“If $15,000 per student walks out the door and goes to the charter school, depending on 100 students to 400, we’re talking about an impact of $1.5 million to over $6 million to this school budget,” L’Italien said.
School Committee member Annie Gilbert echoed some of Forgue’s concerns.
“While I believe completely that you have the best interest of the Andover Public Schools’ students in your heart, I don’t question that, I think that there is an inherent conflict in the duality of the roles,” Gilbert told Birnbach. “I’ve heard from an enormous number of people who have said, ‘This doesn’t make sense to me.’”
In his letter, Forgue requested that Birnbach go back to the Ethics Commission to seek its opinion on several specific issues — including serving on various school board subcommittees, advocating for the charter school in communications to the School Committee and contacting Andover High faculty to discuss his team’s proposal.
However, Forgue’s allegations that Birnbach contacted high school faculty on school premises to discuss his proposal and “solicit their support and possible involvement” drew a heated response from Birnbach.
In a written response to Forgue, Birnbach shot back, denying he acknowledged contacting faculty at the high school to advocate for STEAM Studio — as Forgue asserted.
“I have not solicited AHS faculty support, nor have I sought out their involvement. Your claims are inaccurate,” Birnbach wrote. “Given my role as a School Committee member, I have consciously avoided having interactions with Andover High School faculty.”
Forgue this week said he plans to respond to Birnbach’s concerns and talk to him about the high school faculty issue for further clarification.
Forgue also argued that Birnbach’s continued communications to the School Committee “as a private citizen,” as Birnbach has classified them, also created the appearance of conflict of interest.