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.

I have decided to publish them because, if they are true, then it seems that there is a serious problem (indeed a plethora of problems) that needs to be aired.

Nevertheless, I am concerned that not one person has come forward to put their name to these grievances as Jonathan Jacobson did in the past.

I understand that there is a very real concern that speaking out about the kind of abuses that are being claimed could result in punitive action. In this economy having a job is akin to a character in the movie Gravity having access to oxygen.

On the other hand, there is the Southbridge Education Association, the teachers’ union.

Theoretically members of the union pay dues in order to have their interests represented without the fear of individual retribution.

If the problems being reported are so widespread and so threatening, why hasn’t the union spoken out publicly?

One theory is that the union leadership is reluctant to speak out for fear of jeopardizing ongoing litigation.

Well, there are plenty of ways of addressing a generic problem without jeopardizing specifics.

Another theory is that the leadership is so swamped by the volume of complaints, cases and litigation that it simply doesn’t have the time to engage in a public campaign.

To that I say that there are regional, state and national organizations readily available to provide assistance if this is the case.

A final theory I have heard is that the union is invested in the current school committee leadership. The union, so this theory goes, provided support in their election campaign for which the union received a sweetheart deal in recent negotiations. Speaking out now would jeopardize that contract.

If there is any truth to this theory then it presents a real dilemma to the aggrieved.

Essentially they have been thrown under the bus with the realization that, once the “undesirables” are gone, the union can take credit with the “survivors” for the contractual gains. In the process their support of the current school committee leadership is validated,

That last theory is a win-win for the union, the school committee and the administration. The only losers are the “undesirables” and, potentially, the students and the taxpayers.

I fully realize the need in a democratic society for a voice for the abused.

At present there does not appear to be any other such outlet for them than this blog.

However, I will not blindly believe anonymous complaints and allegations without some authentication or action on the part of those who claim to be exploited. I will question you and ask for some kind of verification. To do less would be irresponsible.

If you want results then somebody who has a dog in this fight has to come forward and carry the banner.

They say that God helps those who help themselves.

If you expect any more than that from me then you’ve severely misjudged the size of my ego.


  1. Feb 26 SNEWS page 7 see discussion on unemployment.
    Sheridan explained the projected spending figure of $189,731.29 for costs of
    unemployment from Jan.1, 2014 to June 30, 2014 came from the previous
    six months of invoices. As far as funding goes,a few options were discussed.
    Town Finance Director Karen Harnois said, “The original budget for the school was $191,000 for unemployment and that’s been spent. At this time we just don’t know
    what the exact costs will be every month. There is a Town Council reserve fund that they could draw from and the Veteran’s Fund — there is also the stabilization fund.”
    Exceeding the budget on unemployment by almost doubling it is that enough authentication ? Southbridge keep talking - the desks are there, the partner is employed there, the newbies have all been mentioned in meetings and in the press as to the locations that they came from, etc. I wish this transparency of communication came from those we elected but since it clearly isn't - Keep Talking Southbridge - keep Talking and sharing for everyone to learn something about how this school district is really being run.

    1. It’s amazing how Ms. Quinney’s devotion to “transparency” has melted away in about two years.

      Remember this Erin?

      Erin Quinney June 14, 2012 at 4:11 PM
      I have not looked into what other School Committees spend on legal fees but, I do have the numbers for Southbridge: the budget for legal fees for 202 was $75,000.00 as of March they were at $98,171.59 and the projected amount for the year was $112,000.00. (Just in case you were curious here are the final amounts for the previous five years FY 11 $115,074.07, FY 10 $51,828.53, FY 09 $27,816.79, FY 08 $132,088.67, FY 07 $169,390.90)


  2. Why has no one besides Jacobson come forward? Several people filed a grievance against an administrator . No action was taken and word has it that Buzz turned the documents over to the accused. The accused administrator denied all of the charges and that was the end of it. Many question the power of the union. The administrator was then aware of all of the people who jointly filed the grievance. Kudos to all of the people who have chosen to stick it out because of the students. The people of the town of Southbridge would be furious if they knew the amount of money spent on paying people who were put on administrative leave,unemployment and litigation.

  3. The Jacobson matter was a debacle from a completely different administration. What is, and has been, happening now is a completely different set of circumstances and administrators. The reason why none of the "former employees" are speaking on the record is because of legal cases against the district. And, those who are still in the system know all to well that to speak up means the walk of shame...People will be embarrassed when the facts finally do come out when all the dust has settled. However, it will be too late for the students and the citizens....

  4. Yes Jacobson came forward. His publication was either against the advice of an attorney, carefully scrutinized by an attorney and authorized for release, or he simply did not care and released it anyway. As someone who was fired by the district, I drafted a press release to update the community, showed it to my attorney, and he advised me against releasing it. The legal proceedings many of us are in the middle of will take a long time to resolve. Until then, I'm sure many are advised the same as I was.....not a word until it is over. Who knows when that will be. Furthermore, Jacobson moved to California and looked to pursue a new life out on the west coast, far away from the scandals in Southbridge. If you are trying to move on with your life locally, then you have to be very careful about your name being out there. Potential employers don't like to see a candidates name, for whatever reason, in the middle of a difficult situation. Yes, Jacobson was brave to come forward, but he had also set himself up financially so that he was not held a prisoner by these people. He could move on a moments notice and live in his van if he had to. He did not have a wife and children counting on him for his income. Other people have different pressures and responsibilities so it is really not fair to compare.

  5. I’m pleased to see that our students are being taught by practical, realistic people. One of the most valuable lessons they need to learn is that if you are going to make it in life you have to learn how to knuckle under and whose ass to kiss and when. If you are going to complain publicly make sure that you do it anonymously. They need to know that standing up for anything is just plain dumb because it might cost you. Only an utter moron would do that and you have to be downright insane to fight for your country because you could actually die – how would that look on your resume? I applaud teachers who are instilling values in our young that have made our town and country what they are today. Nothing instills a life lesson like a good example.

    1. Just Another BrickMarch 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      This comment makes me realize that O'Brien picked the right music video for this article.

  6. I still haven’t gotten any kind of explanation as to why the teachers’ union has not spoken out publicly about these abuses. If the comments here are more than a reflection of a dissatisfied minority, I would think that the union leadership would be feeling intense pressure to speak out publicly and forcefully.

    This would not be unprecedented. Southbridge’s police union has done so in the past in regard to both the town manager and the police chief.

    1. Williams is silent? Do you think any of the 1.7 million doller increase in next year's budget has anything to do with this silence?
      We still haven't been shown the sweetheart deal penned this year between the union and the taxpayers.

      Mrs McLiughlin keeps telling us about this town and that town. Well we are being asked to pony up 6 or 7 percent next year. Tantasqua seeks 2.1, Shepherd Hill less. Southbridge $$$$$$$. Is a new backhoe in there?

      Have we forgotten why Prop 2.5 wax passed? To stop unreasonable school spending AKA Fiscal Autonomy.

      I don't think 5% pay raises in a district of any type is fiscally responsible.

  7. At this point I have to agree with the blog host’s skepticism. I believe that there have been abuses. But the Southbridge school system has been a disaster for years under a number of administrations. Maybe the problem is a bunch of incompetent teachers and we’re only hearing whining from a minority who have a right to be scared because they should have been gone a long time ago.Lets face it, the teacher’s union is the strongest union around since the collapse of the Soviet Union. If they aren’t willing to speak out maybe its because they haven’t got a case. If that isn’t true then the members should demand their dues money back. Let’s hear from Mr. Williams.

  8. Anonymous at 8:32...so if as you say they have a "right to be scared", you clearly are not one of the ones that should be scared. Why don't you post your name then? Can you really be so blind or are you a poster planted from the Springfield crew?

    1. No, I'm someone with a student who might be a target for teachers who shouldn't be teaching. If I could manage it they would be in a different school system.

  9. Here is an interesting article on Buzz from 2006:


    Guess his judgments always been off.

  10. Here is an interesting article on Buzz from 2006:
    Fire this school superintendent!
    Guess his judgments always been off.

    1. Here’s the report on this from USA Today:
      First-grader suspended for sexual harassment

    2. Roll the clock forward to modern day and paraphrase the 2006 article.

      So what is wrong with Basan Nembirkow NOW ? One wonders where his sense of reason and propriety went when his second in command wantonly touched and harassed multiple teachers? His despicable minion was first suspended, then cleared of all wrong doing and hoodwinked the public with his promotion. Comparatively, These vastly different real events were handed completely different over the years. WHY???? I guess the six year old wasn't as good a golf partner as his senior hatchet man was.
      How was this man who knowingly broke acceptable work place behavior protected until he got caught by out of town police and charged with a DUI. He lingered until the public cried out for accountability. Meanwhile the true victims were stigmatized, denied unemployment, threated with license revocation and now teach in a neighboring district that actually respects its teachers and fortunately for them offer a higher payscale!
      It is indeed, outrageous that this fool of a superintendent would so stigmatize his teaching staff this way after setting such a hard line on what he considers sexual harassment back in 2006.
      This isn't just a simple mistake he has committed. He along with his school committee have truly stigmatized his staff by putting all the blame for everything upon them. He has also opened the door for any behavior being reported to be dealt with accordingly and in his own way. Now no matter how innocent the comment it is to be considered crimes against the administration thereby making any less than innocent behavior reporting a thing of the past. He has also falsely empowered his new second in command far beyond the point of her opening day comment to the entire teaching staff when she said " don't worry about being stabbed in the back I do my stabbing in the front. HA, HA, HA, HA ." This hatchet Girl now thinks that she can get people in trouble for the tiniest actions that she petulantly decides offends her. Nembirkow has only further damaged the respectability of this district and its teachers in general. His leadership team is not only being pushed through the revolving door some are running through it just to get away. With prestigiousness like this thank god he is only working part time.

  11. With girls so clueless to this guy our kids and teachers don't have a chance.

    We have to elect educated school committee members. The PTA mother's just ain't ready to run anything more complex than a bake sale.


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