School Building Committee membership debated

WESTFIELD – The School Building Committee voted Tuesday night to establish four subcommittees with specific areas of responsibility, as the design of the proposed elementary school moves forward.
The committee established a Technology Needs Subcommittee; a Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment (FFE) Subcommittee; a Community Outreach Subcommittee; and a Construction Issue Subcommittee.
The School Building Committee is comprised of 10 voting members and 27 non-voting members. Massachusetts School Building Authority identifies specific city officials who serve as a voting member, while the non-voting members were selected for their expertise in various fields with the intent to participate in the subcommittee process and interact with the project manager and architect. Only members of the School Building Committee can be appointed to the subcommittees.
The 10 voting members are Mayor Daniel M. Knapik, School Committee member Kevin Sullivan, School Superintendent Suzanne Scallion, Building Superintendent Jonathan Flagg, Law Department supervisor Susan Phillips, Purchasing Director Tammy Tefft, School Department Chief Financial Officer John Kane, Franklin Avenue School Principal Leslie Clark-Yvon, Abner Gibbs School Principal Maggie Adams and Ward 2 City Councilor James E. Brown Jr.
Both School Building Committee and subcommittee membership were discussed for nearly an hour, with several teachers requesting that the School Building Committee be further expanded to allow teachers and other staff members to serve on the subcommittees.
Knapik and Sullivan both reported that the Law Department recommended against further expansion of the committee because of the requirements of the state open meeting law.
Sullivan said it is not the intent of the School Building Committee to limit teacher and staff participation, but to avoid possible open meeting law conflicts.
“My opinion is that we don’t want to expand the committee by another 10 or 15 people because it becomes too cumbersome,” Sullivan said. “From a legal perspective, trying to keep track of subcommittee members and the open meeting law requirements would be difficult.”
Teacher Kathy Knapik raised the issue of teacher and staff members who volunteered to work on subcommittees formed by Architect Margo Jones this past fall and of teachers who were peer selected to represent the interests of their schools.
Project Manager Paul Kneedler of Skanska USA Building Inc., said Jones was establishing work groups and erred in calling them subcommittees.
Jones “had ideas she wanted to present to the teachers and staff to get feedback,” Kneedler said. “The consultants and design team have to be able to go to people in the field, then that information will be brought back to this committee.”
Knapik said that teachers, staff and parents will be involved in the design and construction process.
“You can have working groups to hammer out issues with the contractors, flesh out issues and concerns from the rank and file teachers,” Knapik said. “Nobody is saying you won’t have a role, you will have a huge role. Once that information is synthesized, it will be presented to the subcommittees. If you are not an official member of a subcommittee, it does not mean you will not be listened to, we’re counting on you to flesh out those issues.”
Scallion said the intent of the School Building Committee is “to involve teachers, parents and students throughout the whole process.”
“There will be ample opportunity for participation,” Scallion said. “We honor teachers’ expertise and knowledge. But you can’t have informal sidebar discussions with each other if you’re formal members.”
School Committee member Cindy Sullivan raised the issue of expanding the School Building Committee to include representation from Juniper Park School, while Sullivan said that he may request the three new members of the School Committee, all of whom were present at the session and who were sworn into office earlier in the day, also be appointed to the committee.
The Technology Needs Subcommittee members are Robert Hamel, Albert Masciadrelli, Maureen Dunphy, Maggie Adams, Leslie Clark-Yvon and Ron Rix.
The FFE Subcommittee members are Maggie Adams, Cindy Sullivan, Tammy Tefft, Leslie Clark-Yvon and Kathy Knapik.
The Community Outreach Subcommittee, which is slated to meet on Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Ashley Street building, includes Cindy Sullivan, Kevin Sullivan, Nancy Amanti, Leslie Clark-Yvon, William Duval, James E. Brown Jr., Frances St. Peter and Vera Dunley.
The Construction Issues Subcommittee includes Frank Maher, Albert Masciadrelli, Tammy Tefft, Steve Hagen, Chris Carey, Jon Flagg, Leslie Clark-Yvon and John Kane.

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