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LTE: Munroe MIA Again

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Sunnyside Gardens

(This was also made at public comment at the School Committee Meeting 5/16/24.)

School Committee Member Mr. Munroe was elected last May, but as of tonight’s meeting, he has missed more than 50 percent of the school committee meetings. Once again, he was absent last night, May 16. His attendance record has been abysmal.

>> RELATED: Munroe Absent from School Committee Meetings, Delays Votes

Since his election in May 2023, Mr. Munroe has been absent for half of all school committee meetings. Out of 32 meetings, he has attended only 16 in person. His absences include the meetings on May 25 (the first following his election), July 6 (remote attendance), August 3 (remote attendance), September 21, October 5, November 2, December 21, January 11, March 7, March 21, April 4, May 2, and now May 16.

Moreover, Mr. Munroe was not present at any of the three nights of the most recent Town Meeting, despite other School Committee members being there to address questions. Dr. Cavanaugh presented on the critical Hopkins vote, yet Mr. Monroe was noticeably absent.

During his absences, Mr. Munroe has missed several key votes, including the Charleswood naming vote, budget votes, and numerous policy discussions. Despite assurances during his campaign that he could balance his commitments, his attendance record tells a different story.

It’s also worth noting that Mr. Munroe missed a Meet the Candidates event during his campaign for office, where fellow HDTC member Amy Ritterbush read his campaign statement and then endorse him in his absence.

While I respect those who volunteer their time for board positions, last year’s election was highly contentious, and Mr. Munroe did not step into this role unopposed. He campaigned actively and received significant support from the democratic committee in town. His continued absences are a disservice to those who voted for him and put their trust in his commitment. And is an affront to our town at large.

The School Committee is arguably one of the most important committees in our town. Hopkinton Public Schools, as Dr. Cavanaugh highlighted in our recent TM, are a key asset to our community, attracting residents and maintaining high property values. Therefore, it is completely unacceptable to have a committee member who fails to attend half of the meetings.

I urge the School Committee to address Mr. Munroe’s ongoing absences. According to Section 6-3 of the Hopkinton Town Charter, a board member who misses four or more consecutive meetings or half of all meetings in a fiscal year may be removed by a majority vote of the remaining members. Notice must be provided to the member in question at least ten days before the vote.

While I have little confidence in the school committee voting to remove Mr. Monroe, the lack of public discussion about his absences is unacceptable. I urge Chair Nancy Cavanaugh to address this issue seriously and fulfill the responsibility to our town.

Thank you,

Ashley Fogg

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I hope the change that started with the selectboard begins to cascade into other critical boards as the town looks to rebound.

  2. Thanks, Ashley, for sharing your letter here and elevating these concerns. For those who were unable to watch the School Committee meeting last week, this issue was also taken up during the Chair report. In anticipation of this being part of my report, I had looked at the attendance statistics for all of the current School Committee members. Because Mr. Munroe’s 2 remote meetings legally count as being in attendance, he has not quite met the 50% threshold of absences (in addition, only meetings from this fiscal year 7/1/23-current count in the tally).

    Beyond that, however, I have learned since last week, through discussions with Town Hall and our Town Clerk that only appointed boards and committees are subject to provision 6-3 of the charter referenced in this letter, allowing removal of a member for absences. Elected bodies are not able under the charter to take such action. That is to say that elected bodies are not permitted to thwart the will of the voters who elected a member but there is a separate provision which many may be familiar with now that allows for the recall of member by voter petition.
    ****
    Here is the language in article 6-3 of the charter. Please note the word “appointed”:
    “During the term of office of any person APPOINTED to serve as a member of a board or committee, if such member shall fail to attend (4) or more consecutive meetings or half of all meetings thereof, a majority of the remaining members of the board may, by vote, declare the office vacant.”

    This provision would apply to Appropriations Committee, Youth Commission, Commission on Disability, and others appointed by the Select Board or other governing body. I am not saying attendance is not an important issue, but the School Committee itself is not apparently legally able to enforce it. I welcome the discourse on this and happy to talk further if anyone wants to reach out.

  3. Thank you for response, I appreciate your follow up Mrs. Cavanaugh. However, leadership is crucial. It means making tough decisions and acting in good faith for the town’s benefit. Your response that there is nothing you can do is disappointing. Regardless of whether it’s specified in the charter, would it not be too much for the community to expect the school committee to exercise moral authority to urge the delinquent member to resign? Could this not be a more expedient path than a lengthy and potentially divisive recall process? You can ask for Mr. Monroe’s resignation. The town deserves leaders who are present and dedicated – especially when there are other citizens willing to serve our community.

    • Ashley, I apologize if I gave the impression that there is nothing the SC can do at all; I was simply referring to the lack of ability to legally force the removal of a member. This does not mean that the School Committee through a designee or designees has not already attempted communication with Mr. Munroe or that the issue will not be pursued even though the School Committee lacks the legal authority to enforce action. In my initial response, I mostly wanted to correct the notion that many of us shared that there was a mechanism through the Town Charter to address this as we now know there is not. (Perhaps a thought for an addition to the next town charter?)

      I absolutely agree that the School Committee and the town need leaders who are present and dedicated. When a committee is not fully seated and fully present, it decreases representation for the town and it increases the workload for individual members. You’ll note that when I reported out on absences last week that no member at the table had missed more than 3% of meetings and 2 members had not missed any meetings at all. I would recommend anyone interested (which I hope is most people), tune in to our next School Committee meeting.

      • Nancy, thank you for your thoughtful response. I look forward to watching the next school committee meeting. I appreciate your ongoing dedication to our schools and town.

  4. While I agree that is too many absences, why is he not getting credit for attending remotely? Is there some portion of his duty he can’t carry out while sitting in the room? If we want qualified people more broadly to volunteer for these positions, then surely in 2024, with all the advances we’ve had in the ability to work remotely we can accommodate remote attendees for both committee members and the public. Particularly for committee members that means being able to fully function in the role while remote (good internet connection, able to listen and communicate reliably, etc). If you’re able to do it effectively then let’s use the technology that is widely available, make those accommodations, and keep that functionality.

    • Mr. Munroe is getting credit for his remote attendance. Re-read Nancy Cavanaugh’s response, “Because Mr. Munroe’s 2 remote meetings legally count as being in attendance…”

      Everyone is busy, especially those with children. If Mr. Munroe cannot attend the meetings, he should resign so that someone else can take his place.

      • The writer seems to imply attending remotely counts less and I think that’s a bad stance, even if I agree that regardless of those three instances, there do seem to be way too absences. I was just pointing out that remote attendance is an extremely valuable tool and don’t think it should discounted.

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