Remaining School Committee Members Reiterate Support For O'Connor
Apr 16, 2015 07:18PM ● Published by Bill Gilman
School Committee members Brian Dick, Dennis Francis, Chairman Krissy Polimeno and Jamie Cutelis.
Upset over the recent leak of confidential personal information of 83 out-of-district placement Special Education students, including her daughter, as well as what appeared to be a rating system for SpEd parents based on their level of cooperation with the district, Puccia stepped down from the committee on April 10, one day before being elected to a seat on the Shawsheen Tech School Committee. (See attachment for her complete letter of resignation.)
In an interview earlier this week, Puccia said she was also unhappy with how she had been treated by Special Education administrators, saying she felt bullied by Student Services Director Rick Pelletier and Out-of-District Placement Coordinator Renee Czyzewski. She said she felt it had reached a point where she could no longer advocate for her child while still on the committee.
In an interview prior to the meeting Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor did not respond to Puccia's allegations but wished her well.
"Lisa was a committed and dedicated school committee member the last two years," said O'Connor. "She served admirably on numerous subcommittees. She was always willing to attend sporting events and school events, which highlighted the talents of our students. I wish her well in her new position as a School Committee member for Shawsheen Tech."
During Tuesday's meeting, read into the record an letter he sent to more than 400 Special Education parents, apologizing for the information leak and explaining that the "ratings" wre only intended to predict how likely an out-of-district student was to be able to be serviced within the district. (See attachment for his entire letter.)
Speaking on behalf of the entire committee, Polimeno did not specifically reference Puccia's resignation but was clear that O'Connor has the full support of the remaining four committee members.
"The School Committee is fully supportive of Dr.O'Connor's public letter of apology," she said. "A mistake was made with inadvertent release of specific information that was part of the budget process. Opinions vary but let us be reminded that the Tewksbury Public Schools under the leadership of Dr. O'Connor follows the policies and procedures for all students that have been established by the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education."
After the meeting, Jamie Cutelis, recently re-elected to the committee, echoed Polimeno's statement.
"I think Dr. O'Connor is a tremendous superintendent and is doing a heckuva job," said Cutelis, adding that he full believes O'Connor's explanation of the controversial parent ratings.
Several members of the Tewksbury Special Education PAC attended the meeting but did not speak.
Moving forward, the School Committee and Board of Selectmen will be meeting jointly to choose an interim replacement for Puccia on the committee. It's unclear at this time if there will be a special election at some point to fill the remaining year of Puccia's term or if the interim replacement will serve the remaining year.