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Committee won’t back exit interview or release minutes

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GROTON — A suggestion made at an earlier meeting, to conduct exit interviews with departing administrators, might not be going before the Policy Subcommittee after all.

The move came after member Paul Funch raised a number of policy issues at the committee’s meeting of July 11, the pursuance of which seemed to try the patience of some of his colleagues.

Funch’s actions sprang from an original request, made last month, asking his fellow committee members to conduct exit interviews with departing administrators — in particular with principals Joseph Dillon, Launa Zimmaro and Beth Raucci — whose resignations have raised questions among students, faculty, and the public about the role school Superintendent Alan Genovese might have had in their decisions to leave.

Funch had raised the subject of exit interviews with School Committee members at a previous meeting, but his request was turned back and he was advised to bring the matter before the group’s Policy Subcommittee for proper consideration, before presenting it to the full committee.

Following that advice, Funch returned to the full committee last week with just such a request and was met with another roadblock.

Committee member Chuck McKinney told his peers that in order for the Policy Subcommittee to consider the issue, it must first be requested to do so by a vote of the full School Committee. But before such a vote could be taken, fellow member Berta Erickson said it was her impression that the vote taken at the previous meeting, turning down the original request, was actually a decision to drop the whole subject.

Clearly uninterested in pursuing the issue, Funch’s colleagues showed little enthusiasm for his request.

“The fact that it is high on your priority list does not mean it is high on the priority list of anybody else,” scolded committee member Forrest Buzan.

On a second front, Funch also pressed for the release of executive session minutes from a meeting between the committee and Florence Roche Elementary School principal Launa Zimmaro, who resigned her position at the end of the recent school year. Zimmaro claimed that Genovese had attempted to prevent her from voicing complaints about him by seeking to suppress her freedom of speech.

With no action on her accusations taken by the committee in the wake of the private meeting, Zimmaro demanded the release of the executive session minutes. But upon the advice of legal counsel, the School Committee refused to do so.

In response to Funch’s request that the minutes be released, committee Chairman Cindy Barrett said it was “inappropriate” for him to ask for such an action, since he was not the aggrieved party.

When Funch insisted, adding that the committee had not provided any explanation for its decision not to release the minutes, Barrett replied that it was up to Zimmaro, as the party who had received the response from counsel, to make the request, not an individual member of the committee.

But Funch insisted that legal counsel’s response to the request was only an opinion and not meant to be a finding that the committee was bound to follow. Furthermore, Funch said the School Committee had no policy regarding the release of executive session minutes and challenged Barrett to find such a rule.

Forced to look up the committee’s policies, Barrett leafed through a thick binder until she found the correct policy. Reading it aloud, the rule stated that the superintendent or a pertinent subcommittee had the power to decide whether or not to release such minutes.

Unfazed, Funch disagreed with the rest of the committee’s interpretation of the policy. He insisted that the full committee was the governing body of the district and must give its approval for the release of executive session minutes.

Disagreeing with Funch, Barrett reiterated her position that if Zimmaro was not satisfied with legal counsel’s reply, it is up to her to make a request that the minutes be released.