SAUGUS — The superintendent of schools has barred a School Committee member from entering all school buildings without first getting permission.
After an altercation with a staff member in Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi’s office, longtime School Committee member Arthur Grabowski will now be required to call and speak directly to DeRuosi before visiting any school for any reason and before entering the Roby Building, where his office resides and committee meeting commence. Grabowski, in turn, said the incident is being overblown and is a ploy to derail his re-election.
In a letter to Grabowski, DeRuosi told the committee member he must arrive 15 minutes before meetings and report directly to the school committee room, and to refrain from reaching out to building administrators and staff to seek information.
“Employees have the right not to have their jobs threatened, they should not be aggressively chastised for situations, and they shouldn’t be made to feel physically threatened in the workplace,” DeRuosi wrote in the letter sent to Grabowski and the rest of the committee via email. DeRuosi added that the staff member involved in the incident was made to feel physically and emotionally upset and is still concerned about possible retaliation.
The letter details the Oct. 20 incident during which Grabowski allegedly yelled at a staff member in his office.
While DeRuosi was out of the office, Grabowski saw his name on a piece of paper on the superintendent’s desk, according to the letter. He reportedly questioned why he was not notified of the information and insinuated the staff member was withholding information intentionally.
According to the letter, Grabowski later apologized several times for his actions, but then told the woman she was being blamed for meeting agendas being posted incorrectly. The staff member began to shake, cry, and become physically upset, DeRuosi said.
Grabowski left the building and returned shortly after, knocking on the door of the superintendent’s office. He apologized and presented the staff member with flowers, according to the letter.
The staff member told DeRuosi she felt her job was in jeopardy based on her discussion with Grabowski. She was then sent home because of the condition she was in.
“Mr. Grabowski, based on written accounts of incidents and my follow-up interviews, I find your behavior on Oct. 20, 2017 created a hostile work environment,” the letter states. “One of my obligations is to create an environment for my employee which is conducive to her being able to perform her duties. In my opinion, that on Oct. 20, 2017, your actions significantly impacted (her) ability to perform her duties. Due to your aggressive interaction with her, she became physically and emotionally upset, she needed to leave the building, and eventually be sent home. This resulted in my office being closed for the remainder of the day.”
Grabowski told The Item he was at the administration building to conduct business and found time-sensitive correspondence meant for him and expressed his disappointment on not receiving notice. He said he accepted that the secretary was unaware of the correspondence.
“Apparently, when I made her aware that she was being blamed by the chairman for meeting postings that did not comply with the open meeting law, she became upset,” said Grabowski. “I wanted to be clear that I was not blaming her, merely pointing out that the chair was. I was later made aware that the chair and the superintendent met with this employee and apparently coached her to write a complaint.”
Grabowski said he believes the complaint was filed to threaten or discredit him days before the election. He said he has been the target of continued harassment and threats that stem from his concern about “unethical activities surrounding the athletic director search.”
“It is sad when employees are used as scapegoats and pawns to cover up mistakes and inadequacies of the chair,” he said. “It is obvious that this is a ploy to discredit me because of my continuing criticism of budgetary decisions and lack of adequate funding from the town, as well as the dictatorial control of the school committee by the chair over the last year.”
School Committee Chairwoman Jeannie Meredith declined to comment.
School Committee member Elizabeth Marchese said she didn’t hear about the incident until Thursday but called it disappointing.
“With the Saugus school district focusing so much attention on anti-bullying and with all the awareness surrounding October as anti-bullying month, this incident greatly disappoints me,” Marchese said. “A school committee as a whole and its individual members should strive to set the bar high and set a positive example for our students and families. I am very sorry this happened right in our own building and to one of our employees. No one should be made to feel unsafe in their work or school environment.”
Should Grabowski refuse to comply with the rules, DeRuosi said in the letter he would report any violations to the chair of the School Committee for appropriate action.