Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where’s The Outrage Southbridge?

Parody post from Photo-'Toons 1.25
Last Friday the Southbridge Evening News carried an article titled, “Council planning to fix radio issues at school”.

It opened with the following three paragraphs:

“Almost as soon as the new Torrey Road school opened last month, staff discovered the building gets no cell phone service.
It didn’t take much longer to find that police radios didn’t work there either.
According to Chief Daniel Charette, that was actually known earlier. Back in November 2011, he started talking with the contractors about fixing the issue, but the individual involved left the company and it fell by the wayside.” 

The O’Zone has been been critical of Chief Charette in prior articles.

But I don’t think that this is really his fault. However, I do have to question why he is willing to be the point man on this matter and potentially the fall guy.

We have repeatedly gotten reports on the new Southbridge Middle/High School that universally ended with the phrase “on budget and ahead of schedule”.

So, let’s deal with that outrage first.

The article goes on to say:

“That may have turned out to be a good thing. Originally, he [Charette] said, they were talking a figure of $77,000 just to solve reception issues on the campus. Over the last week or so, though, Officer Brian Haggerty, Fire Chief Mark DiFronzo and Charrette, plus town officials, have been testing a different radio system all over town, since both departments have frequently discovered dead zones while responding to calls.
Charette said it’ll cost about $57,000.”

Welcome to the “Spin Zone”. The article expands on why “That may have turned out to be a good thing.’

A “good thing”? Is Martha Stewart now running Southbridge?

The “on budget” school project is now going to cost us $57,000 out of the town that should have been part of that largely state-financed project. Oh, never mind, we’re saving $20,000 – even though now it has to be part of the town budget.

Well, moving on to outrage two, the fact that this was a “dead zone” was only discovered in 2011.

Okay, so we are supposed to believe that all those people walking the site, working on construction and inspecting progress for the last ten years or so never made a cell phone call? Do you believe in leprechauns?

Finally, outrage number three.

I have spoken about this with a school committee member.

This is the first that they have heard about it.

So we opened a school where, if there had been a critical situation, cell phone, police radios and fire department radios most likely would not have worked. 

This still may happen.

We could have included the cost to correct this in the “under budget” cost of the project.

But we didn’t.

We found a way to correct it for $20,000 less – but now it will come directly out of your hide, taxpayers.

And, of course, it won’t happen overnight, so there is still the risk that a student may suffer because of the inability to report a crisis condition in a timely manner. But what’s the risk? After all, according to unconfirmed reports there were only eight fights at SMHS last Friday.

But, then again, I guess I’m off the mark again.

After all, it’s only business as usual in the Brown-Eye of the Commonwealth.


  1. Your post title, Ken, reflects my feelings of frustration as well.

    Incidentally, one of the new assistant principals at Southbridge Middle/High has already resigned. I am told that it is Ms. Goulet.

    It is instructive also to look back at how the site was chosen for the new school. This was not, in my opinion, the best place available, but as usual, it was chosen because that's what the power people wanted.

    Offsetting the costs of the new school is supposed to be done by the sale of town-owned buildings, and we know how well that's going. Wait until that bill comes due.

    Look for others planning to leave the school system.

    Where is the outrage? Who cares? (apparently damn few).

  2. So children attending after-school activities at the school will have no way to call if they are having an issue, like missing the last late bus?

    1. Hi, my child attends the new SMHS. She has no trouble using her cell phone to reach me each day after completing her athletic activities. We have Verizon as a service provider -- and the texting and calling functionality both work.

  3. Ken,

    I had raised concerns about this issues over the past two years while on the school committee. In fact I sat in a meeting to discuss this very issue with the Superintendent, town manager and the police chief and was assured that they would be working on the problem and coming up with solutions. This was well before the building was open and completed as I expressed concerns about the cost and also that the work could be completed while under construction.

    I was told at that meeting that radio experts were going to come in and review the problem. I also expressed concern for staff that may be out in the fields with kids and asked if the radio coverage would be adequate. Again, assured that the issue was being worked on.

    They need to provide an update to the community as to why this issue is still pending. How long does it take to get an answer to this issue as that meeting was over six months ago.

    1. Jack:
      Thanks for your insight on this matter. Frankly I think that this is an outrage that warrants serious inquiry.

  4. There were many issues that should have been resolved during the feasibility study before one shovelful of earth was moved to determine the best place to locate a new school. Those in power pushed Southbridge toward the Torrey Road site; It was chosen over 100 acres on Tillyer Avenue, 56 acres at the former LaSalette Mission off of Durfee Street, 77 acres off of Dennison Lane, and 118 acres east of Cohassee Country Club.

    While the Torrey Road site has 200 acres, only 113 acres are used so that the new school could be built as far away from the old dump as possible. Incidentally, the official name of the road to the right is Town Dump Road. That sign has been removed; out of sight, out of mind.

    I suspect this will not be the end of problems that emerge from the Torrey Road site. Let's not lose sight of how that location came to be chosen. And of the leaders who called the shots.

  5. Southbridge residents as this school progress moves forward we will all see about the poor location and the higher cost that will happen because of this location. I wish someone would tell the truth to the citizen of Southbridge instead of letting all the rumors fly. Some of the rumors may prove to be the truth. Some of the following maybe be rumors but is the sewer, water line cost higher because of the location. That the engineers and architects were against the location that the former DPW head was against it that the fire chief was against it. Rumor are even being floated around that town employees were even threaten with job loss. But hey its rumors...maybe someone shoulds ask former employees of the DPW, former fire department members, former school committee members, former town councilors. Ask them if the rumors are true But hey it just rumors

    1. I can't answer any of those rumors either, Anonymous, but they are certainly valid questions.

  6. What ever happened to using land line phones? We do have those at the school and they work, trust me I've used them. I even think they call 911, but we might have to bring in experts to prove that.

    It seems as if people posting articles and replying want this school to fail and persist with the negative aspects. What about the 25 students who received the John and Abagail Adams Scholarship providing full tuition to any state college for four years for excelling on the MCAS test? No one wants to talk about that?

    Ken, I am trying to learn more about the community I serve being originally from Ohio, what do you mean by the Brown-Eye of the Commonwealth?

    1. As a blogger and retired teacher who has written much about the Southbridge School system, my posts have been both positive and critical. If you believe that another blog is needed that simply is a vehicle for public relations for the school, perhaps you should consider writing one.

      As to your using land lines at the school, was it not also the case that these too were unavailable for a period of time? The somewhat snarky comment "I even think they call 911, but we might have to bring in experts to prove that" might be cute but hardly helpful.

      We are all too aware of crises that can happen at a school. Columbine taught us that. Would you like to be the parent who can't reach his child? Or the child who can't reach his or her parent? Are you seriously comfortable with the fact that police radios don't work?

      I would sincerely hope, Mr. Hoffman, that as a guidance counselor in our school system you would indeed be very interested in learning more about the community you serve. A large part of that would be that community's history. This is, after all, where the children you are counseling reside.

      To suggest that those of us who might be critical of some aspects of education in Southbridge "want this school to fail" is quite judgmental and quite wrong. It's best to get all the facts before you draw conclusions.

    2. Brown-eye is a slang term for anus.

    3. Thanks Ken, your reply was very helpful.

      I actually like your blog Brent and I am saddened you think I meant your blog is the negative thing I was talking about. Your blog is actually one of the sources of information I use to inform myself about Southbridge and it's community and history. It is pretty time consuming to write a blog and having ADHD means I would probably update it about 3 times a year.

      You are right in that my comment was meant to cute and even draw an occasional smile. And no, I am not comfortable that the police radio doesn't get reception but that is something for the big wigs to figure out. Which I guess is happening according to this blog at the peril of the taxpayers.

      Maybe I just read too much into the comments on the blog, but people's words become their actions and a lot of the words on those posts are largely negative.

    4. Nick:
      Thanks. I understand what you say about many of the remarks being negative.

      However, I like to think that I and Brent Abrahamson (and formerly Dennis Martinek whose blog “Speak Out Southbridge” was the pioneer in Southbridge political and community social activism and awareness) provide an alternative to the controlled and reciprocated local media /town government back-scratching.

      As a result it is only natural that those who agree with my perspective will express a negative view of the conduct of town government and, similarly, those who favor the status quo will both express negative opinions to what I post.

      Nevertheless I take pride in the fact that, thus far, I have had to amend only one report that I made.

  7. On the cell phone issue: Go to any new school built in the last 15 years or so, especially those that are the size of SMHS and you find that there is very little cell phone reception. It is the nature of the building.

    1. According to the News article as well as the comment by Mr. Jovan the problem has nothing to do with the building. The problem existed well prior to the completion of construction and was endemic to the location.

    2. If what you assert is true, Anonymous, it certainly does not speak well for the school building committee. With 15 years or so of evidence of poor cell phone reception in new schools, why was this not addressed in the pre-construction phase? Were they ignorant of this "fact?" Did they know this and go ahead anyway? Blind foresight and clear hindsight is costly.

      The question that should be asked has been asked many times before in other situations: "What did the school building committee know, and when did they know it?"

    3. The "anonymous" comment about cell phones and new schools built in the last 15 years? Absurd! Who's data are you citing, SMHS? Technology has moved forward, not backwards over that time. Sounds as if your tinfoil hat has a leak in it.

  8. My child stays after school for activities and her cell phone comes in fine. She is able to make calls if she needs a ride, Verizon has a perfect signal up there.

  9. There is perfect cellphone service outside the building and inside the building if you are near a window in the interior of the building. And, the other person was correct. I have been to many of the new schools, like Tantasqua where there is little or no cell phone reception inside the building. As a matter of fact at Tantasqua SMHS student think that the have a cell phone disrupter.

    Teacher at SMHS

    1. If that's true, I wonder why our elected officials are giving us misinformation.

    2. "As a matter of fact at Tantasqua SMHS student think that the have a cell phone disrupter."

      Incidentally, Tantasqua does not have a middle/high school.


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