Editorial: In Franklin, the soap opera needs to be shut down
For readers just now tuning into the soap opera in Franklin, here’s a quick recap:
First the school board fired the football coach.
Then fans of the coach petitioned the city council to remove two offending school board members.
Then, just hours after the school board and city council met to bury the hatchet over months of unhappy relations, the board voted to take the council to court. The council was planning to hold a hearing on the ouster petitions. The school board insisted that the council had no right to remove elected school board members and wanted the hearing prohibited.
Then a superior court judge ruled that the council had the right to hold the hearing – but probably not to remove the school board members. (Got that?)
So the council held a dramatic hearing in which the board members came in for harsh criticism from more than a dozen members of the public – not only because of the coach’s firing but also over matters of special education, board policy and spending taxpayer money to defend the board members in court.
And then . . . the council decided to send the whole mess down to the attorney general’s office in Concord. “We think the concerns are serious enough that someone at the state level who does have the authority to remove people from office should consider all the matters that have been brought before us,” said Mayor Ken Merrifield.
Meanwhile, the coach has complained to agencies at the state and federal level, alleging a variety of misconduct by the superintendent of schools and two board members.
And, meanwhile, the superintendent has been actively searching for jobs elsewhere in the state and in Massachusetts – making it clear to the public that, all things considered, she’d rather be elsewhere.
Wow, what a mess.
Is this any way to run a city or a school district? Adults acting like children. Officials dragging each other into court – both sides at taxpayer expense – rather than working things out, civilly, among themselves. Name-calling. Allegations upon allegations.
We don’t know whether the coach deserved to be fired or whether he received due process in the aftermath. So far, we can’t tell whether accusations about mishandled special education services have merit. But we do have this advice to Franklin residents:
Pay attention to the city elections. This fall, Franklin School Board Chairman Ray Yonaitis is up for re-election as are two other board members, the mayor and several city councilors. The filing period to run for these offices is Aug. 14-23. The election will be held Oct. 1.
Think hard about the candidates you’re choosing. Consider running for the council or school board yourself. Ask hard questions – not just about policy matters but also about the candidates’ temperament, collegiality, moderation, open-mindedness, ability to compromise. Can they rise above personal animosities for the good of the city and, most important, Franklin’s schoolchildren?
What’s nearly tragic about the current public feuding in Franklin is that it comes amid a serious, concerted effort to improve the public schools. When that project first got under way, students talked about feeling hampered by the city’s poor reputation; school officials talked about their desire to turn around the district’s low expectations for itself. This drama can’t help. It’s in everyone’s interest to shut it down quickly.