ORR School Committee members debate stipend

Sep 12

MATTAPOISETT - Old Rochester Regional School Committee member James Muse believes committee members should receive a stipend, and some of his fellow members agree.

“We as a group are elected officials. This is an enormous responsibility,” he said. “We’re required to take an ethics class. We take an oath to perform our duties for the benefit of the public good…This is very important.”

Muse suggested that the committee members weren’t respected for their roles within their communities, and that a stipend would help remedy that.

“I’m suggesting a stipend because it recognizes that we’re not just volunteers,” he said. “I’ve heard that said a thousand times. We’re not volunteering. We’re committed for three years.”

Muse added that he has been elected three times - and not because of his political prowess.

“I’ve never had an opponent because it’s not a respected position,” he said. “…We should stand up and say we are an important committee. We supervise this administration, we evaluate this administration, we set budgets, we negotiate contracts…This is not small and it should be recognized.”

The stipend doesn’t need to be a significant amount, Muse said. It’s the principle of the matter.

“The money is not the issue,” he said. “I believe it is necessary to show that minimal respect to create that full connection and codify a contractual relationship.”

Board member Michelle Smith agreed with Muse, pointing out that other elected officials in the three towns get paid.

“The Board of Selectmen gets paid, the Tree Warden gets paid,” she said. “The Fall River School Committee members get a stipend.”

In Marion last year, the Board of Selectmen received $4,902 as a stipend. Muse suggested a nominal amount, mentioning $100 or “a couple hundred” dollars.

Joe Pires agreed, adding that when he said he was running for school committee he didn’t get a lot of positive comments.

“It’s not the dollar amount, it’s the principle,” he said. “I’m not a volunteer. I have a commitment. When I have to drive here in the middle of the day to sign something, that’s my responsibility to my constituents.”

However, ORR senior and School Council member Alex Wurl felt that asking for money from the school budget would be hypocritical of school committee members.

“You guys are looking to benefit the school,” Wurl said. “By removing money from the budget that would be counterintuitive.”

Committee member Debbie Dyson also spoke against the idea.

“I would not be comfortable being paid,” she said.

Chair Cary Humphrey suggested that committee members go home and do their own research on the matter, and they could discuss it again at the next meeting.

“It’s a fairly controversial thing, so to be able to vote on it we probably need to spend more time on it,” he said.