Four BOE Members: Setting the Record Straight: The Kathleen Stowe We Know Will Be an Outstanding State Representative

Submitted by Greenwich Board of Education Members Peter Bernstein, Chair; Christina Downey; Karen Hirsh, Secretary; and Meghan Olsson

It is quite disturbing that two of our colleagues on the BOE have chosen to engage in a political attack on one of our own members, distorting facts to make their case. In some respect it is unsurprising given the toxic political climate at present. However, we cannot idly sit by and allow this, so are compelled to set the record straight in the interest of ensuring that voters are not misled by these efforts and that the community has a better sense as to how the BOE functions.

Before we address the inaccuracies in the Sherr/Kowalski Op Ed in last week’s Greenwich Sentinel, we think full disclosure is warranted – Ms. Kowalski’s husband is treasurer for Ms. Stowe’s opponent’s campaign.
The authors seek to undermine the administration and fellow Board members with dubious allegations and claims. Their piece includes implicitly veiled attacks on the Superintendent, and their choice to drag her (a Town employee) into the political arena to suit their purposes is a dereliction of their duties and is shameful.

Their effort, at a time when the BOE should be laser-focused on our schools during the pandemic, likely will minimize collaboration and distract from the work the BOE should be engaged in – excellence in the Greenwich Public Schools. We sincerely hope that this does not usher in a new period of battles and dysfunction on the BOE.

To that end, we are writing simply to set the record straight.

Addressing the specific allegations by Mr. Sherr and Ms. Kowalski:

• The authors claim that Ms. Stowe made “mistakes” in Dr. Jones’ employment contract, saying it is somehow “one-sided.” In point of fact,
the causes for termination in her contract are identical to the contract for
her predecessor Dr. Gildea, which was negotiated and signed by Mr. Sherr himself as the then Board chair.

• They complain that Ms. Stowe somehow failed to call for a budget
committee meeting during the spring budget issues with the BET, and
“punted the issue.” Mr. Sherr is a longstanding member of the Budget
Committee and we are unaware of his seeking any such committee
meeting. In fact, when one was held on May 19, a mere three weeks after
the BET budget vote and with proper notice to the public, Mr. Sherr failed
to attend.

• As neither of the authors attended that May meeting, we have no idea
how they can credibly allege anything regarding Ms. Stowe’s “guidance”
during that meeting or any positions she may have taken on any
individual cuts. Had they been present, they would have heard Ms. Stowe
advocate to ensure that funding of educational elements for students take
precedence over “preserving back-office administrators”; a position she consistently held during numerous discussions and meetings throughout
the spring.

• We are perplexed about the authors’ referring to the BOE finances this
year as a “mess”. In fact, through our COO’s efforts and COVID related
savings, we were able to avoid staff cuts, purchase needed supplies for
the current year AND return substantial unused funds to the Town for
last year, even with COVID and a flat budget for this year. Hardly a mess.

• They wrongly assert that the Superintendent “promptly inflamed the
community and made enemies of the majority leadership of the BET”, but
the Superintendent consistently addressed the looming budget cuts in a
professional, numbers-based manner. The community reaction during
the April budget process was generated by the BET’s decisions, to which
the public responded. Is it unfathomable to our colleagues that the
countless parents in town were troubled by the process and chose to
speak out on their own? Thanks to Zoom meetings, the community is
more engaged than ever — something we should be celebrating, not

• Contrary to their statement, there has been no RTM resolution “condemning the majority leadership of the BET”.

• Additionally, they wrongly allege that “Board leadership and the
Superintendent had ‘colluded’ in the drafting of the attack and overtly
politicizing our ‘bi-partisan’ schools.” First, there was no attack on the
BET by BOE members or the administration. Second, members of the
BOE told the RTM that we would not take a position on their Sense of the
Meeting Resolution which was NOT an attack on anyone; rather, it sought
to encourage the BET to reinstate funds to the BOE budget. Not anything
resembling collusion.

• The authors inaccurately state that Ms. Stowe “stood by and said nothing”
or provided no leadership during discussions about issues related to
COVID (arts, sports, online teaching). Anyone who goes back and watches
past BOE meetings will see that she has consistently asked questions and
made comments, as have all Board members.

• The authors lament that at present all of the BOE standing committees
are presided over by the BOE chair and vice chair to allegedly control the
Board’s work. However, with four new BOE members elected, only three
returning members had the experience and time to chair committees this
year. Mr. Sherr currently chairs the Strategic Plan Committee.

• While it is true that the Policy Governance Committee (“PGC”) is
responsible for recommending policies to the full Board, PGC does not
unilaterally adopt those. All committees are advisory to the Board, so all
policy changes are taken up and voted on by the full Board at a public
meeting, after two opportunities to review and revise any new policy and
take public comment. The authors allege that “[Ms. Stowe’s] Policy
Committee” passed a pandemic policy but this is untrue in two respects:

  1. the full BOE, which included Mr. Sherr, voted to adopt it; and

2. when that policy was adopted by the BOE, Ms. Stowe was only a
member of PGC, not the chair as stated by the authors.

In short, Mr. Sherr and Ms. Kowalski are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to distort or ignore facts for political purposes.

The Kathleen Stowe we know juggles her many roles and excels at doing so. Her diligence and work effort is difficult to match, as are her financial skills. She has been an exemplary leader on the Board of Education and we urge the public to ignore these politically motivated efforts to demean her.

Greenwich Board of Education Members:
Peter Bernstein, Chair
Christina Downey
Karen Hirsh, Secretary
Meghan Olsson

Editor’s note: This letter was submitted prior to the Oct 26 at 12:00 noon deadline for letters.