PITTSFIELD -- Citing complaints about alleged aggressive, rude or boorish behavior in dealing with members of the school district community, the Pittsfield School Committee voted Wednesday to reprimand board member Terry Kinnas.
The motion by committee member Katherine L. Yon, which was approved with only Kinnas voting against, also instructed him in the future to "behave in an appropriate manner" when dealing with "all members of the school community."
The action followed a complaint about Kinnas signed by eight members of the Reid Middle School Council, including teachers, the dean of students and volunteer Julia Berkowitz, the council chairwoman. Five members appeared before the School Committee and spoke about their complaint.
At one point in the lengthy hearing on the complaint, which Kinnas opted to hold in open session, he termed the allegations "frivolous," and said they did not accurately characterize what occurred.
He described finding the Reid doors locked at 3 p.m. when he arrived for a school council meeting and said he had trouble finding the meeting room as there were no posted signs. He acknowledged informing those present that they were violating the state's Open Meeting Law and subsequently filing a formal complaint.
However, Berkowitz and other speakers described Kinnas as threatening, rude and intimidating, with "body language and tone of voice that was threatening."
The council members said Kinnas "spoke angrily," and some felt threatened enough that they did not immediately leave after the meeting so as not to encounter him outside the meeting room.
Council members said the experience had soured their enthusiasm in working to improve the school, one commenting that Kinnas's actions were "truly unprofessional and hurtful."
Kinnas believes himself "dedicated and respectful of everyone," but said he is "somewhat a stickler for process." His focus, he said, is to ensure rules and regulations like the meeting law are followed, which he said has not always been the case throughout the district.
"I am very clear about this," he said.
He added that he often experiences back pain, "but I don't think I'm grumpy."
Committee Chairman Alfred "Alf" Barbalunga said, however, that this was not the first troubling or frustrating incident involving Kinnas. He said he is "tired of these situations" involving Kinnas and his "gotcha-type behavior," which Barbalunga said had led to numerous lengthy committee debates and long meetings that do not address important district business.
"Our work is absolutely grinding to a halt," Barbalunga said.
He said he respects Kinnas' knowledge on a range of subjects but said his "boorish" demeanor in dealing with people can't be condoned.
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