Greenfield’s rep to Franklin County Tech board resigns

  • Franklin County Technical School  STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2020 12:27:14 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s representative to the Franklin County Technical School school board has resigned, saying he has lost faith and does not want to be associated with any organization that “devises plans to allow children or employees to enter environments I find unsafe.”

Former town councilor — he served several years ago before it became the City Council — Christopher Joseph, who has been serving on the FCTS board as Greenfield’s representative, sent an email to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and other city officials Thursday announcing his resignation. 

“This decision is based on a number of factors …,” he wrote.

Those reasons, Joseph said, include but are not limited to his “inability to serve the board fully and completely due to personal reasons related to the COVID pandemic.”

He wrote that he desires to be “disassociate from ANY organization” that devises plans to allow children or employees to enter environments he deems unsafe, and that he believes FCTS and all other traditional public school models cannot effectively fulfill their missions during the pandemic.

Joseph also express his discomfort with “budgetary/payroll decisions made recently,” as well as the process the school board used to approve them. It is unclear what Joseph means by this statement.

He wrote, “In short, I’ve lost faith and I don’t have the time, energy or resources to work toward regaining that faith. This is by no means isolated to FCTS, but they are the only organization for which I’m still an active member of the board. For that reason, I’m resigning.”

Joseph said FCTS is a really good school that he genuinely believes cares about the students, staff and faculty and is demonstrably successful at educating young people under normal conditions, but online education only works under ideal circumstances and only for a motivated few.

“It's not the same thing as teaching in a classroom …,” he said. “It's akin to asking a veterinarian to help people in an emergency. Yes, they can help, sort of, a little bit, but they aren't doctors and can't just be swapped out permanently. Same with brick and mortar educators – yes, during catastrophes we can ask them to use online tools as best they can, but it’s not fair to expect them to be able to fully educate kids with the same efficacy as we have come to expect.

“I don’t think enough people understand the long term effects of this virus on our lives, society and culture,” Joseph said. “People want so badly to ‘get back’ that they don’t realize that back doesn't exist any more. Serving on a board today feels like deck-chair-shuffling on the Titanic. Talking about how to mark bus seats to get kids to class without breathing on each other is not a good use of our time.”

FCTS Superintendent Rick Martin said Joseph is one of 20 board members who are volunteers. He said Joseph has served for at least a dozen years. The board currently has 20 members – there are four open seats on the 24-member board.

“He is someone who is very diligent, dedicated and passionate, believing in democracy of the school committee,” Martin said. “He’s been a very positive contributor. He will be truly missed.”

Martin said he’s not sure what Joseph meant by the budget/payroll process. He said the committee’s finance subcommittee meets with the business manager and superintendent to create a budget. The final draft is submitted to the full committee for a vote — it needs at least 16 votes to pass. That’s what happened this year, like every year.

Joseph said in March, the FCTS board gave Martin a “substantial salary increase.” He said the meeting packet didn’t mention a vote, didn’t include financial justification or a budgetary impact statement and there was close to no discussion.

“To be fair, this may have been discussed and even voted on in the subcommittee, but not in front of the full board,” he said. “I felt and still feel that the superintendent is a good person who was doing a really amazing job; but that doesn't negate the board's responsibility for fiduciary oversight. The board let me down and I came home from that meeting frustrated and angry.”

Joseph said he doesn’t know what the financial impact of COVID-19 will be on the school, but wonders what the board would do today if the supe  It's been 5 months - I don't know what the financial impact of COVID will be on our schools, but I really wonder what the board would do today if the Superintendent had asked for this same raise now.

 

 

Combine my frustration with the laxity of the board and my general pessimism from COVID and I just can't be a helpful board member right now.

“This time of COVID has been difficult on everyone,” Martin said.

Wedegartner said she was sad to hear about Joseph’s resignation. 

“I thank him for his years of service,” she said. “During these times, I respect and understand the individual challenges we all face as we work hard toward addressing serious, collective concerns as a community.”   

Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Rick Martin could not be reached for comment by press time.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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