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May 29. 2014 7:59PM

Facebook comment fuels firestorm in Cornish school board controversy

CORNISH — School volunteers say a school board member should resign after making an offensive comment on Facebook related to a proposed policy they say is a slap in the face to parents who help out at Cornish Elementary.

“That’s why the public is so angry because volunteers are really the fabric of the community,” said parent volunteer Amy Healy, who has started an online petition to oppose the volunteer policy.

School Board member Holly Taft said Wednesday that her May 20 Facebook comment about having met with “F---tards” was not directed toward people who attended a school board meeting May 19, but another group of people she had met with that same night.

Taft admitted the word is inappropriate and that now that she is a public official, she recognizes she should modify her online behavior.

“I did not intend for everyone in the world to see it,” she said

Taft said she tends to be “over-the-top and ridiculous” on Facebook.

“Most people that know me, know me on Facebook, understand it’s part of my shtick,” Taft said.

About 100 people upset over the Facebook post turned out at Tuesday’s school board meeting, but were not allowed to speak.

“People were really fired up about the Facebook comment and there are many, many parents that want her to resign,” Healy said.

One board member, Sharon St. Martin, made a motion to open up the meeting for comments Tuesday.

“She felt strongly that the public needed a time to speak. When she made that motion no one seconded it. That’s when the community started chanting ‘Shame, shame, shame,’” Healy said.

Audience members passed around a petition Tuesday night calling for Taft’s resignation.

Longtime volunteer Katie Barber said she is at the center of the proposed volunteer policy, which reads: “Unenrolled children are not permitted to accompany a volunteer while school is in session. It is important that the volunteers’ focus be fully directed on the students they are assisting.”

The policy also includes provisions for field trips and after-school activities.

Barber said the controversy started when someone thought she had brought along an infant while working in the school after-care program.

Barber said when it was clarified she had not brought the child — whom she babysits — someone complained that she had changed the baby’s diaper one day in a classroom while she was a volunteer.

“Their concern was that I was working while volunteering,” Barber said. “They thought I was on the clock while I had the child there, which was not the case. Once that case was found to be a non-issue, they called their insurance company and found this was a liability to have this uninsured child in their school.”

Barber said she has been volunteering at the school for 11 years and that bringing her own unenrolled children to volunteer was never an issue.

Taft said Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin had met with Barber, who “didn’t want to comply with what the superintendent asked of her.”

“This is a young child and there is a legitimate concern the school could be held liable if the child is in the school and not receiving the full attention and care it needs,” Taft said.

She said the board intends to discuss and possibly vote on the volunteer policy at its next meeting on June 16.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a complete madhouse like it was (Tuesday),” volunteer Amy Healy said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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