2016-03-10 / Opinion


School Proceedings Need Transparency

To the Editor:

At the Feb. 25 Middletown School Committee meeting, the committee voted unanimously to extend the employment of four administrators, including the Middletown superintendent.

Unfortunately, it appeared there was quite a bit of confusion as to whose contract was being considered and for what period of time. Although employment contract data was probably available to committee members, information was not provided to the audience, nor was it available on the committee’s website.

I watched the proceeding on local cable TV, but the broadcast was abruptly terminated before consideration of the employment contracts. I wrote to School Committee Chair Theresa Spengler to ask for help in clearing up confusion related to administrators’ contract extension dates and shared my following understanding:

From past minutes and from the Feb. 25 meeting, I understand the following to be true:

•In July 2013, the School Committee approved renewed contracts from June 2013-June 2016;

•In June of 2014, contracts were extended one year, bringing the contract end date to June 2017;

•At the Feb. 25 School Committee meeting, it appeared to me and other attendees that the committee voted to extend the employment contracts for an additional year, bringing the end date to June 2018.

Subsequently, however, Superintendent Kraeger was quoted in the local press as saying the administrators’ contracts expire in 2019.

It may be that the committee clearly understood what they were approving, but it was disconcerting to me and to others in the audience that the committee appeared confused as to whether the expiration date was 2017, 2018 or 2019.

My hope is for the School Committee to resolve the discrepancy in contract expiration dates. I would imagine Middletown’s citizens would also appreciate an explanation of why there is a need to extend contracts years in advance of their expiration date.

I would also like to bring forth problems of transparency and public disclosure that I encountered.

Minutes are not posted in the 35 days after meetings, as required by section 42-46-7 of the Rhode Island General Laws. Additionally, minutes in most cases do not include or provide links to relevant information considered by the committee. Acronyms are rarely explained.

Agendas do not include or provide links to information to be considered by the committee. For example, the Feb. 25 agenda notes only that contract extensions are to be considered. The agenda does not include a listing of the contractual positions and expiration dates. Like the minutes, agendas are replete with unexplained acronyms. Linked agendas are now common practice for most city and town councils and school committees. They should be for the Middletown School Committee as well.

In sum, it appears to me that the proceedings of the School Committee are, at this point, neither transparent nor complete. I hope you will agree the citizens of Middletown expect and deserve better.

Anne Murphy Middletown

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