How can Dr. Jefferson take unilateral action in firing?

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The School Committee’s recent meeting addressing citizens’ concerns left me with more questions than answers.

1. Willie Wickman said she never received reports confirming investigations about the issues leading to the citizens’ petition to vote on censuring her committee. The issues prompting the investigations have been in our three newspapers since February. Last January, before I talked to the Harvard Press and collected signatures for a special education audit, I called Mrs. Wickman. She said she couldn’t talk about whether checks had been cut to parents because of confidentiality, but assured me that everything was done correctly and was above board. How is it possible to read the papers, hear discussion before the warrant article for a special education audit, and not be aware of town sentiment?

2. Will Verbits described how parents can unilaterally decide to place their children in private schools and later ask the town for reimbursement, which can lead to expensive litigation. In my mind, tuition costs are still many times the legal costs of preparing, at worst, for a DOE hearing. More importantly, if our schools operate in fear of litigation, a parent need simply choose a preferred school and threaten to sue unless his tuition is reimbursed. Or does that only work if you are on the School Committee?

2. Will Verbits described how parents can unilaterally decide to place their children in private schools and later ask the town for reimbursement, which can lead to expensive litigation. In my mind, tuition costs are still many times the legal costs of preparing, at worst, for a DOE hearing. More importantly, if our schools operate in fear of litigation, a parent need simply choose a preferred school and threaten to sue unless his tuition is reimbursed. Or does that only work if you are on the School Committee?

3. Don’t judge Dr. Jefferson on hearsay; he’s entitled to due process. What about Margaret Grogan? Why did she lose her job on hearsay? Why isn’t she entitled to due process?

4. And what about site-based management — a keystone of Ed Reform? Mrs. Grogan was Charles Horn’s secretary, and he didn’t want her dismissed. Why/how can Dr. Jefferson unilaterally make such a decision?

5. If the town is obligated to pay Dr. Jefferson to leave, should the SC members who opted to extend his contract be personally responsible for the $150,000 they added to the bill?

6. Mrs. Wickman and Stu Sklar explained that the power of school committees was severely limited with the Ed Reform Act of 1993. Mr. Sklar quoted the single sentence that delineated school committee jurisdiction. Mentioned first was “the power to select and to terminate the superintendent.” With such a limited scope of power, shouldn’t the SC be able to do a better job of selecting/terminating, particularly having spent at least $25,000 to hire a consultant to assist them?

7. Is the School Committee aware of how Dr. Jefferson treats his staff? I received calls from school employees applauding my petition simply because of their dislike of Jefferson, citing his intimidating tactics and their fears of retaliation. At least one employee called from a pay phone to insure anonymity.

8. Mr. Verbits gave a summary of special education regulations, and pointed out that even if students attend private prep schools, the town is responsible for providing IEP services. As a special educator, I frequently provide services to private school students, but they are required to come to my public school classroom. Why doesn’t Harvard likewise insist prep school students make use of Harvard’s special educators during Harvard’s school day in Harvard’s school buildings?

9. In February, I contacted the director of DOE’s Program Quality Assurance Services and was told that Harvard had not filed documentation for sending students to private schools that were non-approved special education schools. Failing to file such documentation, we lost circuit breaker money. Why didn’t we follow regulations? Are we now following requirements, which include ‘a thorough search for approved programs’ at least annually?

Sincerely,

MARGOT HOLTZMAN