In response to Birnbach’s initial inquiry, the state Ethics Commission said state law prohibits him from appearing before the School Committee on behalf of the charter school team. The commission further said that Birnbach “should not sign letters, applications or any other type of submission that the team makes to the committee.”
Birnbach characterized his communications with the School Committee as for informational purposes only.
“As a courtesy, I have sent occasional emails to School Committee members and the leadership team to keep you in the loop regarding the charter school team’s upcoming public meetings and progress,” Birnbach wrote to Forgue. “As stated several times previously, STEAM Studio Charter School would like to collaborate with the Andover Public Schools — to benefit all Andover students.”
While Birnbach opposed being removed from the budget subcommittee last week, he ultimately voted in favor of a temporary departure until the state decides next month whether STEAM Studio’s proposal will advance in the consideration process.
The School Committee also voted 4-0-1, with Birnbach abstaining, to remove him from the facilities subcommittee since it is studying space issues at Andover High, among other district needs.
“Due to the subcommittee’s review of the possible expansion of the Andover High School and the charter school’s intent to reduce the number of students at AHS, you and I both believe that a conflict of interest exists,” Forgue wrote in his letter to Birnbach,
Birnbach also sits on the calendar subcommittee, and he’s listed as a resource to the communications subcommittee. He will continue in those roles.
Meanwhile, Birnbach said “to allay any concerns” about possible conflicts of interest with the public, he has requested that all School Committee and subcommittee meetings be audio- or videotaped.
“This will ensure that there is a public record of all our discussions,” he wrote to Forgue.