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Williamstown Education Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Williamstown School District for terminating the employment of former teacher Rebecca J. Meier in 2008. (MORE AT THE TRANSCRIPT)
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Ten second graders from Williamstown Girl Scout Troop 36 show television viewers how to conserve water in a two-minute spot they produced at WilliNet, Community TV for Williamstown, according to Debby Dane, executive director of the public-acess TV outfit.
Dane says the eight year olds spent the winter studying the Girl Scout curriculum "The Wonders of Water." The unit is a specific Girl Scout leadership program focused on the science and conservation of water. Troop 36 has earned four badges on this subject.
The girls wanted to produce a TV spot to share what they had learned with the community. Their water conservation tips can be seen on channel 17 in Williamstown or at willinet.org on the main page.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation is hosting Wednesday morning bird walks beginning at 7:45 AM from now until July, according to an email from Leslie Reed-Evans, the foundation's director. She says she will lead the one-hour walks on Sheep Hill in Williamstown and other areas close by. Participants should meet at Sheep Hill to carpool to these nearby destinations.
Sheep Hill offers a variety of habitats, and its resident birds include Eastern Bluebird, Baltimore Oriole, American Kestrel and Barn Swallow. Nearby woodlands offer the chance to glimpse the brilliant Scarlet Tanager or one of the more shy thrushes. Many birds are heard more often than they are seen, so learning their songs is an important tool for identification. In addition, we will focus on recognizing birds by their behavior and habitat. The outings are easy to mildly strenuous and and are appropriate for bird watchers of all skill levels. Participants should have sturdy foot wear, and bring binoculars if they have them. WRLF has some binoculars to lend. Hard rain will cancel the program.
Sheep Hill is a conservation property and the headquarters of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, a non-profit, member-supported land conservation trust, and is located about one mile south of the Williamstown rotary on Route 7. For more information about the bird walks, the WRLF and its summer events and programs, or conservation planning, contact the WRLF at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 413-458-2494.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Two debt-exclusion votes, which will give Mount Greylock Regional High School the budget requests it sought from Williamstown if endorsed by Town Meeting next week, won 2:1 tonight in a town election which also saw three of three incumbents re-elected. Debt-exclusion Question No. 1 passed, 1,020-546 and Question No. 2 passed, 1,037-528.
All figures were provided by Town Clerk Mary Kennedy and are preliminary.
Selectmen Tom Costley and Ron Turbin won re-election, overtaking challenger Richard Haley. And Margaret McCormish won re-election to the Williamstown Public School board, along with Valerie Hall. Challenge Huff Templeton lost. And in the race for town moderator, where incumbent Stanley Parese chose not to stand for re-election, attorney Mark Gold beat Fred Leber, 1,102 to 320.
Tom Costley -- 1,017 Ron Turbin -- 1,007 Rich Haley -- 690 Writeins -- 7
Margaret McCormish -- 910 Valerie Hall -- 845 Huff Templeton -- 453
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Former Williamstown Elementary School teacher Rebecca J. Meier received a $50,000 settlement and agreed to resign in July of 2009 in a previously-secret agreement which resolved a dispute between her and the school, documents released today by the town of Williamstown appear to reveal.
The records were requested by The Transcript, of North Adams on April 30 and later by the author of this blog. The town made them public today via an email attachment sent by Town Manager Peter Fohlin to Bill Densmore and to Meghan Foley, the reporter for North Adams daily newsppaer who had requested them. Under the Massachusetts Open Records Act, the town had until today to make the records public or fight the request.
Included in the town's disclosure was one page of the July, 2009, settlement agreement, with Meier's name redacted, a printout of a "check history" from the town showing two payroll payments made to her (also with her name redacted), totaling $50,000, an email describing the mechanics of paying the settlement from School Supt. Rose Ellis, with the name redacated -- and Meier's one-sentence resignation letter, unredacted.
The documents provide no hint of why Meier resigned. The method of disclosure -- blacking out Meier's name on most documents, appeared to sidestep a looming dispute with the Massachusetts Teachers Association over whether disclosing the payment and Meier's name was an unwarranted invasion of her privacy or a diclosure of personnel records. See EARLIER STORY.
Fred Leber, a candiate for town moderator in Tuesday's municipal election, had also requested information about the Meier settlement via an email to the town accountant on April 26. The town moderator appoints members to the Finance Committee, which oversees and approves town budgets. Leber says the FinCom was never made aware of the 2009 settlement.
One thing not provided by the town on Monday was any information that would confirm whether the Williamstown School Committtee took a public vote on the settlement at the time it was completed. Although the state Open Meetings Act permits public boards to deliberate about a personnel or legal matter in closed session, any vote implementing a policy must be taken and recorded in open sessionM.G.L. Chap. 39, Section 23B says votes have to be recorded and included in the secret minutes. The law does not require the vote be in public session. But it says the vote and minutes should become public once the lawful purpose of the secret session no longer applies.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The Massachusetts Teachers Union (MTA) threatened court action on Friday and requested that school officials delay release of records about a supposed $50,000 payment in 2009 to a former teacher, characterizing the request as involving a "personnel action." The union is asking that the town seek guidance from the state before their release. The town agreed when it signed the agreement not to discuss or communicate about its terms "except as required by law."
In a May 7 letter to Joel B. Bard, Williamstown's Boston-based legal counsel, MTA attorney Ira C. Fader writes that although the Massachusetts Open Records Act requires release of public records within 10 days of a request, "the town would not be in violation of its obligations by requesting an opinion of the Supervisor of Public Records regarding its obligation in these circumstances." The letter was provided to this blog by the school.
Fader's letter proposes that "rather than have to seek a temporary restraining order from a court on Monday, I am certain we can accommodate the interests of the town, the school district, the association and the individual through a mutual and timely discussion."
A staffer at the MTA office in Boston said at 4:15 p.m. on Friday that Fader was at the annual meeting of the MTA, the state's largest teachers union. She said she would leave a message for him to call. Mr. Bard, the town lawyer, relayed a message through a staffer in his Boston law office that he would not speak to this blogger, referring inquiries to town officlals.
An official at the Williamstown Public Schools said the school district, Lynn Sadlowski, noted that the school district, under the state Open Records Act, has 10 days from receipt of a document request to comply. She said the district had not made any decision about how to react to the MTA's letter. The MTA attorney said he had received a letter from the town "concerning your intention to release certain documents on MOnday, May 10 . . . . "
In a letter dated May 6, school Supt. Rose P. Ellis advised in a letter to William P. Densmore Jr., the citizen who requested the documents: "We expect this review will be completed within the statutory response time of ten days, on or before May 14th. My office is in the process of segregating the requested documents from our extensive files and redacting information that is related to personnel or contains specific names. Furthermore, we have a contractual agreement to contact staff at the Williamstown Educational Association within five days prior notice of disclosure." The association is a local unit of the MTA.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The chairman of the Williamstown elementary school committee has responded to a Massachusetts Open Records Act request for public documents and says the school administration is working to comply. The request, filed by local resident (and GreylockNews.com blogger) Bill Densmore, seeks information about whether the school board entered into an agreement in 2009 with a former school employee that ended a complaint the employee had brought.
Town resident Fred Leber, who is running for Town Moderator in Tuesday's annual town election against Mark Gold, said he had raised the issue in discussions and emails with town officials. Leber says he is concerned that the cost of the alleged settlement agreement -- he says he has heard from school sources it was $50,000 -- might not have been reflected in budget or other financial documents seen by Williamstown Finance Committee. The FinCom is appointed by the town moderator.
For source email exchanges, and a link to the open-records act request submitted by this blogger, click on this link.