Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Three Envelopes

Ken O’Brien

Last night an article appeared on the Worcester Telegram web-site titled “Blunt-talking superintendent shakes up Southbridge's underperforming schools.”

The article was basically a recap of Mr. Nembirkow’s budget presentation at last week’s school committee meeting.

Among the statements in the article were:

During his budget message to the School Committee last week, Mr. Nembirkow suggested previous administrations were incompetent, had hired incompetent people, condoned nepotism, and broke the law by not incorporating a state-mandated high school program of studies….

As he made his case for a $26.2 million budget for next fiscal year — which would be $1.1 million more than the acting town manager wants appropriated — Mr. Nembirkow laid out various corrective measures that he said have been taken under his administration….

While I was reading through the Superintendent’s litany of complaints regarding the failures of prior administrations and committees as well as his plans for salvation through reorganization something about it struck a familiar chord.

Suddenly I remembered that it reminded me of a story that I had heard years ago while attending Business School.

I was fortunate to locate a nice retelling of the story on the site

A fellow had just been hired as the new CEO of a large corporation. The CEO who was stepping down met with him privately and presented him with three numbered envelopes. "Open these if you run up against a problem you don't think you can solve," he said.

Well, things went along pretty smoothly, but six months later, sales took a downturn and he was really catching a lot of heat. About at his wits's end, he remembered the envelopes. He went to his drawer and took out the first envelope. The message read, "Blame your predecessor."

The new CEO called a press conference and laid the blame at the feet of the previous CEO. Satisfied with his comments, the press responded positively, sales began to pick up and the problem was soon behind him.

About a year later, the company was again experiencing a slight dip in sales, combined with serious product problems. Having learned from his previous experience, the CEO quickly opened the second envelope. The message read, "Reorganize." This he did, and the company quickly rebounded.

After several consecutive profitable quarters, the company once again fell on difficult times. The CEO went to his office, closed the door and opened the third envelope. 

The message said, "Prepare three envelopes."

Just one year gone and you've already opened two envelopes, Superintendent.


  1. Perhaps part of the problem the Superintendent is having is his own credibility. I’ve reviewed the realities of his record in prior articles.
    In this Telegram article Brian Lee writes, “Mr. Nembirkow suggested previous administrations…broke the law by not incorporating a state-mandated high school program of studies.
    His administration installed the state-mandated program MassCore this year.”
    If you go to the 1:40 mark in the video of last Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, the Superintendent says,
    “The MassCore, we just put it in this year. I couldn’t believe it when I asked the question, Pat says to me, ‘No, they don’t have it.’ How can you not follow the law?”
    The problem here, again, is the Superintendent’s credibility. The district is not required by law to follow MassCore. A circular prepared by the DESE describes it as follows: “MassCore is a state recommended, rigorous program of study that aligns high school course work with college and workforce expectations.”

    MassCore is recommended. It is not a law that must be followed. Further details can be found HERE.

    Nobody in the district was violating the law by not having instituted MassCore. The only person apparently having problems with the law is Mr. Nembirkow in his tirades against the unemployment laws.

    1. A U.S. Dept. of Education publication published at the end of January, commenting on Massachusetts programs says, “Massachusetts recommended that all high school students meet the MassCore course of study, and left it up to individual school districts to determine whether to require it.”

    2. I wonder if the same people who publicly crucified me on every available media outlet for making fat jokes will pursue with equal fervor a public official for falsely accusing others of breaking the law.
      Somehow I doubt it.

    3. Either he outright lied or he didn't know any better. If the last one is true what does it say about his so-called expertise?

    4. MassCore was implemented at SHS in 2008. This included requiring a fourth year of math and a third year of a lab science, and other changes. Get a copy of the MassCore suggested courses and match them up with the.Student Handbook or Course Selection Booklet.
      Today's article is typical Buzz & The Girls. Put out a smoke screen when you are screwing up. Are we to forget the assault on our guidance staff and their giant legal fees and payouts.
      Didn't Buzz hire Mrs. Allen last June to run the new school? Didn't he hire Roland Gaboury to be the Director of Operations? Etc..

    5. The Freshman Academy was started by then-principal Sheila Haskins. It was located on the top floor of the Cole Trade section of the old high school. It was expanded with additional classrooms when Principal Bishop was there. It was very successful and can be considered a major factor at decreasing the dropout rate and improving the graduation rate, as most high school dropouts happen during, and at the end, of Grade 9.
      Buzz should also be reminded that Southbridge remains part of the United States. Workers have rights and are afforded due process. Unfortunately, because of people like Buzz, unions became needed to protect workers. The district has terminated, suspended, forced into retirement many excellent and long-time educators. These employees are entitled to due process, and the payouts to date clearly indicate that Buzz has overstepped, not only due process, but human decency.
      I get quite irked when I attend Mass at Notre Dame and I watch these pious school committee members accepting Holy Communion.

    6. Sounds like the Blueberry Patch is trying to rewrite history!

  2. How can he guarantee that MCAS scores will improve? That sounds like the fix is already in.

  3. Buzz is preaching to the "Sheeple". However, they, like the blueberry patch, are mesmerized by the bright red cape the big bad wolf is wearing.

  4. How did our schools ho bad so fast. Two years ago we had such promise: new school, dropout rate down, graduation rate day up, increase in students attending the high school. The MCAS scores were much better.
    It seems that it all fell apart when we elected McLougjlin and Donovan. Wish I had voted for Jovan.

  5. Is guidance lady Hatch staying at the middle school after this year? We don't have any choice in our kids guidance person?

  6. How would you like to have this administration as your bosses? Changing everything on a whim? Teachers are not the problem, it is the misinformed and misguided SC and self absorbed Administration. It's time to clean house at the top and hire positive and forward thinking people to run our schools, people who will commit to Southbridge. How did we go bad so quickly? Upper Administration holds the strings of this puppet.

    1. Time to get rid of Hatch, Charron and Sweetman among others. Hatch and Charron are too busy attempting to cover their own asses and what little they do. Enough excuses for the ineptness of Hatch and Charron. Sweetman walks around the school like her shit doesn't stink. She is like a little mole for Gardner, Solzak and Osborne. Sweetman seems like a puppet, as does Osborne. Perhaps Walles and Potter should be less concerned about protocols and more concerned about the fact that they are little Gardner puppets too. This is definitely a misguided administration that will suck worse with Gardner running it.


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