Thursday, November 7, 2013

Southbridge School Committee Still Misleads On Policy

Ken O’Brien

At the November 5 meeting of the Southbridge School Committee Town Councilor Monique Manna questioned the procedure used to select the chairman of the committee following the resignation of former chairman Patricia Woodruff.

Following is a video of the question posed by Councilor Manna and the response from Chairman McLoughlin.

To repeat Chairman McLoughlin’s response:
…our policy was adopted before the Robert’s Rules were revised. There’s a newly revised Robert’s Rules which require, as I understand it, that there be a specific process for the election of a chair. Ours just said if a vacancy in the officers comes to be that there would be an election. But Robert’s Rules requires specificity with regard to the position of the chair in particular. Where our policy was silent and did not address that, that’s where then Robert’s Rules applied and the Robert’s Rules newly revised that we adopted at the onset took precedence. That’s the explanation that I’ve been given.

At least part of that is true. A newly revised edition of Robert's Rules, the 11th edition, was published on September 27, 2011.

However, the provision of Robert’s Rules relating to requiring specificity in the filling of a vacancy in the office of the chair was not new to the 11th edition as the chair indicated.

It was also contained in the preceding 10th edition.
If the bylaws are silent as to the method of filling a vacancy in the specific case of the presidency, the vice-president or first vice-president automatically becomes the president for the remainder of the term, and the vacancy arises in the vice-presidency or lowest-ranking vice-presidency; if another method of filling a vacancy in the presidency is desired, it must be prescribed and specified as applying to the office of president in particular. (RONR 10th Ed., p. 557 ll. 19-26)

The tenth edition was published in October of 2000. But, despite the fact that this provision existed as far back as 2000, the Worcester Telegram was able to report on March 18, 2004 in an article titled Southbridge board reorganizes.
SOUTHBRIDGE -- The School Committee, which is two members short, reorganized last night, electing Vice Chairman Mary Ellen Principe to chairman and Richard F. Couture to vice chairman.
The newly elected chairman then named members to subcommittees, with the appointments being approved by the board members.
The special meeting was a result of the recent resignations of Chairman Lisa A. Tarantino and board member Lou Ann Laliberte.

It should be noted that Mrs. Prencipe was the vice chairman at the time she was elected, a situation analogous to the one currently under discussion. Where were the legal interlopers then?

The current policy BDA which contains the disputed line “Any vacancy among the officers occurring between organizational meetings will be filled by a member elected by the School Committee.” was adopted in 2007. Why were we not advised by our legal watch dogs at the time that this provision would be overruled by the provisions of Robert’s Rules being cited now which were already in existence then?

Perhaps the answer can be found in School Committee Policy BEDD which states, “Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised will govern the proceedings of the Committee, except when those rules are in conflict with the Committee's approved policies and regulations.”

So I guess the question now becomes, “Why have you chosen to ignore not one but two School Committee Policies?”

This becomes especially relevant in that Robert’s Rules states as one of its guiding precepts, “… the bylaws [in this case policies]…comprise the highest body of rules in societies as normally established today. Such an instrument supersedes all other rules of the society, except the corporate charter, if there is one.” (RONR 10th Ed., p. 14 II. 13-17) 

Perhaps the chair should have heeded the advice she was being given by the Superintendent while she was attempting to answer Councilor Manna.


  1. Last evening Superintendent Nembirkow offered one of the terminated teachers a "deal," in which the district would not fight the teacher's unemployment application if she dropped her legal suit against the district. Is this legal? It certainly isn't ethical. Has our school district an decency?

    The Town Council asked for an explanation as to school department unemployment costs, as these costs are paid by the town side of funds. I hope thay are going to be asking these same questions now.

    So it appears that the we have a pay-me-now or pay-me-later issue happening. Pay them unemployment or pay them a legal settlement. But it's not Mr. Nembirkow who will be paying - it's the taxpayers of Southbridge.

    At some point we will have to start laying folks off in this town. I suggest we start at the water company.

  2. The Lollipop Four are all going to attend the 2013 MASC/MASS Joint Conference along with the Superintendent at The Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis. (
    In the past it is my understanding that only the primary delegate and the alternate attended. How much is this costing us?
    Don’t forget to bring your district provided IPADs ladies.

    1. Who is paying for this, conference fees, hotel rooms and meals for all four, what happened to one person going and providing the information upon return to district. Plus, what decisions are going to be made while away, the majority of the committee will be together. What will happen, contract extension announced for Buzz when they get back with no meetings. just like when the two were elected and within one week, with no meeting and no evaluation of Ely they give a contract extension and raise. The gig is up, time for us all to pay attention!!!

  3. Does anybody know why people from the state education department showed up here unannounced yesterday?

    1. Perhaps the end is near for Buzz and the girls! We can only hope.

    2. It's interesting that the Dept of Ed shows up unannounced yesterday and the same day Buzz offers one of the terminated teachers a "deal." I think old Buzz knows his spate of terminations is not justified; a point which may have been pointed out to him.

      I pretty sure the only way to improve our school district is to dump Buzz. The "Lollipop Four," as noted above should also be sent packing. Poor Dr. Dominko having to serve on a board with these inept four. I can see why she is missing so much.

  4. What we have is a failure to lead, let the Superintendent do whatever he wants and get who he wants to be the Chair. There is a policy in place, why wasn't it followed, McLoughlin should have put it out for a vote, if you have the votes then you are the Chair, if not then you are not, what was she afraid of!!

    1. Your final question is the real head-scratcher for me. I don't think there was any question that she had the votes, so why incur the cost of having the attorney come and modify a procedure that had never been questioned?
      All that she has succeeded in doing is spending money and calling into question longstanding policy and the legitimacy of the legal advice involved.

  5. Exactly, why have Moschos come out for that, what a waste of money and time. Then again, I want to see how this year ends on the financial note, lawsuits, payouts, terminations, patronage to new positions, but is a personnel matter so we will never find out!!

  6. Buzz immigrated from the former Soviet Union and it seems that he values that political system as a model for running a school district. I think his idol must be Old Joe Stalin the way he purged the system of highly qualified teachers who had stayed with the district through some very rough times. At the beginning of the year he ordered the employees of the entire district together and threatened them with "...there are no untouchables because everyone will be touched .... the principals do the hiring and I do the firing..." along with other comments to instill fear in the teachers and staff.

    He also surrounded himself with his own hand picked Politburo headed by Vasili Blokhin aka Roland Gaboury who, was in charge of targeting those individuals that didn't fall into lockstep behind "The Man of Steel". Roland, like his alter-ego thought he to was invincible as long as he did the masters bidding. Gaboury's tactics of lies, innuendo, and intimidation coupled with Buzz's policies that isolated staff members from each other created a place where "informants" (or the thought that there are) have created a climate where teachers stay to themselves and all collegiality is lost.

    Buzz is now in a fight for his reputation and legacy and will fight at all cost (taxpayer money) to try to preserve that legacy. However, I think, like Stalin he will not be remembered favorably by History.

  7. During Chairwoman’s announcements Mrs. McLoughlin announced that several members had attended the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law Forum. Later in the meeting she read a letter asking the Superintendent to consider a one year contract extension. The letter was signed by all six members of the school committee. Wasn’t getting those signatures outside of a formal meeting a violation of the Open Meeting Law?

    1. This issue arose regarding the number of council members required to request the addition of an agenda item while I was serving on the Charter Review Committee. We were advised that it had to be less than five for this very reason, because five would constitute a quorum and therefore constitute an illegal meeting. It didn’t matter whether they met collectively or serially. Therefore I would agree that this letter was the product of an illegal meeting and therefore a violation of the open meeting law.

    2. I'll bet the letter was grammatically correct and properly punctuated though.

    3. This has become all too common a pattern here in Southbridge. It’s not only the school committee but the town council as well. Contract renewals or extensions are given out to superintendents and town managers with no public input or meaningful evaluations. It’s like the chief administrators and the committees charged with their oversight are some private club that shuts out the public.

    4. You get what you voted for. You wanted McLaughlin and Donovan - there all yours.

      Too bad the underage students got them too. They are ruining the school system, and the town.

      Bring back Jovan and Lazo!

  8. It is too bad that there are no newspapers or media outlets in this town worth their salt. Don't you think that if things like this would happen in Boston there would be reporters and cameras staking out city hall. (This Blog is about the only place that keeps stories alive for more than a day.)

    When stuff does happen here, the only action that the politicos and their henchmen have to do is to stay low for a week and the pressure is off.

    1. Thanks for the recognition. It's unfortunate that so many of our local bloggers have gone into hibernation. I hope it's only temporary.


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