Thursday, November 4, 2010

School committee: There's no more sand for burying heads

Yesterday, an anonymous poster reported that our school superintendent filed a lawsuit on Monday. More of the story was reported this morning by George Brennan. Read it here.

Brennan reported that the lawsuit names the town, the school committee, and four individual members of the school committee as defendants. The superintendent is seeking $300,000 plus damages for emotional distress.

Everyone should be aware that “town” is short-hand for us, the residents and taxpayers of Sandwich. Insurance is unlikely to cover a judgment that involves willful negligence or wrongful acts and certainly would not pay for a valid contract.

Of course, all of this could have been avoided, but inaction has put the school committee in a deep pit. Even still, one of the four defendants said the focus should be on the budget and another is intent on spending money on a superintendent search.

Move on. Nothing to see here.


  1. Carl Johansen watched last night meeting and it becomes apparent that the four in question have in my opinion placed the whole town of Sandwich with the witch hunt political adgenda driven process,that they have engaged in a deep financial long term problem for our taxpayers and childrens future.

    When the dust all settles out, we the taxpayers will be paying the price no matter how this all plays out.

    I am sure that the next overide will cover all the finacial losses.

    Carl Johansen

    A concerned citizen of Sandwich

  2. This lawsuit is different from Richard Augustines' "promise".........isn't it?

  3. Yeah and Richard always keeps his promises! Now they are starting down the retaliation road (which is another separate damage award) by trumping up a negative evaluation months after they already fired her for no just cause. They need to look up Arbitrary and Capricious OMG can this get any worse for our childrens' education and our towns financial situation. Dr. Johnson has been treated horribly by these 4, what rational person would want to come and work with these crazy ignorant women? What is their plan, Cannone must have picked someone already to replace Dr. Johnson.

  4. Can anyone explain to me how the Fab 4 “wins” this one?
    And, what would victory look like?
    And, how much will it have cost us taxpayers?
    How much has it cost taxpayers already?

  5. According to the School department’s own web page:
    In 2009, the School Department spent $23,000 on legal services.
    The current fiscal year budget for legal fees is: $56,000.
    I’ll bet the actual cost is closer to $100,000.
    Next year? Who knows?

  6. This is crazy. Who's fault was it that the Friday night meeting was not posted? Isn't that the person who should be sued? School committee members should be able to follow their concience and make a vote without being worried about being sued if someone does not agree with that vote.
    Everyone knows that there were some serious issues with Johnson's performance. Those SC members were elected because they saw those problems.
    What could they possibly be sued for?
    When someone is suing their employer, aren't they usually escorted out of the building? How can she build a budget knowing she is hoping to take some of that money?
    Is the town going to countersue her for the Minkoff mess that she created?

  7. "Everyone knows that there were some serious issues" Who's everyone and what were the serious issues?

    The Four Stooges have yet to specify what their problems were.

    Minkoff was fired by the last School Committee with the approval of school counsel (same counsel that advised this School Committee about Dr. J's contract) --- maybe you could sue him?

    " follow their concience" ? How about -- "follow instructons from the Teachers union leadership".

    This is like a really bad joke.

  8. I watched the BOS meeting last night and I'd like to know where the School Committee members were. There are some serious issues that needed to be addressed - the roof replacements, the FY12 budget. I have to thank Dr. Johnson for being at the meeting to advocate for our schools. But, why wasn't a single member of the SC there? They decided not to extend her contract and decided to move forward with a search firm, but if they are not prepared to participate in dealing with big school issues in the interim, then I find it hard to support them in any of their decisions.

  9. Sherry/chair and Linehan/vice Chair could give a rats as- what the BOS and Fin comm tell them, Sherry says the schools are separate from them all. Sherry and Jess are running the budget and town money has no affect on school money according to Sherry. Their plan is an override and inciting the parents/teachers with scare tactics soon. Sherry "thats town money not our school money"

  10. To the last poster who knocks the school chair for calling money "school money". Anyone with half a brain would know she was talking about the monies allocated to general government as opposed to money allocated for schools. If you have a better way of explaining, then you should let our town mothers and fathers know, and maybe then they would speak in a manner that is consistent and understood when speaking of the separation.

    You sound like a Superintendent supporter, one who knocks the majority of the committee in a manner that shows your anger.

    To the person who wrote about how nice it was for Dr. Johnson to attend the Selectmen meeting, I would ask, does your last sentence mean that you will not support the school committee if you agree with them?

    I think I have had it with all of you as you have had it with me. Don't be nasty as the three minority members of the committee. It is unladylike.

  11. 6:48 Few things need correcting from your post. People are angry about how our schools are being destroyed by 4 conflicted women who obviously (past 6 months of meetings on video) are not working for our children and have never worked in the business world or supervised anyone. If they had any supervisory experience they would know their actions have been negligent and now they are so ignorant to labor law and have obviously decided it's time to run down the retaliation path. They really think people can't see thru this too?
    Sherry over the years has never cared or now i realize was ignorant as to how her decisions have raised our taxes, she says oh this is terrible, but she has shown many times she is gonna run her show.
    Taxpayers and parents just want answers to their bizarre decisions and they continue to play their games. WHICH NOW IS GONNA COST US TAXPAYERS MORE MONEY DUE TO THERE ACTIONS, the great part is Dr. Johnson's attorney is going after the 4 of them personally for arbitrary and capricious actions and now retaliation which will all come out of their personal bank accounts.
    The way to punish in the legal world is to hit people in their pockets books, working as a supervisor its painful to sit back and watch these 4 women vendettas and my children are going to suffer for it.
    Please answer if you know, why did they fire Dr. Johnson?
    Why do they say we love the programs but we fired you for no just causes? Make no sense.
    "the devil you know is the devil you don't know" who in their right mind would want to come to this town and work with this micromanaging unqualified school board? What is the future plan for our schools?
    Just some basic questions that have yet to be answered. Why can't they tell us their plan?

  12. From Anon 6:48. Sorry to be so long, but I just got out of the hospital. I will be laid up for 3 to 4 months and have a lot of time for this blog.

    Let me say that you are being silly to think that all the problems of high taxes and high school spending comes from Sherry. Regarless of what you may think to be otherwise, Dr. Johnson may be "saving money", but the thing is, it doesn't save the Town any money. The "saved" money just goes somewhere else. I don't necessarilty disagree with where it goes, but just want to make the point that her supporters on the board should say, "she has saved money for other programs". Is there any doubt in your mind that there will be an override. Even if Sherry was not on the committee there will be an override. It is inevatible when pay goes up (automatically) over 3% a year If we don't support an override, then many teachers, when times get better, will jump ship. It is what the market will handle that determines pay. Other towns will not go to zero pay increase over steps and longevity.

    As for Sherry and the other six not attending the Selectmen meeting, I would simply say that there are two Selectmen who frequent school committee meetings, why did they not go into the depth that Dr. Johnson went into? I think that much could be resolved with a board of Selectmen who would try to cut instead of starting off the bat with "we need an override". I will tell you just as sure a shootin' that there will be an override, it will be far too much and will fail. Then what? What about the debt exclusion. They tried to "bundle" to screw us. They thought that once the schools and the fire department and police department buildings were paid in part by the state, that they could just go out and use the money for something else. That is what I do not like, how they play a shell game. They know that the costs will be much less, but they still ask for total cost, then when they are re-imbursed, they use the money for other projects. Mr. Johansen was correct about the "bundle" issues If they had been honest with the taxpayers, they would, at very least solved the School, Police and Fire building problems.

    I do not trust any of them; its time to clean house in both the Selectmen and School committees. It is also time for people, or newspapers to question the Sandwich Taxpayer's Association. Who are they, why are they so vindictive. This Augustinw guy needs to get out of our hair, and NOW.

  13. Well, well, it will really be interesting to see if this School Committee had the guts that President Obama just demonstrated when he froze the pay of all government workers for the next two years. I didn't vote for him and we can bet he will catch hell from the very unions that voted him in....however, if you haven't got the money to pay those automatic step go bankrupt. Sooooooo, School Committee members have you got what it takes? Can you stare those unions down using this same obvious logic? The bank is broken folks but what does it take to get the Magnificant Four to understand that this isn't the time to reward their union workers. I won't hold my breath...after all... the entire system will collapse if we don't give the teachers MORE money? Hmmmmmmmm.....

  14. Greg, I used to think you knew what you were writing about, but now I see you as a no spend conservative, losing the big picture.

    You blame the majority of the school committee, but you fail to see the ineptness of the minority, splintered minority at that. They are all wrong: JUST VOTE THEM OUT, ALL OF THEM! It is no more the fault of the four than the minority.

    And, as for the mess with the Superintendant. If Mr. Simmons had known the law or at least the fact that it may have brought on a problem, we would not be in the mess.

    The fact is this town is in a mess because of the do nothing but complain folks that file suits, bring up crazy issues such "freedom of speech" when they don't get their way.

    The first thing we should do is ignore all of them. The second is to vote everyone out. The third is to tell Mr. Dunham to stop being such a wussey when giving the school budget any credance.

    Unlike you, I don't blame a specific people on the school committee, I blame the entire town, the Selectmen, Finance People, School Committee and the lack of fortitude from the public.

    Wake up Greg and also all your minions.

  15. Greg, I forgot one thing. The president did not do anything that showed him to have "guts". My guess is that at least 75% of all Americans think that the federal workers can do without a raise. They can do whatever and threaten whatever, but nothing will happen. The President will give them a big raise in FY 2012 (dah, wonder why?).

    Most politicians are gutless save for Brown, Perry, Dedering, and Hunt. They believe in what they say and do things because they think its "right", not because its politically expedient as the President did when he tossed the federal unions under the bus.

    Obuma is not corageous, but is gutless.

  16. Anon at 7:35 and again at 7:42.... Oooops, my bad....if you really knew me you would have picked up on my use of the word 'guts' when referencing our sitting President. I was being facetious and I was trying to stretch a point about most politicians and elected officials who do not 'hear' the voice and who are only afraid of keeping their jobs in the next election. So, please re-read my post in that light and I think you will find out we are not far apart in our thinking. One of the most dangerous aspects of government employment, local, state or federal is the automatic step increase. When those employees used to be on the very bottom of the wage scales (60's-70's) they were always far below the average wage paid, they always lagged behind and the step increase system was an attempt to keep talented people in the ranks. Now, because the world has tanked, their jobs look pretty damn good don't they? So my message to freeze the pay of all the employees is realistic. We can't keep up with the escalations without a source of paying the bills. As far as firing them all in the next election.... I will consider ALL of the decisions being made by these folks and from where I am sitting, they all have to perform at the miracle level to earn my vote. Your statement about politicians being gutless... I think I would direct that to those who only care about making it a life long career. See...we do agree on a lot! I also see a lot of tea party in your words and sometimes that doesn't work up here in Taxachusetts with everything leaning left all of the time....I like a balance...something we only have with a Republican governor.... That in mind, what did you think of our Governors' remarks to Scott Brown on the unemployment bill? This is a very confused state we live in methinks. All Scott wants to do is pay as you go with money already in hand. Thats what Sandwich needs to do...spend only what you can afford! Oh, and as far as minions go, they are great on hamburgers! Ohhhh, I thought you meant onions. Anon, I have more time in the trenches than you will ever know so I have lived both sides of the financial equation. I wish I was in the $250,000 tax bracket, don't you?

  17. Did anyone else hear that large shoe drop today on the front page Cape Cod Crimes? I of course am referring to the article concerning the terrible treatment that our current Superintendant of Schools is receiving from the magnificant four. My oh my I can smell the law suit brewing here. Now, on top of breech of contract can we add abuse, retribution, mental anguish and you fill in the remaining blanks folks! Yup, methinks we had better get our checkbooks ready because it would appear that the game is on..... I believe our Superintendant has given up and will now only settle for the cash. Lets make a much will it cost the taxpayers to see her slip away into the night? After all, its funny that her contract would include a stipulation that she cannot sue individual board members. Hmmm, someone on that board can see into the future. Can you all feel the pain? Its embarrassing when its on cable television for the world to see. What parent with children would want to move to this town after seeing the video...... only in Camelot.... the School system eating one of its own! Would probably make a great suspense novel wouldn't it?

  18. Speaking of crimes, whatever happened to the Canvasback Assosiation with their big docks?

  19. Hmm, Maryellen says she has a contract, Maryellen sues individuals on school committee, the contract she says she has says she can't sue the individuals on the committee, the old contract allows her to sue, hmmm.

  20. Question.

    How did we get to a potential 3.2 million dollar deficit in the schools to 160K without a loss of programs?

    If Mary Ellen Johnson saved us over 3 million without hardly raising a pencil, then I would think she should be crowned the Queen of all media as her show goes beyond the pale.

    I used to be sick and tired of hearing "all the good work in our schools" I thought it was just a lot of guano, but after what she did to SAVE over 3 million, I like her show. All she does is to tell us how great she and her staff are and what great things are happening in the schools.

    Thank God we don't have any drinking or drugs to have to attend to or hazing in the sports programs.

    Thank God that we do what other schools can not or will not do.

    Thank God our teachers are happy, those other Town managers all love Mary Ellen.

    Thank God for the teachers, who do not have to teach, coming to the microphone to tell us how great Maryellen is doing.

    Thank God for Maryellen being the only person who knows the law.

    How will Sandwich do without out her once she is gone.

    Little Bo Peep

  21. Little Bo Peep I have re-read your comment several times and I am trying to ascertain if you have your tongue in your cheek or your foot in your mouth. MEJ is the FIRST Superintendant to know what every line item is in the budget, where she can move money, personnel, supplies to make it work. Not very popular decisions in this town of politicized parents. If your tongue is in cheek then please explain how 'Jessica' the pipsqueak who anchors the magnifican four is arguing for nothing more than control. I want this item, I have wanted it forever, I need this item...and when you give it to me it will never be what I wanted. She needs a barbie doll and an education. These four elected officials, the magnificant four are destroying the one person who has, even though painfully sometimes, advanced the educational system in tight times. So why do people hate her? Pipsqueak can't stand the thought of asking for higher sports fees, yet, where would she take the money from? Obviously, this week, its from the Special Ed Legal funding! It is so painful to watch a high school senior helping one member of the board to read a spreadsheet. All is not well in Camelot parents of children in Sandwich and only the power of the vote will fix this broken beast.

  22. Oh I have got to learn to wait and read the daily rag before I rant. Hopefully you all saw the article on the pending resolution of the law suit against the school from Ms Maxine Minkoff! Oh how sweet...for someone who was only earning $125,000 to receive $165,000 paid for out of the school budget (50%) and the remainder from the schools insurance carrier. Can you spell premium increase in 2011 considering the next law suit is gonna be a lot worse? So, parents of Camelot, er Sandwich with children in the school system who voted in the magnificant four, you are going to have to cough up another teacher position or two to settle this suit. It is so obvious that the elected officials, the magnificant four who continue to plow down that road of uncertainty in hiring someone new....where is MEJ's money going to come from? I guess giving up teaching positions or the sports program....hmmmm...lets see how they blame this one on MEJ. I wonder if that is why little Jessica pipsqueak is so interested in the legal costs associated with Special Ed? What do you think folks.... is anyone watching this all unfold?

  23. Greg,
    I think it is important to remember that that Ms. Minkoff was laid off by Dr. Johnson with the approval of the School Committee chaired by Mr. Simmons. As a parent, I am very concerned about this settlement and what it will mean to my children's education. However, it is a waste of time to assign blame. Nobody on the prior or current school committee wanted this to happen and surely they were advised by the school attorney that they were within their rights to lay off this employee. I would also remind you that the current school committee was advised by council that they had to re-vote Dr. Johnson's contract.

  24. Anon at 10:46 you have my sympathy having children in this school system at this time in history. I must learn to express myself is not blame that I want to share with respect to Ms Minkoff's contract dispute.... because you are correct... the chips fell exactly as you describe. What I am concerned about and you must be too as a parent..... if this settlement came in with a price tag of $165,000 can you imagine what MEJ's attorney will shoot for? He has the video's of the school committee meetings which clearly demonstrate the method used to humiliate MEJ. Oh yes, exclusion is a form of humiliation. She will easily convince a judge that she has been treated poorly by the majority of the board. As a taxpayer I can't stand seeing good money being wasted on such actions. So there goes one teacher ($80,000) and I bet you a couple more will go with the MEJ settlement. Forgive me if I sound rude but your comment concerning the advice of council, seems to place you in league with the magnificant four. They didn't have to vote MEJ's contract down.... they just don't like her. It isn't just 'business' in Sandwich... this is clearly a hostile work environment! Again, I would be very concerned as a parent... what guidance do you think a new superintendant will be given from this boards' majority?

  25. Anon at 10:46

    I won't take your comment as rude. I will say that there are two sides to every story and I worry as much about people who defend MEJ at all costs as those who vilify her at every turn. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. I will say that I would have extended her contract if I was on the SC. First and foremost because we were entering such difficult financial times and I think we would be better off focusing on that and not on hiring a new Superintendent. Dealing with the uncertainty that exists now is not fun for a parent with school-aged children and I think it could have been avoided.

    I think MEJ has done some great things for Sandwich schools and she works very hard. That said, the line of people who have 'left the building' is a little too long for me to believe that they were all incompetent fools and MEJ found them out. That does make me wonder what is going on behind the scenes. And if you don't think that she is playing games and withholding information from the four SC members who voted not to extend her contract, then sorry, but I think you are naive.

  26. Anon at 11:51. Naive I be not.... I agree with everything that you have written.. with the exception of why that 'long line' of people hit the exits when MEJ came onboard. There is always turnover when a new sherriff comes to Dodge and it is mostly due to disagreements over management style. In the case of the Community School one really must wonder how long it was kept alive by money from the school budget. I honestly believe a lot of those folks left because they knew the deal was over. And in one case, I honestly believe we lost a very talented administrator because program initiatives would not be done 'her' way. That happens with academic development. Its always changing. My final word on the actions between the Superintendant and the Board is in the form of an old saying 'Knowledge is power'. That doesn't mean being smart is power, that means if you hold all the weebulls and no one else knows they don't fall down, then you are king of the mountain. I actually believe that this entire team, as it stands, is bad news. Both sides should go. You can never step back from the edge once it becomes personal. Randy had the best solution a long time ago that could have worked...egos would have been set aside for the good of the kids. Not to protect those kids from this catfight, we should fire them all. For your children's sake...we might be better off without all of them. I couldn't agree with you more on the goings on behind the scenes. This is better than a chess game. Sadly the end game will not help the kids, not one bit.


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