Saturday, March 29, 2014

What A Difference A Year Makes

Ken O’Brien

Last Tuesday’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee has shattered all records for a Southbridge Cable TV production.

As I write this, it has received over 300 views. (I’m not referring to my blog post, I mean the YouTube video stats.)  Keep in mind that this is a video that runs over three hours. Also consider that the prior record holder had a little over 100 views and that the average school committee or town council video gets around 25 viewers.

Obviously there was more at issue than the presentation of the FY 2015 Budget by the Superintendent.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Noble Gesture

Ken O’Brien

The Moses Wilder Blacksmith Shop at OSV
My maternal grandfather was a blacksmith here in Southbridge. I was told, although I cannot recall it, that he maintained a forge in the Globe Village part of town. However, I do remember him shoeing the horses we owned, and I rode, as a child. My mother maintained a period reproduction painting over the family living room fireplace of a blacksmith’s shop that she claimed looked very much like her father’s shop.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Music To Present A School Budget By

Ken O’Brien

Budgets are boring.

However, when you get right down to it, there is no more critical function in government.

Budgets are where the true priorities of an administration are given concrete form and expression.

Still, it would be nice if there was a way to make the dry and often arcane numbers that constitute a bureaucracy’s budget more accessible to the general public. What is needed is some mechanism that reveals the true intentions and message being conveyed by those responsible for the way money expropriated from the public is going to be spent.

Southbridge Ranked 14th In Central Mass. Per Pupil School Spending

Ken O’Brien

Go Local Worcester reports this morning that Southbridge ranks 14th highest among 43 central Massachusetts communities in terms of per pupil expenditures.

Based on 2012 data from the Massachusetts Department of Education the publication calculates Southbridge spent an average of $12,894 per student. That compares to $12,985 for Tantasqua, which ranked 13th and $12,786 for Webster which was ranked as number 15 in the region. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Former Southbridge School Committee Chairman Speaks Out

Patricia Woodruff

Former Chairman of the Southbridge School Committee Patricia Woodruff has spoken out regarding Tuesday night’s meeting of the committee. In a statement issued exclusively to The O’Zone, Ms. Woodruff said, “I am very disturbed that the School Committee members and the Superintendent would publicly humiliate the Guidance Staff over a presentation.”

It should be emphasized that this statement was totally unsolicited.

This only goes to further illustrate the integrity that Ms. Woodruff exemplified by the dignity with which she announced her departure from the Southbridge School Committee.

The O’Zone is honored by her decision to use our forum as the vehicle to make this statement. The full text of her remarks follows.

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - March 25, 2014 (VIDEO)

Nightmare On Elm Street

Ken O’Brien

Last night’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee was a low point in the history of public meetings in this community.

Given the depths to which such meetings have sunk in the past, that is indeed an unenviable – even if record-breaking – accomplishment.

The only bright spot of the evening was a presentation to elementary school students Jayce Delgado and Tyler LaCroix and second grade teacher Paula Kenda. The quick thinking of the students in reporting an incident to Ms. Kenda potentially saved the life of a choking student.

Following the recognition of these individuals for their meritorious action the balance of the meeting deteriorated into seriocomic psychodrama. 

Southbridge Town Manager's FY 2015 Budget Presentation

Monday, March 24, 2014

Exclusive: Homer Simpson Comments On “Marino Madness”

Ken O’Brien

The perennial pest-ition godfathered by legendary miscreant James J. (Joe) Marino is once again making the rounds of Southbridge.

For both of you who are unfamiliar with this now annual diversion, allow me to recap.

Mr. Marino and his band of occasionally “head-butted” followers are once again circulating a petition to restore Southbridge to a town meeting form of government.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blind Faith

Ken O’Brien

Milli Vanilli was an R&B pop and dance group that hailed from Germany in 1988. The group's debut album Girl You Know It's True achieved international success and earned them a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1990.  Milli Vanilli became one of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Their success turned to infamy when the Grammy award was withdrawn after LA Times author Chuck Philips revealed that lead vocals on the record were not those of the performers billed as Milli Vanilli.

The lesson to be learned, of course, is that before you accord someone status, you should determine the degree to which it is merited. 

This is a lesson that has apparently escaped the attention of Southbridge officials in recent years.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Southbridge School Committee Meeting Agenda - March 25, 2014




March 25, 2014 –7:00 PM


Southbridge Town Council Meeting Agenda - March 24, 2014




March 24, 2014 –7:00 PM



1. Pledge of Allegiance
2. Roll Call

3. Consider and accept Town Council Meeting Minutes of Monday, March 10, 2014. 

The Buzz Saw: Politics Tops Performance

Ken O’Brien

One element of the current job posting for a new principal at Southbridge Middle/High School that caught our attention was the line, “Southbridge Public Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Buzz Nembirkow, has created an intensive and innovative plan to overhaul Southbridge education as he did with the Brockton Public Schools.”

We have heard repeatedly about Mr. Nembirkow’s transformative role in the Brockton school system. It is the foundation of the miracle he is expected to perform here in Southbridge. 

It was therefore with some surprise that I recently came across a 2012 article from the Boston Globe titled, “Sabis seeking charter school in Brockton”.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Obama To Speak At Worcester Tech Graduation

President Obama will deliver this year's commencement address to graduating seniors from Worcester
Technical High School, the school's principal announced this morning.

The president will address the class of 2014 on Wednesday, June 11, at the DCU Center.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Ken O’Brien 

Earlier today I got this email from John Pulawski:

Big Y Guest WiFi
Based on the Terms & Conditions of Big Y Foods
access to this site has been restricted.
Category: Suspicious

Marketti Launches New Website

Ken O’Brien

Marketti by Marketti
Local pundit, videographer and cartoonist extraordinaire Mike Marketti, has launched a new website.

The site, titled Southbridge Common, styles itself as an alternative source of news for Southbridge.

The initial offerings include a report on the efforts by James Sottile to secure an alternate position on the Liquor Licensing Board, a humorous take on the recent Town Council recognition of Rudy DiGregorio and a summary of the Town Council Chairman’s reaction to a citizen’s petition seeking a return to a town meeting form of government. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is It Buzz Kill Or Kill Buzz?

Ken O’Brien

Our recent article Wanted – (Another) New Principal At SMHS has certainly generated a lot of interest and response.

Some of the allegations that have been made are so severe that I have debated whether or not they should have been published.

On one hand they are all anonymous, which gives serious concern regarding their legitimacy.

On the other hand, there has been no denial of these allegations forthcoming.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Ken O’Brien

With all the seriousness lately, I felt that we needed a little diversion.

I put this one together last night, and it still cracks me up.

Once you see it I dare you to keep a straight face at the next wedding you go to when this song comes up.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Southbridge School Committee Meeting, March 11, 2014 (Video)

Ken O’Brien

After a week of waiting, the video file of last week’s School Committee Meeting is finally available on line

Half the meeting is occupied with a discussion of a planned student trip to Spain.

At about the 43 minute mark we get the opportunity to witness Pat Gardner, Director of Teaching and Learning, discussing preparations for this year’s MCAS tests. The taking of these annual evaluation tests began today.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Please, Stop Playing The “Pity Me” Card

Ken O’Brien

The old saying goes “Problems are like a-holes, everybody’s got ‘em and they all stink”.

In recent months the invocation of personal issues and tragedies by those in Southbridge politics has grown to the point of annoying.

It reached a crescendo at last week’s town council meeting.

One councilor elaborated upon the tragic passing of a sibling as an explanation for being absent from a subcommittee meeting. This prompted another to reference her having suffered a heart attack.

Flight 370 Isn’t The First

The Boeing 727, tail number 844AA 
On May 25, 2003, shortly before sunset, Ben Charles Padilla, a certified flight engineer, aircraft mechanic, and private pilot, boarded Florida-based Aerospace Sales and Leasing’s Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA.The location was Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Angola.With him was a helper he had recently hired, John Mikel Mutantu, from the Republic of the Congo. The two had been working with Angolan mechanics to return the 727 to flight-ready status so they could reclaim it from a business deal gone bad, but neither could fly it. Mutantu was not a pilot, and Padilla had only a private pilot’s license. A 727 ordinarily requires three trained aircrew.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wanted – (Another) New Principal At SMHS

Ken O’Brien

Last Sunday in our article Opa City we made mention of the sudden leave-taking by Southbridge Middle/High School Principal Amy Allen.

Ms. Allen has been in the position less than a year. Prior to becoming Principal she had spent about a year as the district’s Curriculum Director.

In keeping with the ongoing pattern of recent years, it became obvious yesterday that Ms. Allen definitely would not be returning to the Principal’s position.

What clinched it was a posting that appeared yesterday on the site School Spring is an employment site for professionals in the education field. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Easy To Be Hard

As I was watching the early part of the Southbridge Town Council Meeting last Monday night I was genuinely excited.

There were two reasons for this.

First, and perhaps foremost, was that I was finally going to be able to say something positive about our town’s Economic Development and Planning Department. Followers of The O’Zone know that I have been a relentless critic of this office and its Director. But, really, they make it so easy to be hard. Most recently I pointed out their failure to have the Southbridge Technology and Environment Park mentioned in a web-site devoted to promoting business-ready sites in Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Quotations From (former) Chairman Meow

Ken O’Brien

Southbridge Town Councilor and former Chairman Catherine Nikolla has a distinguished history of injecting memorable bon mots into legislative discussions.

Who can forget her characterization of a segment of the town’s population as “pigs and barnyard animals”?

Then there was her catty reference to citizens in attendance at one meeting as “the peanut gallery”.

Let’s remember her infamous description of the Casella contract during the original debate on its adoption. “I’ve read this contract. This is a good contract”. That certainly wasn’t her sentiment during last November’s update on the remaining life of the landfill.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Avoid Chaos - Learn The Rules

Ken O’Brien

On Tuesday I poked a little fun at the prior night’s meeting of the Southbridge Town Council.

The fact is, however, that over an hour of wasted time as well as a vote to reconsider just before the close of the meeting could have been avoided easily.

All that was required was a fundamental understanding of the provisions of Robert’s Rules of Order as they apply to points of order.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Southbridge’s Axis Of Dumb

Ken O’Brien

Clichés are clichés precisely because they are true.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that back in August Salon Magazine ran an article titled “The definition of insanity” is the most overused cliché of all time.

For both of you unfamiliar with this aphorism, it goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.

Southbridge has got to be the poster child for this particular bromide.

It seems that the town will never learn that giving in to political expediency always comes back to bite us in our collective asses.

A Quick Recap Of Last Night's Southbridge Town Council's Action On Bylaws

Monday, March 10, 2014

Southbridge Town Council Meeting Agenda, March 10. 2014 (Better Late Than Never)




March 10, 2014 –7:00 PM


1.     1.      Pledge of Allegiance

2.      Roll Call

3.      Consider and accept Town Council Meeting Minutes of Monday, February 24, 2014.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Opa City

Ken O’Brien

Our beloved city of Southbridge (yes city) has long been in need of a fitting nickname.

The old moniker – “the eye of the commonwealth” – is as relevant to current reality as calling anything on NBC’s prime time lineup “must see TV”.

There are those who have attempted to employ the term “honest town”, but that has failed to gain any real following. I would think that this had a chance, at least among those of us who would use it in an ironic sense. But even irony has to have some grounding in fact. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Obamacare Already Benefitting The Economy

Ken O’Brien

Republicans have been proven completely wrong as the Affordable Care Act helped both personal income and spending increase in January.

On March 3rd The Wall Street Journal reported in an article titled” Obamacare Effects Account for Most of Income, Spending Increases”:
The Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health law, is already boosting household income and spending.
The Commerce Department reported Monday that consumer spending rose a better-than-expected 0.4% and personal incomes climbed 0.3% in January. The new health-care law accounted for a big chunk of the increase on both                                                                      fronts.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Half Century Of Disenfranchisement: From The “Military Industrial Complex” To The “Deep State”

Ken O’Brien

Americans have a long history of fascination with conspiracy theories.

Reality, however, is far less simple than any such ascription of feelings of powerlessness or victimization to imagined cabals.

That is not to say that most of our history (as well as that of other societies now and throughout time) has not seen government bent to the will of dominant elites. However, such “manipulation” rarely, if ever, results from the artful execution of some monolithic and secret plan bowing to a hidden agenda.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mass. GOP Swings Further Right

Ken O’Brien

On Tuesday night the Massachusetts Republican State Committee, by a vote of 52 to 16, adopted a new state party platform.

The new section on Values has sparked controversy among members who object to what they perceive as a shift to the right that is incompatible with the realities of Massachusetts voter preferences.