Former Selectman Asks for Resignation of Two School Board Members
July 1, 2016
by Barbara O’Brien
This past week, former selectman and former school board member Al Letizio, Jr. posted comments on his Facebook Page asking for the immediate resignation of two sitting school board members, namely Tom Murray and Ken Eyring.
Letizio didn’t go into much detail in his post, but did comment that he believes Eyring and Murray are largely responsible for the significant number of administrators leaving the Windham School District, an exodus that has ramped up during the past several months. Fairly recent departures include Business Administrator Adam Steel, Facilities Director John Pratte, Fine Arts Director Jared Cassedy and, most recently, Windham Middle School Principal Patti Wons.
A portion of Letizio’s post read: “We have a culture of incompetence with three board members who set the tone for the district; much like a corporation’s board of directors influences the CEO and top management of a corporation. This is a direct effect of the poor leadership we have in place right now and that’s why I’m calling for each of them to resign today,” Although Letizio mentioned three school board members in his post, he later clarified that he was not including Chairman Daniel Popovici-Muller in his demand for resignations, just Murray and Eyring.
Letizio’s post did not remain online for very long, however, as he chose to remove it the following morning, stating that he had learned of a personal crisis being experienced by the Murray family and did not want to create any more stress or aggravation for them. He even sent a message to Murray expressing his and his wife’s condolences. Letizio wrote: “Patti and I just learned of your family’s news and the challenges you are facing. I have immediately removed political posts that I made that might cause you any additional pain or burden during this difficult time. It’s times like these when we all are reminded about what is truly important in life. We want you to know that our hearts and prayers are with you and that we are willing to do anything for you and your family to bring support and assistance.”
But Murray wasn’t so quick to just overlook what Letizio had written on Facebook. “It is difficult for me to take Al’s comments regarding my family sincerely,” Murray said. “I find Al to be very disingenuous.”
Unfortunately, by the time Letizio removed his post from Facebook, several people had already responded to his comments and word had gotten back to Murray about the demand for his and Eyring’s resignation. Murray, after learning of the comments on Facebook, informed Eyring. Both Eyring and Murray were aggravated by the post and questioned whether or not Letizio’s letter of condolence and withdrawal of the post was genuine. “I don’t understand why Al would even suggest that Ken and I resign,” Murray said. “I will let my voting record speak for itself,” he said. “I will defend any and all decisions that I have made with fact. I welcome debate,” Murray emphasized.
During a phone conversation this past weekend, Murray stated that he has never criticized or harassed any staff members and is astounded that simply asking questions has caused such an uproar. “I’m not going to let them bring me down in the mud,” Murray said of those who might want him to resign. “I have no intention of resigning; no plans to resign!” he stated emphatically. “I’m very excited about the new superintendent and the new business administrator coming on board,” Murray said. “What I’m sick of is all the animosity and negativity.” Although, due to confidentiality issues, he couldn’t be more specific, Murray did say that Eyring and he are not the cause of good employees leaving the Windham School District.
Murray said this recent incident with Letizio reminded him of a situation that arose when he was running for school board. Murray was publically endorsed by New Hampshire State Representative Mary Griffin and had a letter stating as much. Letizio, reportedly, accused Murray of forging Griffin’s signature and when Murray presented the original letter with Griffin’s signature, Letizio still refused to recant his comments. “I remember vividly how upset my wife was of the fact that he was publically calling me a liar,” Murray said, adding that Letizio has never even had the decency to apologize.
Murray noted that 1,735 residents cast their ballots for him on Election Day. “That’s a lot of people who supported me,” he continued. “I’m certainly not going to let them down by resigning.” “I will never allow Al to bully me out of office!”
During a conversation with Eyring this past weekend, he echoed much of what Murray had said earlier in the day. Eyring stated that residents should be pleased when board members ask for additional information and strive to understand what is taking place within the school district. Eyring said that he and Murray have devoted countless hours toward building a more efficient and fiscally responsible school district. Referring to school district employees, Eyring said he has never uttered one negative word about any of the administrators or other staff. “I am very respectful of everyone associated with the school district,” he added.
“Mr. Letizio’s antics to falsely disparage good people are nothing new,” Eyring said. “When he was on the Windham School Board he demanded fellow board members Barbara Coish and Bev Donovan resign, because they disagreed with him. Prior to the March 2015 school board elections, Mr. Letizio posted fabricated accusations on his Facebook page that led people to falsely believe that Tom Murray had committed a crime by forging State Representative Mary Griffin’s signature on an endorsement letter. Then, earlier this year, at the deliberative session, he verbally accosted school board candidate Eileen Mashimo and State Representative Dave Bates for doing their job as Supervisors of the Voter Checklist, as defined by law,” Eyring continued. “There is an ugly pattern to his lack of sensitivity and respect,” Eyring stated. “Even more disturbing is Mr. Letizio’s recent Facebook post regarding another baseless attack while Mr. Murray’s family is preoccupied with his youngest son in the hospital battling leukemia.” Letizio has said that he didn’t know about Murray’s son being ill until after he had posted his demands for resignation.
Former School Board Chairman Barbara Coish was one of the people who read Letizio’s Facebook post, causing her to recall a similar situation that occurred in 2008. Coish explained that Letizio had called for both her and Beverly Donovan’s resignations when the two had taken exception with some issues supported by then Superintendent Frank Bass. The issue that reportedly brought the disagreement to a head was related to Bass’ purchase of a $1,000 computer desk chair, at a time that the budget was extremely tight. Bass did not seek approval from the school board before making the purchase, nor was the money for the chair in the approved budget. Letizio reportedly said Coish and Donovan were ignoring the chain of command and causing unnecessary conflicts for Bass. Neither Coish nor Donovan ever considered resigning. Instead, the entire school board was told to participate in counseling sessions, so they could learn to work together in a more amicable manner. Those sessions were provided by a counselor from the New Hampshire School Boards Association.
“This situation reminds me of when I was asked to resign for making the superintendent unhappy,” Coish wrote on Facebook, prior to Letizio’s post being removed. “Of course, I did not resign and neither did Bev [Donovan],” Coish said. “There should be no resignations. We need to learn to live with our differences,” she said.
In a follow-up post to Coish’s comment, Letizio denied ever asking for their resignations. “We may have had our differences on the school board, but I never called for your resignation,” Letizio wrote.
Coish said his call for their resignations did happen and cited several comments from articles in the Pelham~Windham News, the Boston Globe and Eagle Tribune to that effect. “It’s his pattern,” Coish said of Letizio. She also quoted an editorial that had appeared in the Salem Observer, on Feb. 8, 2008, stating that Letizio was “over-reacting” by asking for Coish and Donovan to step down. “True, they are often on the other side of a vote,” the editor wrote. “True, they’ve criticized Bass.” “But that’s what we want in our elected officials,” he continued. “Board members should be able to voice opinions.” At the end of the day, the editor wrote, “It’s really up to the voters to decide if someone is doing a good job!”
When contacted for a final comment on the issue, Letizio responded by saying, “I have withdrawn my earlier political comment on social media out of respect for the Murray family and personal challenges that I recently learned they are facing. I ask all Windham residents to put politics aside and come together for this great family when they need it most and join me in offering them our support.” Tom Murray still wants to know why Letizio thinks he and Ken Eyring are unfit to serve on the school board.