Discussions and votes at the most recent board of selectmen and school committee meetings demonstrated that some policies, state law and chain of command protocols need to be reviewed among civic groups, town employees and board members.
The first indication came when the Sandwich Arts Alliance appeared before the selectmen on August 15 for approval of a concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Sandstock was scheduled to be held two days later on August 17.
The group was under the impression they had done what was needed to secure the Henry T. Wing School bandstand. When seeking approval to use the facility, the school department referred the alliance to the Little League, which confirmed its season would be over. It was up for grabs as far as they were concerned.
Funds were raised, talent hired and sponsorship secured. The Arts Alliance had advertised around town and social media for weeks. The event was on.
However, the group had not received the proper approval from the board of selectmen to hold the event, let alone use the town-owned property.
Fortunately, the bandstand and date had not been reserved by another entity. So, after gathering information about crowd estimates, public safety plans and funding, the board was able to approve the event. There was nothing nefarious, just lack of clarity on who is responsible for certain venues and what kind of approval is needed to utilize them.
Given the number of properties currently owned and managed by the town and with more on the horizon, it would seem that policies, protocols and how they are to be communicated need to be reviewed to avoid this kind of confusion in the future.
In that situation, town-dictated rules were in question, but in the instance of a recent hire made by the superintendent of schools, state law was violated.
On August 9, The Sandwich Enterprise ran a story that Dr. Gould had hired a new director of pupil services. Bernard McNamara’s first day in the position was August 2. However, the agenda for the August 21 school committee meeting had scheduled time for the committee to interview and appoint the public services director and an executive session to contract discussion. Given the article in the paper, it didn’t make sense.
During discussion, vice chair Kerri Ames referenced the Enterprise piece about Mr. McNamara’s hiring. It was then that Dr. Gould offered her apologies for accidentally circumventing protocol. She said she had not reviewed the policy before offering him the position.
The committee went through the motions of an interview. A vote was taken, and Mr. McNamara was hired with a vote of four yes, one no and one abstention.
No one should be put in stocks in front of Dan’l Webster Inn, but this is not an oops, my bad kind of mistake either. It could have proven costly if the committee had bypassed Mr. McNamara for the position. The district has been down that road before.
Furthermore, it’s a really tough way for someone to start out in a new position. Especially when stepping into the shoes of someone who was so entrenched in the community, both as a parent and professional. The process needs to be deliberate and thorough. This just wasn’t fair to him or the role.
The goal moving forward has to be to not let it happen again.
On the part of the school committee, there was a full nine weeks between its June 17 and August 21 meetings. The committee was not made aware of a number of administrative vacancies that came up over the summer. A July meeting might have kept them in the loop and informed Dr. Gould of the role the committee was obligated to play in the hiring of the pupil services director.
Beyond reviewing protocols in these instances, the public, elected officials and professionals should never shy away from holding each other accountable, asking questions and, yes sometimes, making observations and offering constructive criticism. It’s not a slam. We only ask people to do better if we believe they can and want to be better.