The Policy & Programs Subcommittee of the Greenfield School Committee met on July 6, 2023:
This subcommittee is chaired by Glenn Johnson-Mussad and has Elizabeth Deneeve and Amy Proietti as members. This particular meeting was fairly brief, running only about twenty-five minutes.
Following roll-call and approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, the meat of the agenda kicked off with some discussion about reorganizing the subcommittee section of the School Committee website along the lines of the main School Committee’s meeting page to make it easier for the public to find subcommittee meeting agendas, minutes, and links. There was general agreement on this topic, and Chair Johnson-Mussad said he will talk to the superintendent about getting it done.
From there, the subcommittee moved on to the topic of their long-running review of the district’s policy manual. Chair Johnson-Mussad noted that the policy review process had gotten a bit messy and said that he has now gone back through old meeting minutes and gotten things back on track.
The first policy section up for discussion at this meeting is BDE, “Subcommittees of the School Committee”. The current published version of this policy states “The School Committee will have the following standing committees,” but then does not list the subcommittees.
Member Proietti suggested removing the language referring the specific subcommittees since they change from year to year and “are somewhat fluid.” Chair Johnson-Mussad noted that an argument for including standing committees is to establish consistency but suggests that the School Committee chair can establish new subcommittees. He’s fine with not having the language in the policy.
Proietti also raised point number 5 of the current policy: “The Committee chairperson and Superintendent will be ex-officio members of all special subcommittees. She said that the committee’s legal counsel is not prepared to support that provision, on the basis that is generates confusion regarding what counts as a quorum for meetings and can lead to Open Meeting Law problems.
Chair Johnson-Mussad made a motion to recommend replacing current Policy BDE with the version from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. That version contains neither the specific subcommittee list nor the ex officio membership language). This motion passed unanimously and will now go to the full School Committee for a final vote.
Next on the agenda was Policy BDA, “School Committee Organizational Meeting”. This policy sets the rules for the meeting held each January, at which the School Committee selects its Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary for the year ahead.
Based on the discussion here, it sounds like there were a number of questions and concerns coming out of this past January’s organizational meeting, particularly around public comment and the timing of the meeting. There was some back-and-forth among the subcommittee members here as to whether these questions should be addressed as part of this policy or elsewhere.
Member Proietti had a few questions about where the impetus for adding public comment to the organizational meeting comes from. Noting that other school committees in the area do not have public comment prior to election of new officer, she cited the general practice of taking public comment on a case-by-case basis at special meetings. Chair Johnson-Mussad noted that the question of who is elected School Committee Chair has a big impact on the committee and the schools and that the public ought to have input via comment.
Member Deneeve noted that whether or not there is public comment seems to happen at the whim of the Chair. She suggested that they should move toward making the organizational meeting be its own special meeting, stating the current situation is messy and that the process should be set—“The only person who would benefit from this [no comment at the org meeting] is someone who wants to be in control.”
Prioetti suggested that the discussion of how the organizational meeting is held—including how the agenda is set—should be separate from this particular policy. There was some discussion this point as to whether the outgoing Chair should be able to set the agenda for a future meeting when they will no longer be Chair. Proietti stated that this was not a hill she wanted to die on but that she w is opposed to the suggested change to this policy.
At this point, the subcommittee then voted on a motion add language to the policy specifying that public comment would be take place prior to the election of new officers. The motion passed with Johnson-Mussad and Deneeve voting in favor, and Proietti voting against. This recommendation will also now move to the full School Committee
With that the subcommittee adjourned.