Their success turned to infamy when the Grammy award was withdrawn after LA Times author Chuck Philips revealed that lead vocals on the record were not those of the performers billed as Milli Vanilli.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.
Currently it may be most relevant as regards Southbridge’s (part time) Superintendent of Schools.
Recently we reported how his own words indicated that his opposition to a Charter School proposal in his prior position in Brockton was motivated more by politics and control over finances than by concern for the quality of education.
Further research has indicated that he had no problem with Charter Schools before he felt threatened by one on his own turf. The Brockton Enterprise carried an Associated Press report on September 16, 2005 titled “New effort would aid failing schools”. This was shortly after Mr. Nembirkow became Brockton’s Superintendent in 2004 and well before the Sabis proposed Charter School in 2007.
The article reported:
When Brockton school superintendent Basan Nembirkow thinks about the future of his schools, he's frustrated by the past….
Yesterday, Nembirkow joined other superintendents to support a proposal to cluster together the state's worst schools under the Department of Education, and give the state more flexibility to structure education and power to close chronically failing schools or convert them to charter schools.
So, he was for charter schools before he was against them and then …well whatever he thinks now.
Beyond the apparent devotion to protecting his political turf even at the expense of academic progress, there is the issue of transparency.
Many have noticed the almost ritualistic nature of recent school committee meetings. There is little exposition of issues relating to pending decisions and essentially no disagreement. The committee members march in in lockstep, sing cumbaya in unison and march out in lockstep. Anything resembling controversy is relegated to the relatively invisible confines of committee meetings held at Cole Ave.
Had those who were involved in the hiring of Buzz done any real investigation, they would have been well aware that this was characteristic of his operations in Brockton.
In 2008 The Enterprise published an opinion piece titled “Secrecy rules in Brockton schools”.
The writer observed,
If it seems like we have been picking on Brockton school officials lately, it’s only because they have given us good reasons. It’s nothing personal on our part; we just think parents need to be informed when suspected drug dealers are arrested in an elementary school or school custodians collect items from school property and sell them for cash that they put in their own pockets. Now, we have the School Committee voting on one of the most important items in the School Department’s history — and it isn’t listed on the agenda for the meeting.
The School Committee voted Tuesday to approve a sweeping school reconfiguration package by a 7-0 vote. Two committee members protested — to no avail — that the vote wasn’t proper because it wasn’t listed on the agenda, but they went along with fellow board members in the end. School officials said parents had received adequate notification of the meeting and the topic, with fliers being sent home. But that isn’t enough. Why wasn’t it listed on the meeting agenda? Why wasn’t it listed on the School Department’s Web site, which posts the agenda of all meetings?
There was only one public meeting set up by school officials to discuss the reconfiguration — and School Superintendent Basan Nembirkow didn’t even attend. This is yet another example of his failure to communicate with parents and the public and his department’s lack of transparency.
We have no problem with the reconfiguration itself, which should save the city money and will close two city schools, open two new ones and move some students. Not everyone will be happy, but overall it is a plan that will be effective and was well-planned.
But that doesn’t excuse school officials’ failure to keep the public informed of everything they do. These incidents are starting to add up and it isn’t a good sign. Above all else, parents value communication with school officials. That is something that is sorely lacking, week after week, on a variety of issues.
Is it that difficult for Nembirkow and his administration to let parents and taxpayers know what is happening in the schools? Or will secrecy remain the order of the day?
So, any current complaints about the opacity of the school department should have been foreseeable, if there had been any real vetting of the candidate.
Another complaint that has been heard is about the apparent tendency to expand the size and cost of central administrative staff. This too could have been expected.
Turning to the Brockton Enterprise of October 23, 2008 in their piece “School Committee nixes new $74K job” we learn:
A School Department position created by Superintendent Basan Nembirkow was abolished this week by the School Committee.
The 3-3 vote came after committee members questioned the $72,000-a-year job of assistant facilities manager that went to Michael Towne, who was promoted from his $59,900-a-year job as night supervisor.
“That position was created without knowledge and authorization of the School Committee,” said committee member Thomas Minichiello, who voted against it.
He said the committee was not informed of the new position. Some members learned about it through calls, others from a report that appeared in The Enterprise on Sept. 28.
“One of the roles of the School Committee is budget oversight,” Minichiello said, noting that any new positions created outside the annual budget process should be brought before the committee.
This week the school committee will consider a budget that seeks a 6.2% increase over the prior year. This comes in the wake of a contract with the teachers’ union, the specifics of which are still unclear.
In October of 2004, upon assuming the position of Brockton Superintendent, Mr. Nembirkow told the MetroSouth Chamber of Commerce, “My goal is to make Brockton the Number One urban school system in Massachusetts.”
In considering the proposed budget as well as the objectivity and oversight of the school committee (or the bobbleheads, or the blueberry brigade, or the Buzz boobs, or the McLaugh-In Group, or the Laurentian Abyss, or just the four players) it might be prudent to take a look at where Brockton’s schools stand today in light of that stated goal in 2004.