Cambridge school board prepares to fill vacancies
The remaining members of the five-person board voted unanimously to fill the seat left vacant by former president Dr. Kerri Brown by election.
Brown resigned earlier this month citing "malevolent" treatment from the board and Superintendent Vince Canini. Her exit followed the recent resignation of board member Peggy McLenithan in October.
A special election is already scheduled to fill McLenithan's seat, set to be held on Dec. 3, from noon to 8 p.m.
Board Vice President Lillian Herrington and board members Paul Baker-Porazinski and Dr. Thomas Wolski agreed the as-yet-unscheduled second vote should be held on the same ballot as two upcoming capital project propositions, if possible.
"I think that's the fairest thing for the community," said Wolski. "The unfair thing is that people have to come out again."
The next scheduled meeting of the building committee is Monday. If they do not have the building project proposal ready for a late February or early March vote, a second special election may need to be held.
Feb. 4 is the latest date that the school may advertise for candidates. If the fifth board vacancy continues after 90 days, District Superintendent of Schools James Dexter would be put in the position of having to appoint someone.
Previous discussions by the board regarding McLenithan's resignation had all members agree they would prefer not to put Dexter in that position.
Herrington expressed concerns over the lack of three members on the audit committee, charged with going over the warrants for school business.
"I was told we no longer have an audit committee because we are supposed to have three members, which we do not," said Herrington, who moved to advertise for new candidates, citing a state law which she believed requires five members.
The motion did not pass.
Canini said the issue of the audit committee had been discussed at length and the board meeting was not the right forum to have the discussion again.
"The policy Lillian is referring to was a guideline from 2008," said Canini, who recalled that at a recent policy committee meeting the board had agreed to wait until new policies were put in place before going forward.
"We have an internal claims officer who goes through the warrants," said Canini.
Wolski said while he has yet to go over the warrants for this month, he typically reviews them on his own time, as other board members are welcome to do.
"I would suggest we see what the comptroller says about it," said Wolski of the visit scheduled for the next day. "We can continue to review the warrants [individually], I think that's probably more convenient for everyone."
Wolski said he doesn't anticipate any financial disaster on the horizon for lack of an official audit committee.
"We're in the process of complying," said Baker-Porazinski. "You're making it sound like we're failing to do anything," he said, addressing Herrington. "We're well on our way. We're moving forward in a cautious, effective manner," continued Baker-Porazinski.
Herrington maintained that the issue should be addressed as soon as possible. "It was suggested by Jim Dexter that we not have a budget committee because we're going to be looking for a new superintendent," she said.
Canini disagreed, and said he was present at a lunch during which the issue was discussed. "It was Kerri's suggestion, not his -- just to clarify," said Canini.
Herrington also said she wished to address rumors that her residency has been questioned. "I would like to know why, or who, questioned that I don't live in Cambridge," said Herrington, to a silence from those in attendance.
She continued, "I want to make it perfectly clear that I am a resident of Cambridge," citing a possible cause for the rumor as stemming from recent, frequent trips to Cohoes, N.Y., to care for her ailing 96-year-old mother.
The vice president also abstained from a vote on several routine athletic appointments, due to her relation in some way to all three of the recent hires.
Despite being encouraged by both of her fellow board members to vote due to the special circumstances of having a diminished body, Herrington abstained, requiring the vote to be tabled.
The motion will be picked up again next month, and the appointments will go forward in the interim, despite not being officially voted on.
The board also agreed to ask the communication advisory committee to continue their work laying out a plan of action following their recommendations to the board in September regarding ways to improve the community's knowledge of CCSD news and events.
Committee volunteers Colleen McDonald and Naomi Marsh said they would be happy to continue, with more direction from the board.
"We talked about a lot of different possibilities," said McDonald. "But some of them require funding. It would be nice if [the instructions] were a little bit more focused."
The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. and is set to include the fourth member, to be chosen from among three candidates, who will take office on Dec. 4.
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