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I am not sure who has said it or where I read it or where I may have heard it but we will never really know the whole truth regarding the contract negotiations between the Superintendent and the School Committee.
It took me a while to read through the set of six School Committee Executive Session meetings (link here for the pdf copies of the six meetings) but I have come to the conclusion that the turning point in these negotiations was not what occurred in those meetings but what occurred during the January 6th discussion between School Committee representatives, Mayor Jim Milinazzo and City Solicitor Christine O’Connor, and School Superintendent Chris Augusta Scott and her attorney, Michael Gallagher, outside the meeting.
Jen Myers article in today’s Sun recaps what occurred and her opening paragraph indicates why an initial offer was never made: “A three-year contract offer drafted by the School Committee in early November was never presented to Superintendent of Schools Chris Scott or her attorney, Michael Gallagher, because Scott did not agree to the format in which the committee wished to negotiate, according to executive-session minutes released yesterday.” That decision took place at the December 20th meeting.
If you read the minutes up to January 6th, the School Committee was going back and forth on what they wanted to offer the Superintendent and the terms of the contract. But they were in the process of putting together some kind of a proposal (see 12.29.10 minutes): “a three year contract at $170,000 per year; zero, zero increase each year; the new performance evaluation; salary increase tied to the United Teachers of Lowell (UTL) for the third year of the contract; travel allowance of $300 per month; $3,600 per year
That evening the proposal for the three-year contract was rescinded; “the committee began discussing the pros and cons of a one year deal.”
According to the 12.29.10 minutes:
It was discussed that if they do come back with a counter proposal, the Committee could go through the process of a formal vote. The Mayor indicated that no final decisions have been made. To be fair to everyone, members could still change their minds either way.
Mr.Conway stated that he, for one was in the middle aisle, and there was a possibility that someone could change their mind.
Mr. Conway moved: ‘To authorize Mayor James L. Milinazzo and City Solicitor, Christine O’Connor to report to the Superintendent and her attorney that as of yet, there has not been a counter proposal that has gained the support of a majority of its members. APPROVED
Now back to the January 6th meeting:
Ms. Laraba stated that there has been a lot of conversation but no contract has been offered except the initial one.
Ms. Laraba moved: ‘To offer Dr. Chris Scott a successor contract for two years with the same pay and benefits; seconded by Ms. Martin for discussion. On roll call Ms. Laraba had the only affirmative vote. All other members voted in the negative. One yea; six nays. DEFEATED
The Committee goes into recess and the Mayor and the Solicitor go out to meet with Superintendent Scott and her attorney. Once they returned the minutes reflect the following:
The pros and cons of a one year contract were discussed further.
The Mayor and the Solicitor also reported that there was a request that they meet with her Attorney on Monday.
Ms. Martin moved: ‘To authorize the Mayor and the City Solicitor to meet with the Superintendent and her Attorney Michael Gallagher on Monday, January 10, 2011 to continue negotiations; seconded by Mr. Conway. On roll call Ms. Laraba had the only negative vote. All other members voted in the affirmative. Six yeas; one nay. APPROVED
We will never know what was said, heard and understood during the 1 ½ hour discussion between the four of them on January 16th. After that everything fell apart. So now we are searching for a new Superintendent and Dr. Scott is looking for a new place of employment.
What prompted Dr. Scott cancel the January 10th meeting and go to the newspaper a week later. I do not think we heard that decision full explained. And I do not believe in the conspiracy theory that a cabal inside the SC wanted her out to put in an insider; I do believe that there were members who were beginning to be dissatisfied with her performance; and I also believe that the SC’s inability to come up with a consensus in a timely manner is problematic.
That is why, I was baffled that they voted down School Committeewoman Alison Laraba’s motion to appoint an interim Superintendent. Last Monday the majority voted to begin the process of searching for a new Superintendent, with a target date of April 20th. It is going to be very difficult to do. Maybe it would have been better if the SC had slowed things down, appoint an interim and let emotions calm down a bit. We are going to go through this process and if we do not succeed, we then scramble to find an interim?
Right now the majority of the media (mainstream media and new media) is blaming everything on the School Committee members; some more than others. Dr. Scott does get good press and unfortunately some of the SC members never do. They will have to take their arguments directly to their constituents.
I am not sure if the “populist” movement led by the editor of the Sun and the President of the United Teachers of Lowell will result in challengers to the School Committee. I do not have the knowledge nor the tools to measure how much true displeasure there is with this school committee. I know that some people are baffled with the turn of events but angry enough to have a major change in the School Committee? I do not think so.
It would be great to have a number of people emerge as challengers not because they support Dr. Scott but because they believe that they have something to offer our school system. I really think that if a challenger comes on the scene and their sole purpose is to throw out the people who in their estimation did not support Dr. Scott, they will have a difficult time garnering popular support.
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