Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buzz Kill

Basan “Buzz” Nembirkow
I was fascinated by School Superintendent Basan “Buzz” Nembirkow’s response to committee member Kara Donovan’s inquiry about the recent MCAS results at last night's school committee meeting.

In contrast to what has been a quiet and reserved public demeanor since becoming superintendent, it was clear to me at least that his blood pressure was a mite over the boiling point.

He promised a presentation on the MCAS results at the next School Committee meeting, indicating in no small way his dissatisfaction with them.

He went on to indicate his mounting displeasure with the amount of time that has been absorbed by dealing with issues arising from the “adults” in the system to the detriment of addressing the needs of students.

No doubt a good deal of this displeasure has arisen from the recent behind the scenes maneuvering related to an effort to depose the current school committee chairman.

What was disconcerting, however, was the seeming effort to lay the bulk of the responsibility for the abysmal MCAS results at the feet of the teachers. While there is plenty of blame to go around, there has to be an acknowledgment of the shortcoming of administrators in this matter.

In any organization there has to be a congruence of goals among various levels of authority. If the supervised are not delivering the desired results the priorities of those doing the supervising have to be called into question.

Let’s hope that Mr. Nembirkow’s presentation will not merely address the results that are available for all to see. Let’s hope that it will candidly address the circumstances that have given rise to the problem at all levels including the precipitous decline over the last year. Let us also demand a set of concrete and measurable action steps that will be taken in the immediate future to correct course.


  1. I hope that Buzz takes your advice and comes clean on the past as well as a plan for the future. Otherwise the district will continue to be road kill.

  2. Can you picture Donovan picking a superintendent? Oh, the crocodile tears will be a- flow in.

  3. When are we going to go to the windows, like in the movie, and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore?”
    How many people have we put on paid administrative leave, investigated, and had them resign before the results of the investigation were made public?
    How many people are on PAL now? Why? What is it costing not only the taxpayers, but the students for who that money should be being spent?
    Are any of the present or past people on PAL subject to prosecution that would allow us to get back some of what they cost us?
    Is accountability only something that applies to the innocent kids who are actually the victims?
    I know that I’m mad as hell, but I just don’t see how to stop taking it except by moving out of this s*@thole town.

    1. Did you vote for McLoughlin or Donovan? Or Woodriff?
      These three have killed the school system. So if you voted for them you got what you asked for.

    2. State take over!

    3. State takeover?
      What good would that do?
      They’re as invested in covering up the past as the town is.
      All of you people scream out against big government, but you want big government to step in when you haven’t got the guts to deal with your own problems.
      We let this happen, it’s up to us to fix it. But first we need the truth!!!


    5. Sure, lets have them.
      But lets not be fooled into thinking thats the whole story by any means.

    6. What you saw from Buzz was the workings of a master politician.

      Protect his administrators from blame and displace ALL the blame on teachers with the thought all children can and will become brain surgeons with simply the correct "Stepford" type teaching practices was on full display. My rebuttal to Buzz is that if all students can learn at high levels with proper teaching and you feel that its the teachers fault then what are you doing as the BUCK STOPS HERE GUY to train, assist and develop the teaching staff you so publicly discredited? I say their failing is your failing. The honeymoon is over and you now own this district. Blaming people isn't a developmental process and your legacy is going to take a huge hit if all you are is a master politician and not a master superintendent.

    7. There is no training, only a lack of availability of administrators. They are always in meetings about who knows what, but never there to help the teachers, just criticize.

    8. Certainly, a smart leader would not have made comments to alienate himself from the many adults in the district who are busting their humps to teach their students. If there was cheating going on in the past, and efforts have been made to get rid of the adults who cheated and put in place accountability systems, then we would expect numbers to be worse, not better immediately, because we're now dealing with real numbers. A smart leader would have acknowledged this, as well as the detrimental effects that turning over an entire administration (twice!), as well as upto half of the high school staff during the past year, would have on the academic progress of the students.

    9. Finally somebody gets it! Yes the cheating "alleged " was and always has been at the High school. The cheaters are being weeded out but so are the innocent who talk.
      The HS is not the only school affected by poor administration decisions. The neighborhood school vote came despite the universally agreed upon statistics that mcas scores would suffer for 3 to 4 years before any progress was made by switching to it. Our old school committee agreed to walk backwards until we got to where we start from. How is any of this the teachers fault Buzz? Its time to man up. The whole town wants to know and we are very much watching and listening. This school committee has woken up the sleeping giant- the tax payer and we want answers.
      Neighborhood schools

  4. Could someone explain the selection process/committee used by the district for administrators. It appears that most major appointments are golf related.

  5. I very much agree with this posting.
    I'm glad I'm not the only one that saw through that dog and pony show.

    In fact what we may have seen is that our superintendent is a one trick pony in misusing power and authority to blame and rid teachers by any means possible. That would include the standard traditional ones of cherry picking the vocal political unfriendly, fabrication of rumors to discredit those that know the Emperor has no clothes and is leading only through intimidation and fear of personal attack or the now so often used Paid Administrative Leave, etc. . Those of course would be above and beyond any true reason for cause that we all want to take place when necessary.

    Buzz tells everyone that morale is important and is QUICK to point out other peoples faults but he FAILS time and time again to see his own faults or actually do anything to raise the morale of the small militia he has working under him. He either allows or is snowed by his office administrators who have taken credit for other peoples work.
    He has surrounded himself with totem pole management types who feel that they have to scream to be heard because they have self removed and elevated themselves from the rank and file who are simply only to be seen and not heard from. This only results in Charlie Browns loud distorted teachers voice BLAH BLAH BLAH miscommunication and not true,or valued or even remotely respected leadership. That said, it is obvious that we currently have no internal candidate that is suitable to take over on a permanent bases.

    The needs are many at the administration level including establishing a communicated hierarchy chart, accountability process for administrators and willingness to properly buy materials, provide training to staff when rolling out new programs prior to there implementations which all needs to start at the top. Hiring practices and promotions of the right people who have integrity, professionalism, and no historic ugly baggage to surround yourself with would be a good start. Team building and more importantly team valuing of all levels is severely lacking. Having Central Office personal actually seen as trustworthy of other licensed professionals and to be seen as able to provided with them a fair evaluation rather than spying on, snooping and micromanaging should follow. Honestly If your so worried about people talking about you negatively clean up your act and stop giving them a reason to do so. Staying out of the police logs published in a public paper and distributed through this town and several others as well as on the internet you would think would be a no brainer. Blaming others for the self created public knowledge is a bad, no horrific management practice. If you are reading this and feeling a touch guilty you know who you are and don't worry so do I.

    Management isn't an easy job and not all employee hires work out. Just like Students employees also can be charted on the bell curve. However if you TREAT employees respectfully and don't go back on your word when you promise things to resolve sticky or icky situations you actually EARN respect. Top notch organizations have people that want to work for them. Organizations that don't care to earn employee respect and only want to blame them have tremendous turnover like the Southbridge School System and the Central office historically does. Stability and growth is built on providing internal staircases and not exterior revolving doors.

    1. How many teachers left this year alone? Whether pushed out or just searching for higher ground?

  6. Native American SayingSeptember 27, 2013 at 4:12 AM

    "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand."

  7. If you think education is expensive - try ignorance.

    1. It's not an issue of funding in the Southbridge schools. "Buzz" said it at Tuesday night's meeting - the district has more than enough money. The town added another 1 million dollars into this year's budget.
      As a taxpayer I fully expect to see MCAS score over the top with all this money. But I live in Southbridge and know the reality - they won't be much, if any better.
      By my calculations the district has spent in the vicinity of a half million dollars over the past 15 months since Pincipe, Woodriff, McLoughlin and Donovan took over. PALs, investigations, legal fees, law suits, hundreds of dollars for coats for administrators, etc.; how have these costs helped improve test results. These women have made poor decisions, many based on politics and not students. One is out of office, the other three should resign, as well.
      If the town council opts to put any more funding into schools they should also be thrown out of office. Not until there are changes on the school committee.

  8. As one of the morons who has been paying the freight on this train wreck for years, I have to ask - like Ben Bradlee did in "All The President's Men" - When is someone going to go on record in this case?

    1. People who know the story are afraid that they will be the next one on paid administrative leave if they "go on the record." For so many it could mean an end to their career.

  9. #Southbridge school official faces drunk driving charges.
    This has now made Regional news while nothing is being said in Southbridge by school officials. You know its bad when Springfield feels comfortable bad mouthing Southbridge. Every dog has his day but after being banned from the stock exchange and then put in charge of overseeing school finances, (---)put on PAL and then brought back and promoted to #2, and now bulk purchasing alcohol and not waiting to get home to drink it, this guy deserves to the hydrant outside of the Westminster dog show. His defense is an environmental one. It was old and he just wanted to Recycle. BUZZ , BUZZ BUZZ what are you doing to us? To yourself? Why are you protecting him? Golf partners aren't that important.

    1. oops! * to be the hydrant outside of the Westminster Dog Show.

      The bigger question is to be or not to be - the director of operations.
      I'm thinking NOT!
      However sadly, we've been down this road with administrators before.

    2. Rumor has it that the administrator with a suspended license is being chauffeured by staff members. Wonder where that is written in any job description? We want the kids to be responsible and follow good examples...none here!

  10. You mean to tell me that we haven’t hit rock bottom yet as far as the MCAS scores go! I am tax weary!

  11. A question for Southbridge -

    If we would had a town councilor who only showed up to one meeting since the election reorganization meeting would anyone notice?

    The answer is most definitely Yes!
    I think we would all be up in arms and want them removed for neglect of duties right?

    So why is it that the good Dr Dominko has made only one meeting of the school committee since the election reorganization meeting and NO ONE NOTICES?

    Southbridge do you care about our school committees members neglect of duties?

    One meeting in three months that's a 1 for 6 attendance record!
    She didn't even show up for the big planned ouster meeting two weeks ago.
    Since she has received this shout out perhaps she will grace us with her presence at the Tuesday night meeting.

    Our School Budget is the highest budget we have and it is the least paid attention to department that we have. Think about it! Where are our priorities and why have we accepted this?

    If we truly cared we would be putting the pressure on the school committee and central office to turn the ship around, but we aren't.

    Are you afraid they might turn into the grammar police on you?
    I know they have scared away all the potential recording clerks but still.

    What's different about this years committee from last years committee. Like them or hate them but we lost two veteran school committee members who knew when to reign in their personal differences and get things done. Now we have the greenest on the job learners simply playing the role of interns instead of elected leaders. In this regard we are much worse off simply because they ran unopposed and we allowed it. Remember the smiling man pushing all the buttons behind the curtain in the wizard of oz well we have the female version of that on our school committee. She is still learning the ropes and hiding behind the curtain for now but soon it will be pulled back and we'll get to see her green eyed jealousy soon enough whether its good for the students or not. I promise you it won't be.

    Southbridge the next school committee meeting is Tuesday who will sit in the audience and hold our school committee and superintendent accountable for all the shenanigans and legal troubles of late? Can't make it tune in because again its only the largest funded department of the town budget being run by the LEAST experienced committee I've ever seen hold office and its only your tax money.

    Buzz having a problematic school committee is that problem the teachers fault too? Or is it yours? BUZZ on Tuesday , you got some xplainin to do!

    The way I see it Buzz is either part of the solution or part of the problem and after Tuesday I think we should all weigh in on that very important question.


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