On top of all the other issues now swirling around the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, it was profoundly troubling to hear that Board of Trustees members Ira Yavner, during Saturday morning’s meeting, took it upon himself to admonish the only three members of the public in the audience.
And the trouble goes far beyond the fact that attendees Jason Grow, Peter Dolan and Martin DelVecchio — admittedly, all known charter critics — were, by all counts, not laughing or doing anything disruptive to draw any such rebuke.
Yavner chose to interrupt the meeting, turn to the audience of three, and spout, “We welcome guests here, and this is a public forum for the good of the kids, but if you guys are going to sit and make faces and laugh and respond to what’s being said, you’re not going to be welcome here.”
Guests? A board member deciding who from the public is or is not welcome? Yikes.
Yavner’s embarrassing outburst shows he has no idea of the need for a public board like the charter school’s trustees to be open to public attendance and scrutiny at all times, with only very specific executive-session exceptions. And despite orders from the Department of Education to undergo open meeting law training, this escapade reiterates just how little some board members know or frankly even care about public accountability. Scheduling an important board meeting like this one at 7:30 on a Saturday morning doesn’t speak well to any of these issues, either.
As we noted last week, it’s high time the state DESE steps in to carry out its own investigation into many of the school’s problems, including issues raised by parents over the leadership of Executive Director Tony Blackman, who still has no contract for the new school year.
But Yavner’s clueless outburst may have carried this need a step farther. It suggests it’s time the DESE considered stepping in and installing a new, state-led interim board that can run the school in accordance with state law — and with the level of accountability all parents and taxpayers deserve.