School district transparency called into question by Mattapoisett parent

Dec 8, 2020

MATTAPOISETT —While it appears that Mattapoisett’s kindergarten through second graders will return to full in-person school in January, parents are not through criticizing the district’s behavior leading up to the decision.

Mattapoisett Concerned parent Stephanie Clark submitted an open meeting violation complaint on the basis that, ahead of an Oct. 22 meeting, the Mattapoisett School Committee failed to notify the public within 48 hours of its happening. 

“Right now, I don’t trust them to be transparent,” Clark said of the Old Rochester Regional School District. 

Clark noted that for many of the school committee meetings, links to Zoom meetings provided within the agenda are not clickable, and in-person attendance is not offered. 

Though, separate links for zoom meetings are typically offered alongside meeting agendas on the district website. 

Clark said she feels it’s critical to have accessible meetings, especially when they’re offered online-only for the public. 

“And it’s [School Committee Chair Jim Muse’s] decision that we can’t meet in-person,” she said.

Clark’s complaint was filed on Nov. 16, and the school committee was given 14 business days to respond. 

According to legal counsel Clark received from the state Attorney General’s office, that 14-day period ended on Dec. 7, the day of a Mattapoisett School Committee meeting. 

But Clark had not received a response by the deadline. 

She brought up the issue at the Dec. 7 meeting, but was cut off because she interrupted to comment, and was not given permission to speak by the committee chair. 

Going forward, Clark said she’d like to see more transparency from the district.

She noted that feasibility data for a return to in-person school was released on Oct. 30, but solutions had not been discussed publicly ahead of the Dec. 7 meeting. 

Clark also advocated for more frequent meetings of the school committee, a measure that was brought up by parent Allison Costa at the Dec. 7 meeting. 

“Last night was the very first time we talked about” a plan to return to in-person learning, Clark said. 

“And I’m sorry, but I can’t trust you when we asked for this back in August,” she added.

And as far as Mattapoisett Concerned is concerned, the effort to return students to in-person school is not over. 

Clark said that if in-person learning can be worked out for kindergarten, first and second grade, “maybe we can figure it out for fourth, fifth, sixth and so on.”