Additional Illegal Acts

Hills and others committed other illegal and deceptive acts, including (as found by the Massachusetts Attorney General) ten violations of state Open Meeting law within a three-week period and withholding material from public record requests.  

Summary of Illegal and Other Wrongful Acts
  • Conspiring to withhold, and actually withholding, material responsive to public records requests (School Committee Chair Matthew Hills, Superintendent David Fleishman, and former School Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff).
  • Unlawfully giving confidential student information to the media to retaliate for the removal of an inaccurate and biased text, and because of an advertisement criticizing NPS policy (NPS and School Committee Chair Matt Hills). Not only did the media - the Newton Tab and website www.village14.com - publish the information, including the student's name and address; they also published false and defamatory claims about the student's parent. More information is on the previous page (Retaliation Against Students and Other Illegal and Wrongful Acts).
  • The DESE found that the actions of the NPS and Hills violated Massachusetts law; however, the only sanction imposed was to review the law they had knowingly violated. The NPS and Newton Mayor Setti Warren refused to impose any disciplinary action.  
  • Plagiarizing part of a speech given by Governor Deval Patrick for use in a commencement address (Superintendent David Fleishman). The plagiarism was discovered by students at Newton South High School. Fleishman was fined one week's salary. 
  • Violating Massachusetts Open Meeting Law in an attempt to hide Fleishman's plagiarism from the public (NPS and School Committee Chair Matthew Hills). The Attorney General of Massachusetts found that the NPS and Hills had committed ten separate violations of the Open Meeting Law. Again, no sanctions were imposed other than attending a seminar about the law.

Plagiarism

In 2014, NPS Superintendent David Fleishman ("Fleishman") admitted plagiarizing a speech by Governor Deval Patrick to use in a commencement address at Newton South High School. He was fined $5,000 which represented two weeks pay.
In a plagiarism incident nearby, the superintendent resigned.  

Violating Massachusetts Open Meeting Law

In December 2014, the Massachusetts Attorney General found that the NPS and School Committee Chair Matt Hills had violated Massachusetts Open Meeting Law eight times in July of that year. The violations were apparently committed in an attempt to prevent residents from discovering plagiarism by Superintendent David Fleishman in a commencement address at Newton South High School.  

On three separate occasions, Hills failed to give proper notice of an anticipated a School Committee. In one case, notice was 'published'  - i.e. told to the public - only a couple of hours before the meeting took place. Of course, it is impossible for members of the public to attend a meeting they do not know about.

One of the School Committee meetings was designated by Hills a a co-called "emergency" meeting. The letter written by the Attorney General to the NPS pointed out that the discovery by the public that Superintendent Fleishman had committed plagiarism is by no means an "emergency".

We would add that the only possible reason such an incident could be considered an "emergency" is if the School Committee's main purpose is to control knowledge of the Newton Public Schools' activities. Some residents have suggested that indeed, controlling the flow of information and thus manipulating residents' understanding of what happens in Newton schools does appear to be an important goal of both the School Committee and the NPS. 

The Attorney General also found that the NPS and Hills misstated (i.e. lied) about the purpose of meetings about the plagiarism. At least two meetings were described as a discussion of collective bargaining issues. Meetings of this nature are private and the public is not invited to attend.

Finally, the Attorney General found that the minutes of these meetings were insufficiently detailed (actually, they were deceptive). In response, the NPS and Hills were forced to amend the minutes of the meetings from a very brief paragraph to over a page in length. 

Withholding Documents from Public Records Responses

It is apparently NPS policy to withhold relevant information from public record requests. Below is an email  sent by then-School Committee Vice-Chair (now Chair) Matthew Hills discussing this decision. In the email, Hills states that he decided the material should be withheld because he doesn't think the concerns of Newton residents which prompted the request are important. Other officials apparently agree. Hills' email illustrates the disregard which he, and apparently the others recipients, hold for the constituents that elected them.



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