Friday, April 4, 2014

Fact Checking The Southbridge School Committee Chairman

Ken O’Brien

In an earlier post we commented on the Worcester Telegram article “Blunt-talking superintendent shakes up Southbridge's underperforming schools” (T&G April 1).

There were a number of items in that article that warranted fact-checking. However, given that the article focused upon the Superintendent, it was felt that his remarks justified primary attention.

In the interim, though, I have been bothered by a remark made by the august Chairman of the School Committee. In the report she is cited as follows: “Chairwoman Lauren C. McLoughlin noted that making an investment in the schools can improve a community's real estate market, as has occurred in Lawrence and in Mr. Nembirkow's former city of Brockton.” 

Now, it is fair to say that a lot of factors influence the real estate market. But Mrs. McLoughlin singles out two examples where she maintains investment in the schools has made a difference. One of these bears the imprint of our current Superintendent. As a result I thought it would be salutary to address the comparison of home sale trends in those two communities versus Southbridge.

These charts show the average home sales prices as the upper red line and the total number of sales as the lower bars. Since there are substantial differences in relative valuations, it is not the absolute levels that we are interested in so much as the trends.

As can be seen, Lawrence has recovered to and exceeded its 2008 levels. If she wants to credit that to improvement in the schools, so be it.

But then, how does she explain Brockton which has not gotten back to its 2008 levels following Mr. Nembirkow’s stewardship?

And then, look at Southbridge. It had started to recover to its 2008 levels until the last year. From the fourth quarter of 2012 to the end of 2013 the pattern is too erratic to make any real assessment. If Mrs. McLoughlin wants to link real estate values to the performance of the schools, how does she explain this?

I didn’t choose these examples, she did.

I will agree with part of her statement. An investment in the schools can improve a community's real estate market. But it’s not the mere fact of making an investment that yields the improvement. It is demonstrating that such an investment has generated positive results that matters.

So, before you ask for more money show us some results with what you’ve got. After all, another unbiased source has already shown that Southbridge taxpayers have been generous beyond the regional norm.

Oh, and check your facts. You’re setting a bad example for the students.


  1. Today's' Southbridge News carries a letter to the Editor by Dave Williams, President of the Southbridge Education Asssociation. It is titled, "Time to repair trust ‘shattered’ by School Committee".
    In it he addresses the presentation by the Guidance Department at the last School Committee meeting and details two pending arbitration cases.
    Commenting on the Guidance Presentation, he says, "The problem was created
    by mismanagement and criticizing the department for doing what they’ve been asked to do was irresponsible, and only served to do the district grievous harm."
    Finally he explains an Unfair Labor Practices action that was filed against the district. "The district admitted it was wrong when it demanded teachers placed on administrative
    leave not to talk to anybody employed by the district. The district also agreed to end this practice with any future administrative leaves."

  2. Speaking of checking facts . . . I just read Brent Abramsen's tale regarding the accreditation of our new school. The last NEASC visit was the Fall of 2004. The group visit was to take place last month. However, prior to a school being visited by a team, the school must complete a comprehensive self-evaluation. The self-evaluation takes a full year and requires the entire school community's participation. This self-evaluation is not even started. If it is complete, as ,Buzz's new best friend, Brent A. states. Wrong again Brent!

  3. Where can I read this "self evaluation" ?

  4. We need more details regarding what NEASC will do next. Its obvious that with all the chaos at the MHS nothing is being done by admin. or other staff.
    Another question... What is an Academic Dean? I know it was another administrative position created by Buzz. For What? What is the job description? Was that job posted or a reward for Sweetman? There are so many new administrative positions I just can't keep up!

  5. Another reward position? My kid is at the middle high school and I have no idea who Sweetman is. What does he/she do all day?

  6. The job was a reward for Sweetman. Does she really do anything in the school anyway? It seems like she walks around a lot like most admins there do.

  7. She does nothing, unless you include planning everything MCAS (middle school pep rally, training of staff, attending hours long phone presentations, coverage for all staff, etc), planning all ANET testing, working on Focus on Results and AIP, visiting classrooms and giving feedback to teachers, working one on one with some of our toughest students, attending legal briefings, member of our SMHS Instructional Leadership Team. I know it doesn't seem like a lot but you are welcome to step into her shoes anytime see if you can make a difference like she does.

    Like a lot of people here, she works hard and goes above and beyond to help whenever and wherever it is needed. Was it a reward for her? Who cares and if it was it was justly so because her knowledge is valuable and her work ethic is matched by few in any job I have worked.

    After reading a lot of these posts on various articles it seems like there is an absence of identity for those who are most critical. Why hide your name if you are going to be critical? Make it an open discussion, not some middle school hide behind your anonymous computer name, we deal with enough of that from our students.

    1. Well Nick, those who have spoken out, or even defended themselves, have had the full rather of Buzz and Pat Gardner
      Ask Amy Allen - out because she refused to fire someone after SC members visited the school. Ask Mike Coiteau, ask MTS. Dargie, ask Diane Shaw, and the list goes on. That's why anonymous postings

      As for Ms Sweet man . . . She was given a new job for her efforts in getting Mrs Dargie. Everyone knows that. They also know that you, Nick, were paid additional money when Mrs Dargie was placed on leave.

      I could go on, but why bother. However, keep you eyes open and your head down. They're quickly running out of people to blame, then fire. You and Sweet man are only ad good as your last ass kissing.

      And finally Nick, although you removed your SC bashing from Facebook quickly, not quite quick enough. As someone reminded Quinney on this blog, once it's online-its forever!

    2. Imagine that, another anonymous posting throwing out random statements. Just like in Math class, please show your work or be able to back up your ramblings with facts.

      Sweetman was given a new job for her efforts in getting Ms. Dargie? I totally agree, that was one of the qualifications for the position in the first place, I saw the job description. But what exactly is she getting Ms. Dargie? Why does it matter if I was additional money?

      I am sure you could go on and I think everyone can agree why would you bother.

  8. So brave you are to use your real name. Braver before you had another job it would have been.

    1. That's right, tough guy Nick is leaving in June for a neighboring community. His job was posted today.

      Also, they finally secured a French teacher this week, been searching all year. Last one day and quit.

      Fact Check girls, things are not getting better at our new school.

    2. Maybe Hoffman can take Hatch with him. What a loss that would be.

    3. Wow, name calling now? I mean thanks, I guess I do consider myself a tough guy, I can bench 210 lbs. Oh and you need to fact check your posting, imagine that.

  9. Counselor Hoffman leaving, French teacher bails after one day, front page of The News, Looking for Four Principals, what goes on at the middle/high school?

    I don't see it getting any better and worry about who is tending to the needs of our children? I watched the committee meeting the other night and was surprised to see the woman who is the superintendent's replacement looking so unready for the task in front of her. Will she be terminated? Go out on medical leave?

    I have no confidence in our school committee or superintendent.

  10. fact check the vice chair too!June 17, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    We all know that we have to fact check the chairman of the school committee but after listening to the vice chair tonight saying "visits to the school took place and no teachers were evaluated " - with a straight face - well now we know we have to fact check the vice chair too! .So little creditability - so much political spin and all so far from the truth. Having Olivo read the chairmans announcements makes him complicit in this spin.

  11. I am posting anonymous because i have professional reasons too. (i am new here, and i am not the same anonymous as above)
    I have a student in the school system. She is a high honor student who is involved in sports, and extra curricular activities. I haven't had any reason to belittle the teachers and admins that i have had dealings with. I found them to be engaged and caring. The other children in her honors classes also seem to be from good families that take a vested interest in their children, and it shows !! The problem with our school system is a population that is absent of involved caring parents. It is not the systems job to raise these kids and give them moral,goal, and drive. That has to come from home,or from within.
    Mr Hoffman, thank you for the time i have seen you give to the students, even staying after hours to attend sporting practice, games, and performing arts shows. My daughter was sad to see you leave. it is our loss an another towns gain.
    We all aspire to grow in our careers,and to work in the best environment possible. i don't begrudge you for leaving. Anyone who is a working professional will agree with me.

  12. George says it allAugust 25, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    George Orwell

  13. 2 meetings - executive session where negotiation subcommittee voted no to approving a changed contract language
    last meeting - more executive sessions and voted afterward to correct the previous purposefully attempted language changed vote.
    Her political leadership is simply too darn dirty and simply can't be trusted.


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