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October 23, 2012

Closed schools meeting canceled

Mayor backs off on school chief amid outcry

NEWBURYPORT — A closed-door meeting on leadership of the city’s schools scheduled by Mayor Donna Holaday for last night has been permanently cancelled after School Committee members and the city’s legal counsel questioned its legality.

Instead, Holaday is now resolving to focus on the future and attempting to distance herself from damning comments she made about Superintendent Marc Kerble in the wake of Assistant Superintendent Deirdre Farrell’s resignation announcement last week.

Pointing to a school community that reached out to her and urged a return to calm, Holaday said yesterday she’s committed to moving forward and incorporating some of the items slated for discussion at last night’s meeting into an upcoming School Committee retreat scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 30.

“We did make the mistake of not posting the reason for the executive session (meeting),” Holaday said in explaining the cancellation.

Holaday also said the meeting was called off because she had expressed an intention to discuss Kerble during the session, but had not notified the superintendent, as required by the state open meeting law. Holaday said given the potential fear of venturing into topics that might involve the superintendent, she was advised to air her thoughts on the leadership of the local schools in public.

But it’s not clear whether the mayor will be doing that anytime soon, since the three agenda items being shifted to next week’s retreat agenda are not related to Kerble. Per Holaday, who as mayor also serves as chairwoman of the School Committee, the retreat agenda will include a discussion on short- and long-term vision with regard to filling vacancies, budget issues and an examination of the communication and interaction among School Committee members.

“I think we really need to focus on leadership as a whole at the central office, including the school building projects, finance, special education, and follow the process we put in place by the School Committee regarding Dr. Kerble’s goals and action plan,” Holaday said.

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