To the Editor:
On April 9, 2009 the Hamilton- Wenham Regional School District employees agreed to a salary concession of one day without pay for the 2009-2010 school year.
In the press release the former Superintendent Marinel McGrath and the School Committee stated that this action would save the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District approximately $110,000 for 2009-2010 and enable the district to retain teachers and make it possible for our students to have opportunities that would otherwise be lost to them.
In my opinion, considering the economic situation at that time, the salary concession was a very good gesture.
The problem is that it recently came to light that all those employees would get reimbursed for that no pay day. Questions were asked to the School Committee and they stated that yes, it was true, and they would address it at the next School Committee meeting on March 17, 2011.
On March 17, 2011 the School Committee stated that there's been questions lately on the reimbursement for the unpaid furlough day. A member of the School Committee read a letter dated March 17, 2011 from an attorney confirming the reimbursement based on the School Committee agreeing that if additional funds become available for use in fiscal year 2010, then the School Committee would pay for the day. Marinel McGrath, the former superintendent, had determined that the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District had under spent the budget for unemployment compensation and there were sufficient funds available to pay all the employees for the uncompensated day.
The attorney also stated that this matter be discussed in Executive Session as part of a strategy discussion to determine whether the full School Committee would authorize payment for the day. Also the attorney stated that this matter would have a major impact on the contract negotiations that were in progress at that time.
Then a School Committee member stated, "it appears that the minutes of that executive session did not get released and all the minutes relative to other executive sessions during that timeframe had been released and this one didn't get released and I don't know why."
The chairperson of the School Committee stated that the executive session minutes from April 9, 2009 are available and would be released after they are approved at the next School Committee meeting on March 24, 2011.
It became very apparent to me and others that there had been deception on the part of the School Committee and the previous administration to not make public the fact that the employees had been reimbursed for the uncompensated day, which was previously a bargaining unit salary concession which was highly touted in the press release as a major concession, saving the district approximately $110,000 and preventing teacher layoffs.
The memorandum of agreement states, "If additional federal, state or local revenue becomes available for use in the FY10 school committee approved budget (March 31, 2009) ($27,423,801) that would eliminate the FY10 budget shortfall, then the uncompensated day would be withdrawn."
That is in direct conflict with the statement of Marinel McGrath (previous superintendent) as stated in the executive session minutes of June 3, 2010 in which she states that since the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District did not expend all of the unemployment funds that were budgeted, the district has the funds available to eliminate the uncompensated day. Budgeted funds are not additional revenues.
This type of deception is unacceptable and certainly displays a lack of transparency by the School Committee and the previous Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District administration regarding the payback to the bargaining unit employees for the so-called salary concession of one day pay that was made by them.
It also does not build the public's trust of the School Committee when information like this becomes known.
Had this event not come to light, no one would have ever known that the employees had been paid back, for it will be two years since that agreement was signed on April 9, 2009. Do you call that transparency?
The taxpayers of Hamilton and Wenham should have been made aware of that reimbursement clause. But there was no notification.