Published in the March 11, 2016 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
MELROSE — In a surprising turn of events, School Committee member Carrie Kourkoumelis resigned from the school board on Tuesday night. Kourkoumelis also called for the resignation of Superintendent of Schools Cyndy Taymore.
Kourkoumelis was first elected to the School Committee in 2010 and was re-elected two years ago.
Kourkoumelis provided the following statement to the Melrose Weekly News about her decision.
“To the citizens of Melrose and members of the Melrose School Committee:
“In January 2016, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights published the finding that our school district violated its Title VI responsibilities. After receiving notice of a civil rights incident in April 2014, Superintendent Taymore was responsible for complying with our district’s Title VI obligations. Instead, OCR found that ‘the district had actual notice of racial harassment; the harassment created a racially hostile environment for the student; and, the District failed to take adequate action to redress that environment.’
“In light of these findings, I had expected this School Committee to demonstrate leadership in holding those responsible accountable. Instead, I consider the responses of this School Committee to be inadequate and inconsistent with an ethical course of action. The self-congratulatory culture of this School Committee perpetuates harm, shields those responsible, and impedes necessary change. Even as recently as February 23, 2016, during Superintendent Taymore’s Mid-Year Evaluation, my colleagues did not address what I see as critical failures and continue to offer praise — even commending the superintendent for planning remedial actions mandated by OCR.
“As a matter of conscience, I cannot continue to countenance these actions of my peers and must register a vote of no confidence in this School Committee. The recent enactment of ‘norms’ consolidates authority in the chair of this committee and requires that we speak with only one voice, the voice of the majority opinion. In my view, this contributes to a culture of obstructionism and diminishes my capacity to serve constructively. I feel my role as a member of this univocal body legitimizes actions that conflict with my moral compass and are not in the best interest of students. In my opinion, these norms codify a broken system that cannot be fixed as long as the current leadership remains.
“I hereby resign my position as a member of the Melrose School Committee. It has been a great honor to serve our city as a twice-elected official. I will continue my advocacy and will continue to assist in the process of redress and reconciliation.
“As a citizen, I call for the immediate resignation of Superintendent Taymore. I consider this a necessary first step for Melrose. Furthermore, I urge this School Committee and Mayor Dolan to address problems openly and honestly and to re-enfranchise the public as partners in the process. Now, more than ever, we need competent leadership.”
School Committee Chairwoman Margaret Driscoll provided the following statement on Kourkoumelis’ resignation.
“On behalf of the Melrose School Committee, I appreciate Ms. Kourkoumelis’ service to the community,” said Driscoll in a phone interview. “A constructive dialogue is needed because we face many challenges and we look forward to welcoming a new member to our committee to work in collaboration with Superintendent Taymore, whom we support. The Melrose School Committee will carry on the important work of governing our school department and supporting student learning and excellence.”