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UPDATED: Minuteman School Committee moved ahead with two midlevel management positions, approved a student handbook and discussed financial issues before heading into closed session Tuesday, Aug. 15, at its regular meeting place at the high school on Marrett Road in Lexington.

This was the second of three Minuteman meetings all scheduled within seven days' time. Minuteman had a meeting Aug 10; another Aug. 15, whose events are described later on in this article; and one Aug. 17, almost exclusively an "executive," or closed session, with no news expected to be immediately reportable, according to its agenda.

Arlington's Minuteman representative is Sarah Montague, appointed in mid-June by Arlington's Select Board to succeed A. Michael Ruderman. Some 200 Arlington teens attend Minuteman High School, part of the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District, which serves nine municipalities.

Since early April, closed sessions at each meeting have concerned the status of Superintendent-Director Kathleen Dawsonwho began work July 1, 2022, and was put on administrative leave less than 11 months later, late on the night of May 11 during a closed session. Starting in early April if not earlier, many students, parents and teachers began to publicly complain about Dawson's management style, claiming that it is allegedly behind the departure of half-a-dozen of the district's middle-management employees.Dawson some weeks ago told The Boston Globe that she has done no intentional wrong and hopes to be exonerated. Dawson, however, has not replied to YourArlington's requests for comment.

The committee also had an executive-only session Aug. 29 concerning Dawson.

Minuteman officials have been asked to let the media know when any decisions are made about Dawson's status.


Handbook supported unanimously

The vote at the open portion of the meeting Tuesday, Aug. 15, was unanimous to approve the latest version of the student handbook, an issue brought up by Acting Principal Katie Bouchard. She was appointed initially as interim principal after longtime principal George Clement -- whose denial of contract renewal by Dawson in early April was the inciting incident behind the public uproar -- stopped coming to campus in late May. Like Dawson, Clement also has not responded to YourArlington's requests for comment.

The vote also was unanimous to have Acting Superintendent-Director Kevin Mahoney extend an employment offer to a candidate to become interim director of career technical education, Bouchard's former position, and also to reestablish the part-time position of assistant district treasurer. Mahoney, whom the committee appointed in mid-May, said that, in general, "We're in pretty good shape" in the human-resources area.

 Committee member Steve LeDoux, head of the finance subcommittee, spoke up briefly to remind his colleagues that "It won't be too long till we will be in the budget cycle " -- and emphasized the need for someone to step forward to take the place of former subcommittee member Ruderman.

The district recently got a grant for more than $116,000 to be used primarily to add more curriculum in quality control and quality assurance so as to increase the employability of graduates including enhancing their workplace readiness, and also to attempt to meet the needs of local industry. This could possibly take the form of an arrangement with the "earn and learn" program at nearby Middlesex Community College's Bedford campus and an informal partnership with biotech companies in and around Lexington.

Minuteman still has federal pandemic-related ESSER funding left to spend and is leaning toward using part of it toward social-emotional learning, specifically by acquiring specially trained therapy dogs, as is already being done in some other Massachusetts public school districts.

Discussion of athletics complex

Much of the open portion of the meeting was a lengthy discussion concerning a possible request-for-proposal for buildout of a second phase of the athletics complex. This could involve a possible leasing arrangement with a partner that could in effect last for 10 or even 20 years. Approving an RFP would begin the process but not obligate the district in any way. However, if the plan goes forward, the details then would be included in a subsequent site-license agreement, or contract, that would be hammered out by attorneys, the committee heard. 

The intention would be for the facility -- which when complete could include grandstands seating 1,200, tennis courts, a field house and more -- to ultimately be completely self-sustaining from user fees and thus require neither district funding nor financial support from member towns.

 "It is a huge opportunity, but it is a longterm commitrment," Committee Chair Jeff Stulin of Needham observed. "We need to talk to our towns sooner rather than later." 

After a unanimous rollcall vote, closed session began at 8 p.m. after the 90-minute open session. The agenda says that it was deemed necessary "To discuss the reputation, character, physical condition, or mental health, rather than professional competence, of the Superintendent-Director, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member, or individual" and "Pursuant to M.G.L.c.30A, Section 21(a)(2) for the purpose of discussing strategy as it relates to contract negotiations with non-union personnel: Superintendent/Director." 

June 22, 2023: Montague named town's new Minuteman School Committee representative

This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Aug. 16, 2023. It was updated Aug. 17, 2023, to state that the Minuteman School Committee had slated three meetings to occur within a single week and later that same day to note that, in contrast, the Arlington School Committee as of Aug. 17 was to have its first meeting in more than two months. It was updated Sept. 3, 2023, to note that another Minuteman School Committee meeting took place Aug. 29, with the sole item of business another closed session concerning the status/future of embattled Superintendent-Director Kathleen Dawson, who has been on administrative leave for nearly four months.