The School Committee heard an update on the investigation underway by the Inspector General and Attorney General’s offices at the Wednesday, Nov. 18 meeting, but questions remain.
Szymaniak said he emailed Committee member David Forth after the last meeting to request documentation he supplied the state as well as any contact information he had pertaining to the state’s investigation about the committee and towns. Forth returned the contact information he had, according to Szymaniak.
Committee member Christopher Howard asked for an update on what else Forth can supply. Forth replied he has contacted the state to determine if the Inspector General or Attorney General has any issues with his providing the information and would do so if they replied he could.
He added that any time the Inspector General’s office has called him, they have not identified themselves by any particular name.
Small said he has called the IG and Department of Revenue and had no problem receiving permission to release contact identification.
Howard asked that the school district’s legal counsel be asked to remotely attend the December meeting to discuss legal options for obtaining the information. Szymaniak said both towns have also put their respective town counsels on notice about the issue as well, reminding the committee that all those calls come with associated costs.
He also cautioned the committee that the district will be looking at some administrators where interims are now serving and business office turnover where the town’s interim business manager will be leaving at the end of the year.
“The first thing [people do] is Google the district and they see the W-H Regional School District in the Express [about a] state investigation under finances,” Szymaniak said. “It’s going to be hard for me to get a quality person if this resonates into next spring, when we’re in hiring. We have to put this to rest some way or another.”
He also expressed concern that other administrators or teachers might leave.
“People don’t want to be involved in controversy,” he said. “This district is an excellent district and I don’t want anybody to be turned off by a headline.”
Committee member Dawn Byers reminded the panel that a Whitman selectman had also advocated an investigation back in July.
“This is not one person’s doing on this committee,” she said, noting she does not want to see the headlines, either. “There was a long period of time when certain statutory laws were not followed by this district, and a long period of time when funding was at seventh from the bottom out of all the towns in Massachusetts, so I agree answers need to come, but there are a lot of questions still to be answered.”
Small asked what other questions Byers had in mind, explaining when she appeared to take it as a cross-examination, that he was curious about whether her questions pertained to issues that had not occurred to him.
She then replied her questions centered on the district’s past financial policies that did not center on the state’s statutory formula.
“It’s not the fact that an investigation is going on, it’s the fact that we’re being told there’s an investigation [and] when you try to find what the status is, who’s handling it … it needs to be done as expediently as possible without the mystery of what was sent, [and] who was spoken to, if possible,” Small said. “That’s the frustration point I know I’m feeling and, I’m sure, others are feeling because things are so wide open and up in the air.”