From the Administrative Guide for Charter Schools (http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/governance/adminguide.pdf).
2. Duty of Loyalty
Like the duty of care, the duty of loyalty is a legal principle that governs the actions of individual Board members. Specifically, it prohibits them from doing anything that would allow them to profit personally or indirectly because of their position. To comply with the duty of loyalty, trustees must:
•Not knowingly do anything that would harm the school; and
•Not vote on any matter in which they have a personal interest.
A trustee who takes an action in his or her business or personal life that is detrimental to the mission of the charter school violates the duty of loyalty to the charter school board.
A trustee who seeks special privileges in school admission or other educational benefits for a member of his or her family violates the duty of loyalty to the charter school board.
3. State Conflict of Interest Law
Closely related to the duty of loyalty, the conflict of interest law generally prohibits Board members from taking advantage of their position to gain improper benefits for themselves, their relatives, their associates, or their friends. G.L. c. 268A; G.L. c. 71, § 89(v).
There are a variety of circumstances that may affect a proposed Board member’s ability to lawfully serve on a school’s Board of Trustees. Civil and criminal penalties may apply to Board members who violate the state’s conflict of interest law. G.L. c. 268A, § 9. The Charter School Office strongly recommends that prospective Board members consult with the State Ethics Commission regarding any potential conflicts of interest prior to beginning service. The State Ethics Commission can be reached at 617-727-0060 and has a website containing more information, http://www.mass.gov/ethics.
Generally speaking, trustees of a charter school, as special state employees, may not have a financial interest in contracts of the charter school absent an exemption from the Governor. G.L. c. 268A, § 7. This restriction also applies to current Board members who have a contract with an agency separate from the school and who wish to enter into a contract with the school through that agency.
Board members are also restricted from accepting anything “of value” because of their official position. G.L. c. 268A, § 2. In addition, Board members are bound by the general code of conduct for public employees, set forth in G.L. c. 268A, § 23. The State Ethics Commission’s web site lists examples of activities prohibited by these provisions of the conflict of interest law, though it notes that exceptions may apply.2 For example, Board members:
• May not use their position to obtain unwarranted privileges or special treatment for themselves or for anyone else;
• May not accept gifts of $50 or more from people with whom they have official dealings;
May not hire family members;
May not use charter school resources, including computers, phones, or copiers, for private purposes;
• May not disclose confidential information learned from participation on the Board’; and
• Must avoid conduct that creates a reasonable impression that they are likely to act, or fail to act, because of undue influence by any person.
An overview and introduction to the State laws pertaining to conflicts of issue can be viewed at:
Introduction to Conflict of Interest Laws,
Laws Regarding Financial Interests Conflcting with Official Duties,
Code of Conduct Laws,
Standards of Conduct,
Acting as an Agent Laws
- Conflict of Issues and Violations of Laws:
- According to the Board of Ethics and Conflict of Interest laws, it is clearly a conflict of interest for Neil Kinnon to be both the Chairman of the Board and a City Councilor.
- The hiring and retaining of certain individuals without regard to their competence, performance, impact, or dedication to the education of our children.
- The DESE has issued a number of directives regarding the school boards refusal to follow charter school laws in matters concerning the Board Members and the schools refusal to limit their term of service. The current Board Members have been in place for repeated terms and (according to our sources) have been given lifetime positions.
- The Board frequently conducts Executive Sessions in violation of the Open Meeting Laws that govern the school. Per the law, Executive Sessions are only permitted to discuss a limited number of issues and meeting minutes must be kept and published. The DESE has issued directives to the school (and per the Massachusetts Board of Education meeting minutes) notified the Attorney General of their refusal to do so.
- As a side note, the Board feels that by having the school attorney present at these meetings ensures no wrong-doing is being done. Unfortunately, as the school attorney (Jordan Shapiro) has served on several city committees with Neil Kinnon, this too is in violation of the laws.
- Jordan Shapiro’s son, Burt Shapiro, is also currently employed by the school and clearly presents a further conflict of interest.
- As many issues concerning personnel and payroll are discussed within these sessions, the issues regarding the high number of family members, friends, and business associates of the Board Members is concerning.
- The refusal of the school to release payroll records as required by the Freedom of Information Act has been the cause of much speculation and discussion. While the school may have initially been confused by the request, it seems apparent that the Boston Globe clarified their request sufficiently. It is concerning and alarming that this information was not released, especially in light of the schools reasoning.
- The school must file W-2’s on each employee each year and as such, would have this information readily available.
- The school ultimately provided the Observer with an 'article' and took out a paid advertisement in a local paper in an effort to appease critics and those challenging their motives. As this was a paid advertisement by the school, the information and data was not verified prior to being published. This advertisement was also limited to a small number of employees and not all employees as required under the Freedom of Information Act. This has resulted in a number of valid concerns and questions regarding the integrity and truthfulness of this information.
- The report included education credentials of top administrators yet failed to include degree and graduation year information. We feel this is as equally important and are seeking more information.
- To the best of our knowledge, the full report has still not been released and/or verified.
a. It is clear that certain students have been given preferential treatment in gaining admission to the school. We have confirmed that at least two students related to Christopher Finn were in fact re-admitted ahead of the students on the waitlist.
i. As a further concern, it has been suggested that the students who are currently on the waitlist may be legally entitled to filing a class action suit against the school. We are seeking legal advice from a reputable attorney to determine if there is any possibility of this.
b. In reviewing the observation reports from the DSES it is mentioned the lack of an English Language Learner program being properly maintained and initiated within the school. In considering this information, the school does not appear to have many non-English speaking students and we must question how this is possible considering the sending districts.
c. The lottery process itself has long been a concern among the families of our school. While the process has appeared authentic and in accordance with the laws, it is has been an on-going question as to how no child of any of the Administrations families (and certain friends), have NOT been chosen.
i. A number of us have heard rumors of families using their ‘connections’ to ensure their child’s entry. As the majority of these individuals would be unwilling to call attention to their participation in such practices, this is more difficult to verify.
1. We have begun to compile a list of families who have made admissions to having used a connection in securing admission for their child. Should the list reach a point where we feel it is verifiable, it will be submitted to the DESE, Ethics Committee, and Attorney General for review.
ii. It has been stated that an independent CPA firm conducts the lottery drawing. We are seeking the name of the firm and individual of that has been conducting the lottery on behalf of MVRCS. If you have this information, we request that you send it to us at UnOfficalMVRC@gmail.com.
d. Issues concerning the handling of the waitlist have also come to our attention and concern. Specifically that the waitlist is not being managed as required by law.
i. We have been unable to confirm but have been made aware of one family who was given conflicting information regarding their child’s number on the waitlist. This family (according to our source) hired an attorney to represent them and shortly after, their child was admitted. We do not begrudge the family in this situation but rather question the need for an attorney.
ii. A number of families who are currently on the waitlist were informed that they were within the top ten for their child’s grade yet have still not been admitted. One of these families is in the same grade level as one of the relatives of Christopher Finn who was re-admitted.
3. Non-discrimination Requirement
The anti-discrimination requirement is at the core of charter school enrollment law. Schools may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic
25.performance, special need, proficiency in the English language or a foreign language, or prior academic achievement. G.L. c. 71, § 89(l); 603 CMR 1.06(1). Charter schools may not administer tests to potential applicants or predicate enrollment on results from any test of ability or achievement. 603 CMR 1.06(2).
At the same time, charter schools have an interest in making sure that prospective students and their families understand the mission and focus of the school and that they are interested in being part of that school community. To that end, charter schools may have enrollment requirements, including but not limited to attendance at informational meetings and interviews, provided those requirements are not designed, intended, or used to discriminate unlawfully. 603 CMR 1.06(2). Meetings with parents/guardians, for example, must be designed to inform them about the school rather than to discourage certain types of students from attending the school.
ACCEPTABLE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
• Charter schools may require students to successfully complete the grade preceding the grade the student plans to enter, as determined by the sending school.
• Charter schools may strongly encourage or require parents/guardians to attend informational sessions.
• Charter schools may ask students and parents/guardians to sign compacts or memos of understanding that demonstrate their agreement with the school’s mission.
UNACCEPTABLE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
• Charter schools may not give preference to children of staff members or Board members.
•• Charter schools may not make statements that are intended to discourage parents/guardians of students with disabilities, English language learners, or any other protected group of students from submitting an application to the school.
Charter schools are expected to make proactive efforts to reach out to students and families throughout the community in recruiting new students and to administer their enrollment process in a way that is open, inclusive, and fair. Failure to do so may indicate that the school is using its enrollment process to discriminate and may result in sanctions by the Department.