Finning Resigns Amid Conflict

            Dr. Shannon Finning has tendered a letter of resignation from the Mattapoisett School Committee effective July 13. The resignation also ends her membership on the Old Rochester Regional Joint School Committee / Superintendency Union #55, for which she had served as union-side chair.

            In her letter to the Town of Mattapoisett, Finning cited conflict with Chairperson James Muse.

            “While I am proud of my dedicated service to the community over the last two plus years, particularly of my service during the superintendent search, my effort to ensure all voices were heard during our reopening conversations, and my contributions to the establishment of and initial year of service on the anti-racism subcommittee, I am unwilling to serve on a body that continues to select a chair who has treated me, personally, with disrespect and, of more concern, has, in my opinion, demonstrated an unwillingness to hear from all constituents and effectively engage and communicate with parents and families in particular,” read Finning’s statement in part.

            When asked about Finning’s allegation of personal disrespect, Muse told The Wanderer, “I always respected Dr. Finning, her position as a school committee member and her professional knowledge, and personally.”

            During the summer of 2020 and into the 2020-21 academic year, Finning spoke critically in public meetings about Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson’s performance, articulating her frustration over a lack of transparency in his rollout of the return-to-school plan.

            The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education asked school superintendents last summer to submit plans for full in-person, hybrid, and full-remote learning models with the requested emphasis on the in-person model. Finning stated during a fall school committee meeting that she had yet to see the in-person model requested by DESE, but Muse insisted that Nelson had complied with DESE’s requests and had given ORR’s submitted plans its approval.

            Nelson created a COVID-19 dashboard on the school district website that provided up-to-date information for all school bodies in the district, and thresholds were established for potential pivots in the learning model.

            The ORR district began the school year primarily in a hybrid attendance format (two days in class, three days via remote access). District school committees frequently heard in public meetings from students’ parents who expressed frustration with remote-access learning.

            In March, ORR pivoted the learning model for grades K-2 back to full in-person, and a few weeks later vetted building plans to do the same with grades 3-6. By the end of April, grades 6-12 were also back to full, in-person learning, and the hybrid model was discontinued.

            Finning did not respond to a request for further comment on her resignation.

            Asked for comment, Nelson sent the following statement to The Wanderer: “I want to thank Dr. Finning for her time and effort as a Mattapoisett School Committee and Joint School Committee member. Dr. Finning offered many, many hours to serve the community of Mattapoisett and our schools during the past two years and I appreciate her contributions very much. I wish Dr. Finning continued success in all her future endeavors.”

            Muse likewise extended his appreciation for Finning’s service. “I thank her for her service, and I wish her the best in the future.”

            The Mattapoisett School Committee is currently working through the process of filling the vacated seat with the town clerk and the Select Board, and Muse anticipates the position will be filled by appointment in accordance with town bylaws. “We do not expect that there will be a special election,” he said.

            In other news, the committee received written confirmation dated July 15 from the state Attorney General’s Office that it found no grounds to pursue the Open Meeting Law complaint filed by Mattapoisett resident Stephanie Clark.

            The AG’s Office determined that the October 22, 6:30 pm Mattapoisett School Committee meeting notice in dispute had been posted on October 20 at approximately 4:10 pm by the town clerk on a bulletin board outside Town Hall, satisfying both the 48-hour time and official posting-location requirements.

            The committee will next meet toward the end of August.

Mattapoisett School Committee

By Mick Colageo

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