Published March 3, 2021
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The School Committee responded to its critics during a Feb. 23 meeting.
Chairman Jamie Hayman said the school board created the statement in order to “address a great deal of misinformation that has been disseminated on social media” since the committee’s last meeting on Feb. 2. During that meeting, a group of parents criticized the school system’s hybrid learning plan.
“On March 12, 2020, 349 days ago, this committee had an emergency School Committee meeting as the first cases of COVID-19 hit Lynnfield and the Lynnfield Public Schools,” said Hayman. “In the weeks and months that followed, knowing that parents, educators and the community needed information and updates about our schools, and recognizing that information was changing on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, this committee met weekly, livestreamed meetings and spoke with dozens of parents to make sure our community was informed of how our school district was moving forward.”
Hayman said retired Superintendent Jane Tremblay, current Superintendent Kristen Vogel, the Administrative Leadership Team and the School Committee have “spent thousands of collective hours making sure this community was up to speed on plans moving forward.”
“And while it may not have been perfect, based on feedback from the community and input from neighboring towns, I can say with certainty that this educational leadership team has done an exceptional job getting our schools open, keeping our kids and educators safe, and addressing COVID outbreaks on a case-by-case basis, even as we spiked in November and December,” said Hayman. “Any member of this community who makes up tales about a lack of transparency, who has never watched a School Committee meeting, contacted a principal, the superintendent or a School Committee member is simply willfully uninformed.”
Hayman said residents who have concerns about the decisions that have been made should discuss them with school officials.
“You may be surprised to learn that many of all of the ideas that were vetted are unfortunately not feasible,” said Hayman.
Hayman also addressed the “confusion” surrounding the School Department’s decision to bring kindergarten students back full-time starting on March 1. He said school officials, teachers and staff members at both schools “worked incredibly hard to find a way to get this plan to fruition.”
“The plan itself had a half-a-dozen potential single points of failure, ranging from public health metrics to the availability of desks and many others,” said Hayman. “Moreover, any one of those points could have tripped up that plan, which is why it was not announced until all the boxes were checked and the plan was finalized by all involved stakeholders. This plan was weeks in the making, and to imply that parents complaining on a Tuesday caused the plan to be created on a Wednesday and released on a Friday is patently false, and incredibly disrespectful to our educators who are working so hard for your kids.”
Hayman said, “Another issue that is being misunderstood and subsequently miscommunicated is what the CDC, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the governor of Massachusetts and the president of the United States are referring to when they say in-person learning.”
“There seems to be a belief out there that this phrase refers to full-time, in-person learning,” said Hayman. “It does not. It simply refers to getting kids in at least one day a week for in-person. If you want to provide another district as an example for what Lynnfield could or, in your opinion, should be doing, please do the research ahead of time and understand their facilities and public health metrics relative to Lynnfield. And, regardless, our goal has not changed since the beginning of the pandemic, which is to get as many kids in school as much as is possible while keeping our students and educators safe per the guidelines set by the CDC.”
Hayman said educators, administrators and staff members are “doing an amazing job” for students and their families. He also acknowledged they are exhausted while trying to master a new way of teaching.
“The Lynnfield Teachers Association was one of, if not the first teachers’ unions in the state, to come to an agreement on hybrid learning,” said Hayman. “Through every step of this process, they have been exceptional partners as we discuss what comes next. The members of this committee talk to parents and school committee members in others districts and, despite what a small proportion of our parents think, Lynnfield has done a remarkable job partnering with our teachers to maximize learning in this situation. Yet, in spite of all this hard work, there appears to be a small group in our community looking to undermine the efforts of this committee, our district leaders, our teachers and support personnel out of frustration, uncertainty and, in a few cases, out of vengeance, personal gain or because of grudges. This type of action is just plain disdainful to our educators and leaders who have worked under unprecedented conditions to keep this district moving forward.”
Hayman said the School Committee sympathizes with the struggles each family has experienced over the past year.
“Collectively, we have 10 children in the district, but unlike other families in this community, the five of us are responsible for the health and safety of the nearly 2,800 students and staff members in this district,” said Hayman. “We ask that you just take a moment to step back, assess your comments and actions as they relate to how the past year has transpired within the country. We know Lynnfield is better than this and we are better than this. Disappointment, frustration and anxiety are acceptable emotions. But striking out because of personal and professional disappointment serves no purpose in educating our students. No person’s situation is any more or less important than another. As a community, we must look for a common good while recognizing and supporting those who are struggling.”
Hayman noted that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, and said the community will come out of the darkness “stronger.” He also encouraged parents to ask school officials questions and air their concerns in a “respectful manner.”
“You may not agree with the answers, which in turn does not give you permission to question the integrity or intentions of our teachers, administrators, superintendent or School Committee,” said Hayman. “It does give you permission to disagree and not be happy about the decisions. But if you want to use town resources to fuel your theories because you are uninformed, tired of COVID and only started paying attention after 11 months, please stop.”
Hayman said he hopes he will “not have to continue to clarify misinformation and call out blatant lies at future School Committee meetings.”
“But I am prepared to do so if necessary,” said Hayman.
Planning Board Chairman Brian Charville, who is running for a three-year term on the School Committee, responded to Hayman’s statement in an email sent to the Villager.
“It’s unfortunate that the entire School Committee resorted to criticizing the very people whom they were elected to represent,” Charville stated. “Just think what could be accomplished if they had directed that energy into improving and reopening fully our schools instead of drafting A defensive statement. Holding public office sometimes means being criticized. If I’m elected to the committee, I’ll work for everyone, encourage feedback from all comers and learn from it, just as I now do on the Planning Board.”
Huckleberry Road West resident Kate DePrizio, who is also running for School Committee, echoed Charville’s viewpoint in a Facebook post.
“If the mean-spirited rhetoric spouted (on Feb. 23) made it difficult to hear the important information about getting our children back into school more, I empathize,” DePrizio wrote on Facebook. “As I tried my best to circumvent the punitive intent of the opening statement read by our chair, but sadly made on behalf of the entire School Committee, it became more difficult for me to hear the content. I know that Lynnfield is better than this.”