Robison: Superintendent Has Hired Outside Counsel
SPS Committee Chair Rich Robison confirms a lawyer has been put on retainer, but can't say for what.
After the Sudbury Public Schools Committee ended executive session on Wednesday night, numerous parents stayed at the Senior Center and continued to demand answers over the lack of communication regarding the dismissal of first-grade teacher Janice Donahue.
According to parent Christine Hogan, when executive session ended after almost two hours, another parent, Jane Stevenson, asked the Committee whether private counsel had been hired.
"Robison answered, 'Yes,'" Hogan told Sudbury Patch. "When Jane asked for the counsel's name, he turned to Dr. (Anne) Wilson, who said he cannot answer because it is not public record."
Parents Bobby Beagan and Cindy Brindisi were also at the meeting and confirmed to Sudbury Patch the conversations between the Committee and other parents.
Robison told Sudbury Patch the hiring of counsel is a routine matter.
"If we have questions about any legal issue regarding different activities we engage in, we ask counsel," he said. "When we say we can’t talk about staff, that’s from counsel for a variety of reasons. There are federal and state laws. The reality of this situation at Noyes is there are very specific laws we need to observe until it’s cleared up."
Robison said he could not name the counsel who was hired or why.
"We can’t discuss student records or personnel records according to law to protect student and parent privacy and those employed," he said. "People perceive it as cover up, or hiding behind a lawyer, but it's not that simple."
The Committee was also asked who would be paying for counsel and any settlement. Robison said that would come school funds.
"The school department pays the bill," he said.
SPS business manager Mary Will said there isn't a line item in the budget for litigation and there are no funds in reserve for such an issue.
"There is a standard budget line item for attorney fees," she said.
If SPS were to go to court for any reason and lose a case, Will said they would have to look within the budget to find the money to pay for any settlement.
"But that hasn't happened since I've been here," Will said, who added she's about to enter her 10th year at SPS.
Wilson was not available for comment on Thursday as she was attending an activity with a fourth-grade class for the remainder of the week.
Donahue came under fire after the school's music teacher, Michael Gorgone, filed a complaint about how she broke up a fight between two students.
About two dozen parents and students gathered outside the SPS offices to support Donahue prior to a hearing last month. Some left crying after hearing the news of her dismissal.
Donahue and her lawyers were told not to comment on the hearings.
Her husband, Jim, said: "Let's just say she didn't win."