Lynn School Committee compromises: Two attendance supervisors approved

LYNN — After some fireworks at a School Committee meeting last month where Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham’s recommendation for a new supervisor of attendance was denied by the board, the superintendent came back with a new proposal on Thursday night.

In the new proposal from the superintendent, which was approved by the School Committee, there would instead be two supervisors of attendance, the two finalists from the interview process.

One of those new supervisors will be Ryan McDermott, a Lynn Police officer and school resource officer, the candidate who Latham had previously recommended. The other new hire will be Kristin Fraher, a Lynn resident who works as a juvenile justice supervisor with the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

Last month, each member of the School Committee voted no on the superintendent’s recommendation for McDermott as the new supervisor of attendance, except for Mayor Thomas M. McGee, chairman of the School Committee, who voted present.

Latham appeared to be surprised by the vote and asked for an explanation from the committee, adding that an interview process was conducted, three school committee members were on the interview committee, and it seemed clear to her that they would support her choice of a finalist.

Donna Coppola, vice-chairwoman of the school committee, said of the top two candidates, one was a Lynn resident, referring to Fraher, and if there were two candidates, she said she would be inclined to opt for the Lynn resident. McDermott lives in Melrose.

School committee member Brian Castellanos said last month the other candidate, referring to Fraher, stood out to him more, with Latham responding that she would beg to differ, as Castellanos was not at the interviews and did not sit on the committee.

Latham said the search process was open, fair and extensive and the school committee members were second-guessing that process.

School committee member Michael Satterwhite said the members saw the job posting and knew what they were looking for regarding the position and suggested the committee table the position if things were going to go back and forth. The decision last month was to table the position.

Satterwhite said Thursday night that since the last meeting, the superintendent had updated the school committee as to the subsequent interviews that took place for the supervisor of attendance. At the last meeting, he said the committee didn’t have the information before the vote.

“Again, we don’t have any issue with either candidate personally or their profession,” Satterwhite said. “We honor and respect both the law profession and the legal field.”

Latham said she put forward her recommendation at the last meeting and there was obviously some disagreement.

“Instead of being too discouraged, I looked at this as a possible opportunity,” Latham said. “Both finalists were excellent, each came from a different background and direction, but each had excellent skills and experience, so I went back and decided to review from the start exactly what the current attendance and discipline officer does.”

Latham said the attendance and discipline officer was changed to the supervisor of attendance. She said those responsibilities of the attendance and discipline officer include filing the school’s CRAs, or child requiring assistance cases.

During the past two years, she said there’s been a significant increase in the number of hearings attended. Sometimes, that can result in a full-day attendance in court by the officer.

Latham said the officer is also the keeper of records for Lynn Public Schools, which sometimes requires a court appearance. Records requests have increased dramatically, which corresponds with the number of students who have “gotten themselves into a little beef stew.”

In addition, she said the position has also required assisting principals with conducting full suspension hearings and issuing no-trespass orders to parents, guardians or outsiders who have caused problems at the schools.

She said there’s not a day the person is not in schools responding to students, emergencies or principal requests.

The former attendance and discipline officer had a higher base salary than the one negotiated for the supervisor of attendance position. Since the last meeting, she said one of the confidential secretaries in the deputy superintendent’s office retired.

Latham proposed not to replace that secretary and instead put the money toward her proposal. She said the salaries of the former positions together would fund two new positions with approximately $15,000 in savings.

Coppola said there was only a posting for one job and argued that if there’s extra money, it should be put directly in the schools.

“We posted for one job and that’s what we budgeted for and we really have to stick to that,” Coppola said.

The motion to move forward to hire two supervisors of attendance passed 5-2, with Coppola and another committee member, Lorraine Gately, voting no. But both candidates were approved unanimously.

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