PVPA: Email from former school head’s lawyer went to spam

  • The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School is on Mulligan Drive in South Hadley. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For The Recorder
Monday, February 26, 2018

SOUTH HADLEY — After his arrest on drug charges last month, the head of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School George Simpson did not attend a school task force meeting on Thursday to discuss whether he would be allowed to resign or be fired.

Simpson said he was hospitalized suddenly on Thursday morning with a life-threatening condition and tried to communicate with the PVPA task force and their attorney, Jim O’Connell, about rescheduling the meeting. Simpson said Thursday that the board did not respond to his attorney David Perry’s email request to postpone the session, but PVPA school officials said that’s because they never got the email in time for the meeting.

“I sent documentation of my potential life threatening condition to PVPA’s attorney, including my consent to authorize the release of these medical reports from today,” Simpson wrote in an email on Thursday. “My attorney notified counsel representing PVPA at 7:55 a.m. We requested that this executive session be rescheduled due to my emergency condition.”

Perry sent that email to O’Connell, the school’s attorney, asking to reschedule the meeting that morning, but school officials said the email was marked as spam because it came from an unfamiliar email address and was not received prior to the task force meeting.

“At no time during the meeting did any task force member nor PVPA’s attorney receive any communication from Mr. Simpson nor Mr. Perry,” the statement read. “Neither Mr. Simpson nor Mr. Perry said that they had made any attempt to contact any member of the task force nor the PVPA attorney by telephone or text message.”

According to the PVPA task force, the meeting convened at 10:10 a.m. after waiting 10 minutes for Simpson and Perry to arrive. The meeting adjourned at approximately 11:30 a.m., according to the school’s statement. Simpson later sent an email to O’Connell at 12:40 p.m. stating he could not attend for medical reasons, according to the task force.

The meeting was held at the law office of Mirick O’Connell in Worcester because Simpson is not allowed on school grounds. The PVPA board of trustees was scheduled to convene a special board meeting on Monday to discuss Simpson’s employment status. Simpson reserves the right to choose whether that review will take place in a closed executive session, or in public. He has said he planned to attend Monday’s meeting and discuss the issues in public.

Simpson was arrested in Reading Jan. 27 on charges of possession of heroin and methamphetamine. At the time, he had an arrest warrant out of Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown for driving with a restricted license. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in Woburn District Court, according to court documents. Simpson was released on personal recognizance and is due back in court for a pretrial hearing March 14.

Simpson submitted his resignation as head of PVPA on Feb. 9, but the board declined to accept it because it would have required the school to keep him in his job and pay him through June 30. Instead, he was placed on paid leave while the task force worked out the terms of his departure.

“The resignation was not accepted in that form because its terms would have allowed him to continue as head of school,” trustees president Melinda Winter said last week.

The PVPA’s attorney invited Simpson to provide any written information or documents to inform the board’s decision regarding his employment.