Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Ken O’Brien

When I saw this morning’s headline in the Worcester Telegram regarding last night’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee I had to wonder if Brian Lee and I had watched the same meeting. The banner on the T&G article read, “State official cites progress by Southbridge schools”.

My reading of the presentation by Dr. Nadine Bonda, the monitor from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, was that the district has been marking time since last August at least.

That was when the previous Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP) expired. Since then three plans were submitted, with the final submission only being accepted in March. However, that plan only runs through the end of this year when a new plan will be required.

The Telegram article states, “Explaining why it had taken so long to gain approval, acting Superintendent Patricia Gardner, who is filling in while Superintendent Basan Nembirkow is ill, said Mr. Nembirkow rewrote the plan. He did not think the plan had reflected "’the new day in Southbridge.’”

However, the state official indicated that the problem was that, while the goals were acceptable, the plan to achieve the goals was inadequate in the initial proposals.

Among the items cited in the Telegram piece are:
·         At the elementary level, some of curriculum is aligned but work needs to continue.
·         The high school curriculum is not aligned with Common Core, even though Massachusetts districts were expected to align to 2011 state standards by the beginning of 2013-14.
·         The district will need to develop a recruiting plan for teachers and administrators that casts a wide net to attract the most qualified people.

Those hardly sound like a ringing endorsement of progress.

Also disconcerting was the response by Committee members to the presentation, While this School Committee has spared no effort in attempting to micro-manage the district, they demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding of the process related to developing and implementing the AIP. Yet this is one of their core responsibilities insofar as the one employee they are directly charged with overseeing is the Superintendent. And one of the Superintendent’s primary tasks in this Level IV district is submitting and implementing an approved AIP.

Here is the video of the presentation by Dr. Bonda at the meeting. You can draw your own conclusions.


  1. Before somebody else says it, yes there are a lot of pigs headlined on The O'Zone this week. We'll see what we can do to represent the rest of the barnyard animals to keep Cathy happy - but no promises.

  2. Nadine Bonda said "She advised top central office administrators to be visible in the schools daily. "
    Note this instruction was for TOP CENTRAL OFFICE ADMINISTRATORS and not school committee members.
    Administrators are in charge of personnel. The only one the SC gets to evaluate is the superintendent. If the SC Members are so dissatisfied with the districts progress it should be reflected in the superintendents evaluation and no where else.

  3. 1) Dr. Bonda states that since last summer the district has been unable to submit an AIP that was acceptable by the state. With the amount of over priced administration + 3 consulting firms on the payroll, one would think that the district could write up 3 major goals for improvement 2) The 3 items they came up with are simply reiterated from a previous AIP and 3) What Dr. Reported about the status of implementing the Common Core in Math and ELA is false. 4). What she said about Southbridge not having a data driven community is false. The district teachers along with the Southbridge Curriculum Allignment Team worked on aligning curriculum to the common core for three years + now. Someone is lying. I wonder if next year ther will all of a sudden be common core curriculum written? Hmmmm. Since it is already written and being tested (in a data driven community of instruction), would someone dare try to take credit for work that was already done?

  4. It is funny that under Dr. Hanley and Bill Bishop we were doing all these things. We were disaggregating MCAS scores; developing common assessments, and using PLATO (a diagnostic testing program). We took that data and used it to inform instruction and practice. Bill Bishop specifically identified one major area where our students were not performing well - Open Response Questions. They were simply not completing them on the test.

    That is when we started an intensified program of requiring the students to answer open response questions and starting each class with a writing prompt. This is what brought the high school to a Level I status.

    It is funny that the official rumor instigated by Buzz that there was wholesale cheating going on has not been herd since the state cleared Ms Dargie. Bill Bishop also started us on the road to transforming the curricula from that which was directed and guided by Dr. Hanley to the then new Common Core. It is funny that When Bill Bishop left, all of this ceased being done.

    This Administration has done nothing but destabilized, demoralize, and demotivate the entire staff, student body, and community. Examine the evidence, look at the data, and show the Bobbleheads, Buzz, and his Springfield cronies the door.


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