Barrington parents calling for school committee members to apologize, resign

Residents angry about masks, missing teachers, mandates and more

By Josh Bickford
Posted 3/4/22

Another public comment period. Another verbal beating unleashed upon the Barrington School Committee.

On Thursday night, a large crowd of residents — many of them parents of Barrington …

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Barrington parents calling for school committee members to apologize, resign

Residents angry about masks, missing teachers, mandates and more


Another public comment period. Another verbal beating unleashed upon the Barrington School Committee.

On Thursday night, March 3, a large crowd of residents — many of them parents of Barrington schoolchildren — took turns criticizing the actions and inactions of local school committee members. It was a similar situation to the Feb. 17 school committee meeting.

Some parents were mad about the situation surrounding the lack of a math teacher for the eighth grade purple cluster. Some vented about the district’s updated Covid protocols and masking. Some blasted the committee for its vaccine mandate and booster mandate. And some called for the school committee members to tender their resignations immediately. 

Once the business portion of the meeting concluded (the committee approved a $60,275,372 proposed budget and also approved a new school calendar for next year), committee chairwoman Gina Bae opened up the floor for public comments.

Do the right thing, resign

Jason Farrell was the final in-person speaker during the public comment period, and he wasted very little time getting to his point. Mr. Farrell said he had lost faith in the school committee, adding that if they wanted to do the right thing now, they should all tender their resignations. 

Mr. Farrell said committee members are not listening to the public. He said he does not need for the committee to be a “medical proxy for my children.” He said people have the right to choose about whether their children should wear a mask to school, finishing by telling the committee members they looked ridiculous in their masks. 

In fact, almost every member of the audience was not wearing a mask. Only the committee members, school administrators, a police officer, the videographer, and the head of the Democratic Party in Barrington, Pam Lauria, wore a mask during the meeting.

John Kittredge logged in online and said he had pulled his daughter out of Barrington Schools in January — she had been a student in the purple cluster and had gone without a math teacher for months at a time this year. 

Mr. Kittredge said he was not convinced the school committee and other district officials had the means or the ability to remedy the situation and later called the entire experience an “abject failure.”

Brian Hughes said that when the masks come off students on Monday they will not be going back on. He said it was time for parents to protect their children. He posed a question to the school committee: Is this how a community treats its people? 

He ended by stating that a few bad apples can spoil the bunch, but Barrington residents were going to take back their town. 

The first speaker during the public comment period, Jyothsnanath Parachuru, spoke about the purple cluster situation at the middle school. She said her child is a student in that cluster and is currently on his third math teacher this year. She wanted to know why the district hired teacher James Sullivan and then fired him a few weeks later. 

Ms Bae tried to interrupt Ms. Parachuru, citing it was a personnel matter, but the local resident continued to speak. She asked why committee members would not own up to their mistakes.

Other parents spoke about the purple cluster problems, referencing possible plans to have students attend summer school classes to catch up on math work lost when the district was unable to provide a math teacher.

Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said a math specialist would be stepping in as the purple cluster math teacher starting Monday. He said she had a strong math background. 

School committee member Erika Sevetson said she was happy to hear that high school math department chair Bob Marley was stopping by the middle school before school to offer math help to students.

But the update did little to quell parents’ concerns.

Karen Naff said middle school principal Andy Anderson told parents that Mr. Sullivan had been out sick, not that he had been fired by the district. She said a basketball coach was filling in as a substitute teacher. 

Some residents who did not even have students in the schools took turns ripping the school committee. 

Janine Wolf said she was ashamed of what’s happened with Barrington Schools. She said the district used to be superior, adding that people would opt to make sacrifices to afford living in Barrington so their children could go to Barrington Schools. She said that’s not the case anymore. 

She criticized current Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore, stating that former superintendent Ralph Malafronte would never have allowed the current problems facing local schools. 

Ms. Wolf asked who is controlling this school board and who is making the decisions that benefit no one. Who made the decision to swap out actual days of school for Zoom days, she asked. 

“It’s on you,” Ms. Wolf said to the committee members. “You dropped the ball.”

Peter Blanchet, a longtime resident and former biology teacher at a private school for more than 40 years, questioned the decisions made by the school committee. He said his son is a teacher at the middle school and has experienced a lot of stress this year. He said the district can’t get substitute teachers and can’t keep some of the teachers it already has. 

And then, on top of all the challenges, the school committee threatened his son’s job recently if he did not get a booster shot, Mr. Blanchet said. If that ever happened, Mr. Blanchet said he would be willing spend “a hell of a lot of money” to replace the school committee members.

“I just hope you don’t come up with any more crazy ideas like this,” Mr. Blanchet said. 

Take responsibility

Kiela Daley, a resident with children in the local schools, said she has grown very angry and frustrated with Barrington School officials. She said she was from a Catholic family, and quoted the line “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

“You have no idea how much harm you’ve done to the children” faculty and staff, she said the committee members. 

Ms. Daley asked that the school committee take responsibility for the problems it has caused — she asked them to stop for a moment and say “Maybe we messed up,” adding that they overreached when firing teachers who did not follow the vaccine mandate.

“It’s so obvious now you made a mistake,” she said. “Just take responsibility … and I’ll let it go.”

Ellen Schaffer listed all the litigation — current, anticipated, and threatened — that the school committee is facing. 

In fact, the March 3 agenda for the committee meeting listed some of the litigation the school committee is currently involved with: a lawsuit with the three unvaccinated teachers who were fired by the committee; threatened litigation over masks, and anticipated litigation involving settlement agreement with a teacher. 

Ms. Schaffer said the district has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees — Ms. Schaffer said the committee doesn’t have time to spend with the children in the district because is too busy with legal battles. She also questioned whether the committee was getting good legal advice. Later in the meeting, a resident questioned the situation where the same attorneys who offered legal advice on the vaccine mandate were standing to benefit financially from the legal battles resulting from that legal advice. 

Other speakers questioned the committee, challenged its decisions and directives, and wondered why committee members did not have to vote on the new protocols. (Mr. Messore said the update, which included new masking protocols, was a procedure not a policy, and therefore did not require a vote.)

Even a member of a school committee in a neighboring town logged in to criticize the Barrington School Committee.

Following the lengthy public comment period, committee members spoke about setting the agenda for an upcoming meeting and then moved into an executive session to discuss a performance review for the superintendent. 

Committee members refused to comment about anything following the public portion of the meeting, stating that they needed to reconvene quickly in the executive session.

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