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Mount Greylock Superintendent Succession Topic in Exec Session

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Executive session minutes from the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee show that the panel did discuss a succession plan for the district's superintendent behind closed doors, and the minutes shed light on the reason for the superintendent's subsequent departure.
 
In mid-July, iBerkshires.com filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against the committee alleging that, "at the very least, the School Committee's deliberations on July 1 strayed into territory not covered by the stated exception to the Open Meeting Law."
 
That meeting was one of four held in executive session for the stated purpose of conducting contract negotiations with nonunion personnel, specifically the superintendent.
 
An extemporaneous statement by committee member Al Terranova at a July 13 public meeting indicated that the panel did more behind closed doors than simply discuss contract negotiations.
 
"I thought at our [July 1] meeting, that the decision was we were going to hire an interim superintendent from now until June 30 [2021] and then, on July 1 [2021], get a full-time, three-year committed superintendent," Al Terranova said during the July 13 meeting.
 
iBerkshires.com contends Terranova — who went unchallenged by any other member of the School Committee on July 13 — clearly indicated that the panel had discussed its strategy for replacing then-Superintendent Kimberley Grady.
 
The committee issued a response through its counsel, Adam Dupere of Westfield, that did not address the allegation in the complaint and instead denied something that iBerkshires.com never alleged in the first place.
 
"... Mr. Terranova's statement was not accurate, as no such decision or decisions had been made by the Committee," wrote Dupere.
 
The Open Meeting Law complaint, again, did not allege that the violation was a "decision or decisions" but rather alleged the committee's violation was holding any discussion about succession at all. 
 
The redacted executive session minutes, provided this month to iBerkshires.com by interim Superintendent Robert Putnam, prove that allegation.
 
From the outset of the closed-door negotiations that began in May, it is clear that the "negotiations" were to negotiate a "buy out" of the last year of Grady's contract. Although she was entering the last year of a three-year deal with the district that called for her third-year salary to be negotiable, the School Committee was instead negotiating her exit.
 
Comments from the June 3 meeting attributed to Steven Miller read: "worth it in this case to payout the remainder of the contract, fan of searches, but in this case, would be willing to pursue acting superintendent, then a shorter term."
 
Carolyn Greene is quoted as saying: "I would support this. Exciting opportunity for everyone to move forward with good energy this year, and giving Kim [Grady] a chance to have more time to look for a new job, and the Committee to become more functional."
 
Later, the district's counsel, Dupere is quoted as follows: "[Andrea Wadsworth] interim, as first step, then need some time to line up the Acting Superintendent, and determine, process."
 
All those June 3 comments came long before Grady needed to take a medical leave from her post and at a time when Grady — who had been the focus of a social media campaign by some parents and former district employees — was still very much the public face of the district.
 
She participated in public School Committee and subcommittee meetings on June 4, June 8 and June 23. She participated in the Mount Greylock Regional School's graduation exercises on June 6. And on June 8 she moderated a community forum about racial issues hosted by the district.
 
When Putnam was hired as interim superintendent on July 5, the School Committee only told the public that Grady was out on medical leave. It did not reveal that it had been talking for more than a month about her impending permanent departure from the district.
 
At 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 11, iBerkshires.com posted a story noting a planned Monday School Committee meeting to vote on the "Search process for the selection of a permanent Superintendent."  Saturday afternoon, the district sent families an email "signed" by Grady but originating from a different district employee's email address announcing her departure.
 
"[T]he time has come for me to step down and attend to my health," read part of the brief, 179-word email.
 
The minutes of the executive sessions show that members of the School Committee were concerned about the public messaging when Grady departed even as they negotiated the terms of her buyout.
 
On June 17, Chair Christina Conry is quoted in the minutes as follows: "support a buyout now, despite possible PR hit." Later, a speaker who goes unidentified in the redacted minutes states, "May be able to explain that the buyout reflect past contributions to the district." Another note from the same meeting refers to: "Discussion of would be become [sic] public and what messaging would be." On June 25, the executive session minutes note that "Adam [Dupere] will work on generic statement for Christina to use & everyone else can refer people to her."
 
The only statement to date from the district was that July 11 email credited to Grady.
 
iBerkshires.com has repeatedly asked for copies of Grady's letter of resignation or even to be informed of the date of her resignation, if she tendered one. The district, through Putnam, has refused to provide that information.
 
A note from Dupere accompanying the executive session minutes says they were redacted to remove, "personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
 
Two passages that were incompletely redacted — i.e. still legible despite attempts to blacken out the text — show that neither all the redactions nor Grady's ultimate departure were medically related.
 
At the outset of the June 3 closed-door meeting, it is noted:
 
"Conry: Recaps that in last meeting we discussed possibility of ending Superintendent contract early, understanding that would entail pay out of the remainder of contract and concern about the continuity of services during the pandemic."
 
District personnel or Dupere attempted but failed to blacken out the words "ending Superintendent contract early."
 
Later in that same executive session, there is the following exchange:
 
"Ali [Carter] — OK if [Grady] wants to leave early, but preference for her to serve out the remainder, what are the benefits of leaving early?
 
"Christina [Conry] — more time for her to find a job, new leadership earlier rather than later;
 
"Jamie [Art] — window of opportunity to avoid public conversations that she might not want to have;
 
"Carrie [Greene] — working with school committee where majority of committee is not supportive; can be difficult; have a window to transition."
 
District personnel or Dupere attempted but failed to blacken out the entire comments from Art and Greene in the above passage.
 
It is unclear exactly when a majority of the School Committee ceased to be supportive of Grady.
 
In January 2018, three members of the seven-person panel voted to offer then-interim Superintendent Grady the job without going through a search. The School Committee ultimately agreed unanimously to post the job with language indicating the district had a "strong internal candidate."
 
In June 2019, four of six School Committee members gave Grady a grade of "proficient" in her first evaluation by the elected panel. She was to receive those evaluations annually, but despite repeated requests by her in the spring, the School Committee failed to conduct an evaluation process for the 2019-20 academic year.
 
She came to Mount Greylock (then the Lanesborough-Williamstown Tri-District) in 2010 as its special education director.
 
The middle-high school's special education program in 2008 had been cited six times for "partially implemented" criteria in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Coordinated Program Review. The towns' elementary schools (operating as Superintendency Union 71) in 2009 were listed by DESE as having three criteria only partially implemented.
 
In 2014, Mount Greylock had just one citation for partial implementation of a state protocol. The elementary schools had zero citations for partial implementation in 2015 (Williamstown) or 2016 (Lanesborough).
 
As interim and, later, full superintendent, Grady led the district through the building project at the middle-high school and the regionalization of three previously independent school districts with the complex renegotiation of contracts that entailed.
 
An online petition in March 2019 called for the School Committee to look into turnover in district positions and identified Grady as the reason. In response to a public records request by iBerkshires.com, the district reported, "there has been one (1) formal complaint made against Ms. Grady," from fall 2016 (when she was named interim superintendent) through May 2019.
 
Perhaps the best indication that the majority of the current school committee was "not supportive" of Grady — other than a member saying so in executive session — is this: Since her departure for a medical leave in early July, the committee has met 17 times in open session; not once has a member of the committee publicly acknowledged or thanked Grady for her 10 years in the district.

Tags: MGRSD,   superintendent,   

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Williamstown Planning Board Hosts Wednesday Panel Discussion on Cannabis

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's effort to reach a consensus on regulations for cannabis production continues Wednesday evening with a panel discussion hosted by the Planning Board.
 
As part of the board's yearlong effort to develop a zoning bylaw amendment that might pass at this spring's annual town meeting, it has scheduled a virtual event titled "Marijuana Cultivation: Issues and Opportunities," for 7:30 p.m. on the Zoom virtual meeting platform.
 
The chair of the Planning Board in Sheffield will join two attorneys from KP Law and the CEO of EOS Farm, a large cannabis cultivator in Pittsfield, to talk about some of the considerations that Williamstown faces in developing a new pot bylaw.
 
The Planning Board last year tried to update the cannabis bylaw passed hurriedly by the town in 2017 in reaction to the 2016's statewide vote to decriminalize recreational marijuana. That bylaw, still in effect, allows marijuana production by special permit in three of the town's zoning districts.
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