people pile onto one or another bandwagon. How foolish that we make assumptions about what happened depending on our preconceived biases. We need to identify our biases as part of thinking clearly about issues. I think the SC has been dysfunctional for a long time. Critics of one side or another are failing to use critical thinking skills, and in this way, are not modeling for our children how to work collaboratively to get a job done and how to get the best out of city employees. Critical thinking is not about being critical or demolishing another person's point of view. It's about critical skills we need to teach children and need to demonstrate ourselves: logic, clarity of thought, not letting your biases or assumptions get in the way of hearing the other person's side of a discussion. It's about second order thinking--thinking at the time and reflecting on your thinking process. Check this out or google it yourself. http://www.criticalreading.com/critical_thinking.html also wikipedia
Steve fuller July 01, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Perfect Gretchen!
Gretchen Robinson July 01, 2012 at 09:51 PM
when a well-run meeting ends, everyone knows and agrees on what was accomplished, what was proposed, voted on and what the outcome was. Sounds like this Executive Committee was meeting sloppily run. It's the responsibility of each member to act in a constructive manner. We can disagree about who was trying to be constructive, but in any case, either you are part of the solution -- or you're part of the problem. If you have a contingent, or even an individual who comes in with a disgruntled attitude, that needs to be addressed. Maybe they all need a Robert's Rules of Order with them.
OBIA CHIBUZOR May 10, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Mr presdent made a remark on the merging matter.
OBIA CHIBUZOR May 10, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Mr. president made a remark on the merging matter.
OBIA CHIBUZOR May 10, 2013 at 02:23 PM
i feel thrill have such a great chance in joining grammer group.

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