Saturday, December 8, 2012

No Holiday For Southbridge School Politics


Political issues within the Southbridge school system continue behind the scenes despite the holiday season. Pending investigations into charges against Superintendent Ely and SMHS Principal Perreault have not held such maneuverings at bay. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly misinformed. 

The next big confrontation appears to be developing around the appointment of an acting superintendent to replace current acting superintendent Terry Wiggin who is also the school system’s Director of Finance & Operations.

According to our usually well-informed sources, there are currently only two active candidates for the acting superintendent position from outside the district.

However, there is another presumptive candidate for the position from within the system who is supposedly favored by many allied with one of the factions on the school committee. That individual is none other than Mr. Wiggin himself.

According to those favoring this outcome, the appointment of Mr. Wiggin to be acting superintendent is based upon the belief that the investigation into Mr. Ely will result in his ultimate departure. Such an outcome would arise in either of two events. The first possibility is that he would be found to be guilty of the allegations made against him and be summarily terminated. Alternatively, even if he were found not to be culpable of the allegations, his stature would have been so damaged as to prevent him from functioning effectively in the role, leading to a voluntary departure.

By having Mr. Wiggin in the position of acting superintendent he would gain experience and be well-positioned to assume the superintendency permanently in the event of Mr. Ely’s exit.

Mr. Wiggin himself has been circumspect in his comments on the matter. Some report that he has denied any such interests. Others say that his comments on his handling of his new responsibilities have been very self-laudatory, implying he would be well-suited to assuming the new role.

Those promoting the latter view have cited Mr. Wiggin’s reported presence in a recently-opened local establishment as bolstering their beliefs. They go on to speculate that such a course of events could result in a reversal of fortunes for some who have felt slighted by changes in the composition of the school committee.

Such rumors and speculation are, of course, the traditional grist for Southbridge’s political mill. The extent to which they have any substance is open to question.

Nevertheless, allow me to weigh in on the possibility that there is a kernel of truth to these theories.

Given what I have witnessed, I have the highest regard for Mr. Wiggin’s abilities. Clearly, however, he is charged with filling the two biggest pairs of administrative shoes in the school district. To continue in this capacity is unrealistic.

To confirm him as acting superintendent would merely result in subsequently having to find an acting Director of Finance & Operations.  There would be a cascade effect that would only serve to further undermine the already tenuous administrative continuity of the school district.

If Mr. Wiggin is interested in becoming school superintendent, an as yet unproven contention, he would best serve the district by returning to full-time attention to the role of Director of Finance & Operations. In the meantime the district should bring in an outside candidate to fill the role of acting superintendent pending the outcome of and fallout from the investigation of Mr. Ely.

If, following this, there is a vacancy, then Mr. Wiggin would be eminently justified in applying for the position. Such a decision may not be devoid of political considerations, but they would not rise to the level to which some of the current speculation would give rise.

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