Greenfield School Committee seeks Open Meeting Law training



Staff Writer
Published: 5/31/2023 3:16:29 PM
Modified: 5/31/2023 3:16:03 PM

GREENFIELD — After more than an hour of discussion on Tuesday, School Committee members agreed to have Superintendent Christine DeBarge coordinate an Open Meeting Law training session for committee members that will be informed by questions they submit.

“We all could stand some training on how to be a good public official,” said committee member Jean Wall.

The meeting would occur during a working session at a date to be determined.

Tuesday’s special meeting was scheduled to discuss an Open Meeting Law complaint filed by School Committee Chair Amy Proietti against Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, who also serves on the committee.

In the complaint filed with the state Attorney General’s Office, Proietti alleges Wedegartner violated the law in two instances. In the first allegation, she cites an email the mayor sent to city councilors and School Committee members on April 20, in which she disputed statements made by Proietti during a City Council meeting the night prior. In the email, she outlines her rationale for citing an enrollment drop of 158 students and how that was connected to the fiscal year 2024 budget.

“She expresses a personal opinion and shares it in an email, and makes no attempt to make the information public, or share the information publicly at a meeting of the School Committee,” Proietti wrote in the complaint.

The second alleged violation, Proietti argues, was in an email sent to both city boards on May 16, in which Wedegartner forwards an email from the city’s attorney, Jesse Belcher-Timme.

The Open Meeting Law defines deliberation as “oral or written communication through any medium, including electronic mail, between or among a quorum of a public body on any public business within its jurisdiction,” with the exception of “distribution of a meeting agenda, scheduling information, or distribution of reports or documents that may be discussed at a meeting, provided that no opinion of a member is expressed.” Deliberation that occurs outside of a posted meeting violates the law.

Wedegartner, who has until June 6 to formally respond, had not filed a response as of Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is a little bit ‘the cart before the horse,” she said. “We will be filing a response. … I appreciate the fact you all are attempting to work your way through it.”

School Committee member Glenn Johnson-Mussad noted this wasn’t the first Open Meeting Law complaint filed against the board and a “refresher” would be worthwhile.

“As far as the substance of the complaints, I think the mayor is in a tricky position in terms of having the office of the mayor and the School Committee,” he added. “You may need to do certain things as a mayor that conflict with her role on the School Committee and Open Meeting Law. ... I feel like I could use some technical assistance to understand these distinctions.”

Vice Chair Kate Martini, who served as chair for the meeting, said while she understands people make mistakes, she did feel as though Wedegartner’s first email initiated deliberation and was in direct violation of the law.

“The other thing that bugged me about it is the school budget has got to be the thing the public has demonstrated they care the most about of anything that has come in my time, which admittedly has not been that long,” she said. “All the same, we’ve had an incredible amount of interest in this particular topic. It did make me uncomfortable that this discussion about school finances … was a continuation of the City Council meeting.”

The conversation on Tuesday, however, focused less on the content of the emails and more on how the School Committee should proceed. Martini made an initial motion for each member of the committee to attend a webinar hosted by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees or to read the Open Meeting Law and inform the chair after they had done so. The motion failed to receive majority support from the committee.

Martini countered Wedegartner’s statement that the AG’s office would conduct an investigation.

“They may conduct an investigation,” she said. “They will not necessarily do so. I think that may be affected by what we decide to do or not to do.”

After voting unanimously to instead direct DeBarge to coordinate an Open Meeting Law training for the School Committee, members also directed her to file a response with the AG’s office that states what was decided upon by committee members.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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