THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY: Diana Brum and Scott Steele, co-founders of the Orange and Black Fight Back Facebook group.

On December 6, 2018, the Greater Fall River Vocational School District School Committee, which oversees Diman Vocational Regional Technical High School, held a monthly open meeting to review school business.

After the open session, they went into a closed Executive Session to discuss the contracts of Superintendent Thomas Aubin, Principal Elvio Ferreria and Business Manager Deborah Kenney.  When the Committee returned to open session, they voted 5-1 to not renew the contract of Superintendent Aubin and 6-0 to renew the contract of Principal Ferreira. The meeting was immediately adjourned and the Committee quickly scurried away, not answering any questions from the shocked crowd consisting of about 70 individuals, which included teachers.

School Committee Chairman Paul Jennings of Westport provided a printed statement labeled “for press” which read, “The Committee felt that a change is necessary at this time as we move forward with the many projects that are currently ongoing. While Mr. Aubin’s passion for Diman cannot be questioned, the Committee felt it was in the School’s best interest to have a new voice and a new form of leadership to move us forward in dealing with the challenges before us.”

The public was stunned and immediate support Superintendent Aubin ensued. I, Diana Brum, and Scott Steele, former students of Superintendent Aubin, started the Facebook page Orange and Black Fight Back so the Diman community could gather and show support for Mr. Aubin. He has devoted his life’s work to Diman and has been employed at the school for over 30 years. Even the School Committee could not find fault in his performance, as the school has experienced unprecedented success under his leadership as superintendent. He is respected and held in the highest regard by students, parents, teachers and the community at large. To date. Orange and Black has over 1,400 members and has been a stronghold in supporting the reinstatement of Superintendent Aubin as well as exposing the ineptness of the Diman School Committee.

From the onset, there was suspicion that the decision was politically motivated and driven by the personal agendas of the School Committee. Open meeting complaints were immediately filed against the Committee for refusing to address the public and for having a prewritten note readily available for the press. The Committee was asked, and denied, a vote was taken in Executive Session prior to the public vote regarding Aubin’s contract, which would violate Open Meeting laws.

Members of Orange and Black requested the Executive Session minutes for the sessions that related to Aubin’s contract. It was revealed that Paul Jennings, Chair of the Committee, was advised by the Committee to offer Aubin a buyout to his contract on December 5, the day before the meeting. The minutes also showed that there was discussion of possible non-renewal as early as November. It has also been uncovered that Joan Menard and Donald Dibiasio are out of compliance with their mandatory Conflict of Interest training. In fact, Mrs. Menard is four years out of compliance. In addition, Jeffrey Begin was on the subcommittee and then took a public vote during an open meeting to pass a dual enrollment policy. This policy benefited his son by increasing his GPA, to where his son was able to make the top ten List.  Motives of the Committee, too, are in question.

Rallies have been held, signs erected, flyers distributed and hundreds of individuals which included students, parents, and teachers, flocked to the last Diman School Committee meeting on January 15 to express their disdain for this decision and confront the Committee. The next meeting will be held on February 13, and the Committee is trying to stonewall the community from speaking. Hundreds are again expected to attend.

Diman is undergoing a renaissance under the brief leadership of Superintendent Aubin.   Unprecedented strides have been made in increasing the educational and employment opportunities for the students and the community. The accomplishments during his tenure are vast, but to name just a few: $1.4 million in grants were amassed; the students have state-of-the-art technology, including the first 3D metal printer used in a high school in the country; inherited debts have been decreased; new high-demand programs have been added to the curriculum; there is improved morale, according to a five-year focus report from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; inclusion and co-teaching are now part of the special education curriculum; Congressman Joseph Kennedy III delivered the Democratic State of the Union rebuttal from the school; and the very first application submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by Superintendent Aubin and his team was accepted after seven previous rejections.

He has proven to be an innovator with the vision, drive, and ability to execute exciting projects that will propel Diman and its students into the future. With all of this, the Committee provides little insight, other than personal, unjustified character jabs, into their decision and they relentlessly ignore the outcry of the public and even worse, the students. Superintendent Aubin never received any disciplinary or corrective actions on the one evaluation that was conducted in over two years.

Efforts have been made to reach out to the Committee, to mediate and to request they renegotiate and renew his contract. The district continues to express outrage over the Committee’s decision and now questions their ability to make sound decisions that will impact the education of students for many years.

--Diana Brum, Scott Steele and the Orange and Black Fight Back community

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.