To the editor:
The Barrington Public Schools has settled with three teachers fired for failing to comply with BPS' onerous and almost unique Covid vaccine requirement, agreeing to reinstatement …
To the editor:
The Barrington Public Schools has settled with three teachers fired for failing to comply with BPS' onerous and almost unique Covid vaccine requirement, agreeing to reinstatement with back pay, for a total payment of $493,000, as this paper reported. Of that sum, $100,000 is punitive damages (split evenly among the teachers) plus $50,000 for attorney's fees. That $150,000 was paid above and beyond back pay reflects the weakness of BPS' position on the firing.
This firing was a total fiasco for the taxpayers of Barrington, amounting to well over half a million dollars when the costs to the town of defending the case and administrative time are factored in.
Why did this happen? Because of the ideological intolerance and obsession of the current senior school administrators, who refused even to consider the request by the teachers for a religious exemption, and instead insisted that the teachers posed a safety threat even though the teachers were willing to comply with all Covid safety protocols other than the vaccine. The cold-hearted attitude of BPS was on display at numerous public hearings and meetings. BPS' refusal to accommodate these teachers was vindictive and unnecessary. That the then-School Committee went along with this BPS practice brought embarrassment and shame on the community.
So who will be held responsible for this waste of money?
School Committee member communications as to strategy, other than public statements, likely are exempt from the public records law (APRA). The public is entitled to know the role of the then-School Committee members (two of whom no longer are on the Committee) in devising and agreeing to the strategy.
Similarly, what role did senior school administrators play in this strategy? Since they remain in place, and one or more may even be a contender for a future Superintendent opening, it is important to know whether they devised or promoted this wasteful strategy or were just following orders. Once again, because there was legal counsel for BPS involved, it is unlikely that the records could be obtained under APRA.
If we want answers and the community wants transparency, there is only one way: The Town Council should appoint an independent commission to investigate the conduct of the School Committee and BPS senior administrators and report publicly on its findings.
Any claims of attorney-client privilege with BPS legal counsel (whose contract was not renewed) should be waived so the commission has full access to records, and the persons involved cannot hide behind a claim that the lawyers made them do it.
Only a large dose of this sunshine will bring true closure to this fiasco.