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North Andover School Chairman’s e-mail Touches Off Firestorm

VALLEY PATRIOT EXCLUSIVE!!

Tom Duggan – Valley Patriot Publisher

North Andover School Committee Chair Chris Allen

Chris Allen

NORTH ANDOVER – School Committee Chairman Chris Allen thinks that the Merrimack Valley Tea Party and town activist Ted Tripp are “small minded” for opposing the proposed meals tax on the town meeting warrant last week.

She also believes, or at least says she believes, that they don’t care about education and have denigrated teachers and educators in town.

So says Ted Tripp, a town resident who read an email she sent out to school by Allen to administrators and public school employees the day before Town Meeting was to vote on a proposed 0.75% meals tax on all prepared food sold in North Andover. (see email below).

Her email to the employees of the school system came just days after Superintendent Hottel sent home a letter with students advocating support of the meals tax on official stationary of the North Andover Public Schools, causing outrage in town.

Chairman Allen, who campaigned for the meals tax, is also being accused by Mr. Tripp of using school resources to affect the meals tax vote at Special Town meeting. He spoke during last week’s school committee meeting demanding an apology.

“Yesterday I got a flurry of phone calls and emails over a letter that was sent out this past Monday,” Tripp said at the public meeting, while Chairman Allen disrespectfully sent out texts and played with her cell phone.

“It was apparently sent out from a town authorized email computer, or town authorized computer account. And I say that because, at the bottom it says: ‘please not the mass sec of State’s office has determined that most emails to and from municipal office officials are public records.’”

But Chairman Allen told the Valley Patriot that she did not use public resources to send the email and defended her statements, refusing to apologize to Tripp or those “like minded” people in town who opposed the tax. She also said in her written response to Valley Patriot inquiries that she intends to continue her activism for the schools.

Tripp also addressed Allen’s claim that he doesn’t care about education in town.

(VIDEO OF TRIPP’S APPEARANCE AT SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING)

“I want to tell you a little bit about this ‘small minded’ person right here. I went to high school. I graduated valedictorian of my class. I went onto MIT. I got on the dean’s list my freshman year. I graduated with bachelors in chemical engineering. I went on another year and got a masters degree in chemical engineering. Then I went to work. In my technical career I was co-inventor on four US patents I have many foreign patents as well.

I presented technical papers, Munich, London, Amsterdam, Kuala Lampur, Jakarta, Tokyo… for 20 years I gave continuing education courses using electronic accelerators for the instant polymerization of coatings and adhesives.

And why do I tell you this because I value education as much if not more than everybody else in this room tonight. I also value great teachers, there’s nothing like a terrific teacher in education.

Ted Tripp

So, I challenge Chairman Allen to prove, show proof somewhere that I wrote or I said #1 that all the money from that meals tax was going to go to the schools I never said that and I never wrote. #2 I never denigrated any teachers or any educators in the system. I would never do that. I may argue with you on policy I may argue with you on money. But I would never denigrate the teachers here.

So, I challenge you, and if you can’t show any proof, and I know you can’t, I expect a public apology number one and I expect you to send to your email list here, an apology as well o all those people saying you were wrong and you apologize because your remarks were incorrect. Finally I just so want you to know tomorrow I am filing a freedom of information act. I want the original of this and anything that went out on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday and a list of all the recipients it went to because this is public information It want from a school computer it’s all public information and I am going to get that and then I will share that with the press.”

Allen’s Response

Chairman Allen says she her email comments about Tripp prior to Special Town Meeting were in response to an e-mail sent out by Tripp to his “Tea Party Constituents”.

“During public comment at our School Committee meeting on November 17, Tedd Tripp came before the board in a highly emotional state relating to an email I sent out just prior to Special Town meeting,” her response reads.

“I confess to being forced into a defensive state just prior to town meeting when I read an email from Ted to Tea Party constituents which referred to the Town Meeting Warrant Article #9 related to the Local Option Meals Excise Tax and claimed that:

“the schools are already salivating at the prospect of this extra money. As a matter of fact, the superintendent of schools sent home in the backpack of every student a notice about the meeting and how great this would benefit the schools if it passes. While technically not illegal because he doesn’t come right out and ask for a “yes” vote on this article, you can see he is advocating for the parents to get to town meeting and support it. That’s why, as Tea Party advocates, we must stop these kinds of games by “big government” people who ALWAYS, ALWAYS want more of our money. There is no end to it. WE MUST JUST KEEP TELLING THEM NO!!!! Please take the time to come to town meeting on Tuesday evening and vote NO (HELL NO!) on the meals tax.”

As Chair of the School Committee, I took this language as a disparagement of our school employees. I was further concerned about the language that was used in targeted phone calls to citizens, at least one of which made all kinds of untrue and inflammatory statements about our schools, such as that “ test scores are low” and “not many kids go on to college.” In fact, our schools have been cited this year by many media outlets for outstanding test results and 93% of our students proceed directly to college after graduating from North Andover High School.

My letter was thus intended to refer not to Mr. Tripp alone, but, as I said, to a “politically motivated group” that disseminated these inflammatory statements.

Some facts: I never said Mr. Tripp was anti-education. I used publicly available voter lists, cross referenced to publicly available town reports of North Andover employees. I have lived in town for over 27 years so I also know a lot of folks. I did not use a school computer. The phone call referenced was very real, was documented, and the person who made the call is known. As chair of the North Andover School Committee I was elected to advocate for our public schools. I will continue to do so.”

Working together?

While opponents of the meals tax have complained loudly that Chairman Allen and Superintendent Hottel have been working together behind the scenes to politic for the meals tax, an email from Allen to The Valley Patriot seem to confirm that claim.

While awaiting a written response from Allen to Valley Patriot inquiries on the issue, Allen explained the short delay in her response in an email stating the following:

Any statement I make to any publication must be run by Mr. Hottel first (standing instructions) so I am waiting for his reply. He is generally very prompt.” ~ C. Allen

When pressed about why an elected member of the School Committee would need permission from a subordinate (the Superintendent works for the committee) and whether this was a standing policy of the committee, she responded saying:

“No, not a policy, just a curtsey between chair and super. He always extends me the same, kind of the “no surprise” rule. I realized this doesn’t happen with other school committees.”

To respond to this story or send us a new tip you can Email the Valley Patriot at valleypatriot@aol.com

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover Massachusetts, a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, a 1990 Police Survivor and hosts the Paying Attention! Radio Program on 980WCAP in Lowell, Massachusetts. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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