Saturday, August 21, 2010

Region 1 Probing For Truth?

I attended yesterday's Region One Board of Education meeting because, thankfully, it was scheduled at a time when I could get there.

Those in attendance implored the Board of Education to dig deep in its investigation into why the two top administrators at Housatonic Valley Regional High School resigned within a week of each other and with less than a month to go before the start of school.

As she did at Monday's meeting, Spanish teacher Mary O'Reilly read another statement that called for the resignation of board Chairman Judge Manning and urged the central office to stay out of the running of the high school (former principal Jack Mahoney later echoed O'Reilly's last point). Then O'Reilly started talking about "greed" and "corporate America." It was not clear what those two issues have to do with the situation at our high school. Any guesses?

For his part, English Department Chairman Damon Osora reiterated his belief that there is no "hostile" work environment at Housatonic, but he fears that the public will now operate under the assumption that there is, largely because of "the rhetoric" that has been thrown around at the meetings.

Another woman (an alumna) who sat behind me brought what seemed to be her two children with her and bellowed about what a tragedy this was and even wondered aloud whether the opening of school would be postponed. She also called for additional -- but unspecified -- resignations at the top.

Even after her comments, the woman continued to snicker and rumble while members of the preliminary investigation committee tried to go about their work. It was a display of disrespect for the board members, who are -- after all -- volunteers with day jobs.

It's obvious that board member Phil Hart wants Woods Sinclair to head the investigation. In addition to referring explicitly to Sinclair, Hart characterized the work the future probe leader would do in terms of "he" and "him." No matter, the retired Sinclair is a longtime former head of the English department at the high school and is also widely respected for his work on Falls Village boards and commissions. I think he would be a terrific choice.

The most newsworthy tidbit came from board member Gale Toensing (no surprise there), who said she "has heard rumblings" that if the probe is perceived as biased, there is a group of citizens who are prepared to investigate on their own and seek the legal authority to interview employees and gain access to documents.

It was an interesting and mostly productive meeting. But the anger and dismay is still out there. My question is how long it will persist and whether the board can use this opportunity to increase public confidence in its integrity. Will the board merely circle the wagons or will it take positive steps to make the kinds of changes necessary to achieve badly needed stability in a shaken institution?


  1. I already see the board attempting to not only regain the respect of the public, but also regain authority over the administration. It won't be an easy or quick process...but at least it has begun.

  2. Agree, Marshall. The long process has begun, but we have miles to go and promises to keep.

    I think some guy from Vermont first said that ...