Speno had a chance that night to mend a fractured community. He failed.

BRATTLEBORO — On March 8, the newly seated Windham Southeast School District board heard from several parents who, with only six days before the school mask mandate was to be lifted, had still not been able to learn from administrators what plans would be in place to protect their children who are too young to be vaccinated, are immunocompromised, or are otherwise at high-risk for complications from exposure to COVID-19.

These were not calls to keep everyone's mask on. Instead, these parents asked that the board simply make sure the most vulnerable families would be able to count on their school to continue keeping them safe now that masks would be coming off.

When the board asked Interim Superintendent Mark Speno for critical policy details, he could not provide that information - neither during the meeting that night, nor, it seems, at any other time during the few days that remained before the new policy was to go into effect.

This is what led Chair Kelly Young to send the letter requesting that Mark Speno delay the new policy.

Not because the board holds an anti-unmasking agenda, but because Mark Speno could not or would not provide answers to the specific questions he had been asked.

And then came the meeting at BUHS on March 15, where Mark Speno, rather than showing compassion to our most vulnerable families, chose instead to sit back and let the needs of those families get bulldozed over by the loudest voices.

Mark Speno chose to sit back when someone back in the auditorium called the board members tyrants.

Mark Speno chose to sit back when another person suggested they lock the board in the building until people got what they wanted.

Mark Speno chose to sit back when a person came to the mic to threaten that the board members should be “taken out.”

At one crucial moment, however, Mark Speno did not sit back.

That was the moment he chose to interrupt Director Lana Dever mid-sentence as she made a plea for compassion and care to all members of the community.

Let that sink in.

The one moment Mark Speno felt he needed to insert his voice unprompted was to speak over one of the two women of color who sit on the WSESD board while she called for compassion.

In that moment, Mark Speno showed that he hears a call for compassion as a personal attack.

On March 8, I heard Mark Speno described as someone who “raises up the voices of historically marginalized people - women, people of color.”

At the meeting on March 12th Mark Speno showed that he does the exact opposite.

He had a chance that night to mend a fractured community by showing the most vulnerable of our neighbors how they would be safe in our schools. He had an opportunity to prove that, as so many loudly insist, he deserves to be the next permanent superintendent of WSESU.

Mark Speno failed.

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