School Committee votes to keep Superintendent Easy in role during investigation

On+Nov.+10%2C+the+Wayland+School+Committee+held+a+special+session+meeting%2C+made+public+at+the+request+of+Dr.+Easy.+

Genevieve Morrison

On Nov. 10, the Wayland School Committee held a special session meeting, made public at the request of Dr. Easy.

By Genevieve Morrison, Wayland High School

On Nov. 10, Wayland’s School Committee was called into an executive session, which was switched to a public, open session at the request of Superintendent Dr. Omar Easy. The committee voted on whether or not Easy should be put on leave pending an investigation for his conduct in an Oct. 13 administrative council meeting.

The motion passed with four members in favor. Chair Chris Ryan, Vice Chair Ellen Grieco and members Jeanne Downs and Jess Polizzotti voted in favor of the motion, while member Erin Gibbons opted to abstain from the vote.

School Committee member Jeanne Downs proposed the motion that would allow the School Committee to initiate an independent investigation of Easy, without him being put on leave. However, the motion included a clause that if the investigation is impeded by Easy’s presence at work, the matter could be revisited.

“We engage in a School Committee investigation pursuant to the vote on Oct. 26, of the complaints made, with Dr. Easy continuing his job as superintendent with the caveat that if during the investigation, it is determined by the investigator that there is interference, the School Committee will take steps to address it,” Downs said in the motion.

Easy’s request for an open session is his right under General Laws of Massachusetts chapter 30A. An agenda, opened to the public on Nov. 8, stated the initial reason for the meeting.

“Discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual – complaint relative to administrator,” the School Committee said in its statement.

Early in the meeting, School Committee members clarified that its purpose specifically was to determine how Easy was to be investigated for his conduct in a meeting of building principals, assistant principals, and central office administrators on Oct. 13. They had reportedly received six to seven verbal complaints claiming “fear” and “intimidation.” The main topic of discussion was whether or not Easy should be put on leave pending investigation into this incident.

Also attending the meeting were Dr. Easy’s attorney, Michael Long, and an attorney representing the School Committee, Kevin Bresnahan.

The agenda included an explanation of background information for citizens, an extended 30 minute period of public comment, deliberation of motions, and another 15 minute period of public comment. Following the second public comment, the committee voted on the motion and adjourned. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. and adjourn at 5:00 p.m. However, the meeting ran longer than planned, beginning at 4:05 p.m. and adjourning at approximately 7:00 p.m.

In both comment periods, public comments covered a range of issues. Some community members spoke in support of Easy, while others voiced complaints including, but not limited to, creating a hostile work environment, failing to complete performance reviews and flouting hiring protocols.

“Teachers with years of experience are contemplating leaving the district at enormous cost to their careers and their pensions because the current situation is so traumatic,” community member Catherine Radmer said.

Some citizens, supporting Easy, commented on the issue of lack of representation of people of color in Wayland’s school system. Several parents of students in the METCO program voiced concerns about how their children would react negatively to Easy, a role model, being put on leave. Other citizens voiced concerns about whether the mistrust surrounding Dr. Easy was based on his race.

“I feel that Dr. Easy is being targeted because of the color of his skin,” METCO parent Susan Young said.

Easy and his attorney both had the opportunity to make statements on his behalf. In his comments, Easy denied the allegations of misconduct in the Oct. 13 meeting.

“No member of this committee has heard anything from the superintendent,” Easy said. “However, it’s clear that the chair and other members of this committee have done their own investigation and found this superintendent guilty.”

In his statement, Long cited that the complaints upon which the investigation is based, were verbal and anonymous. He claimed that Easy has never been able to see the complaints against him, and, therefore, cannot defend himself. Easy also claimed that he was unable to have legal counsel present during the Oct. 26 meeting, in which the committee voted to formally investigate him, and was not given the opportunity to reschedule.

“Apparently there’s been extensive conversation between at least one of these administrators and the chair,” Long said. “Apparently the complaint wasn’t put in writing, although we’ve asked for it a number of times. That doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you have an agenda that you’re trying to serve before you start the process.”

Long also refuted the allegation that Easy did not complete performance reviews, holding up a stack of 160 reviews he accessed in an online system. Later in the meeting, the School Committee disclosed that only one performance review had not been completed.

“To suggest that these people were not evaluated, or they were not told, or they could not find out, is inaccurate,” Long said.

In deliberation, debate surfaced regarding a “deal” that Chair Chris Ryan allegedly presented to Long through Bresnehan. The nature of this allegation is unclear, but Member Jess Polizzotti claimed that this action was taken without the consent of the rest of the School Committee.

“As a committee we never discussed that, and the chair cannot act alone,” Polizzotti said. “That’s concerning to me [because] we didn’t vote.”

Ryan denied having conversations with the School Committee’s attorney that overstepped his role as chair. Bresnehan said that he never discussed a “substantiative deal” with Long. Long made a statement on the matter as well.

“Mr. Bresnehan and I are both busy, I don’t think that he would call me unless there was reason to do so,” Long said.

The meeting concluded with the second section of public comment and the vote passing Downs’s motion.

“Just by doing that investigation, it’s saying that we are listening,” Polizzotti said.

This story was originally published on Wayland Student Press on November 11, 2022.