Monday, April 21, 2014

Will History Rhyme In Southbridge?

Ken O’Brien

Mark Twain observed, “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

I propose to put that observation to the test.

Last month an incident is alleged to have occurred at one of the Southbridge schools.

I will not discuss, nor allow speculation about, the nature of the incident in this forum.

The subject matter is too sensitive, the facts too obscure and the threat to personal reputations too severe for casual gossip.

Suffice it to say that the incident in question is undergoing proper review and will be adjudicated appropriately.

What I believe is a worthy topic for discussion is how the alleged incident was handled by the school administration, particularly in light of an analogous event in the recent past.

The handling of the supposed event is governed by the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR).

Those Codes dictate that any "reasonable cause to believe" the kind of incident that has been alleged might have occurred require school authorities to report the allegation to designated authorities. The CMR in question is interpreted to designate a mere “suspicion” as “reasonable cause”.

However, the school administration did not follow this regulation. It chose to decide that the matter could be resolved “in house” in “a couple of days”.

Consequently, one of the parties involved took the matter to the local police. Our information is that the local police were not merely surprised that they were unaware of the allegation, but extremely upset as well that they were not informed.

The same complainant subsequently took the matter to higher authorities. As a result, what the Administration said would be resolved “in a couple of days” is still dragging on. Another individual is on “Paid Administrative Leave” with their career and reputation hanging in the balance. And, inevitably, the Southbridge rumor mill is conducting a trial in absentia based on innuendo and political bias.

What is, and should be, at issue here is the conduct of the School Administration.

This incident is a virtual mirror image of that which led to the firing of former SMHS Principal Tammy Perreault.

In December of 2012 The O’Zone reported as fact that Ms. Perreault had been put on leave as a result of failing to report an incident at the school as dictated by the CMR.

At that time The O’Zone was roundly criticized for spreading rumors, mostly by the same people who engage in the same unfounded allegations today. Five months later the “respectable” media, the Worcester Telegram, reported on May 4, 2013 in an article titled Controversial Southbridge principal reportedly fired, “Sources said Ms. Perreault's termination was the result of her handling of a student's alleged threat to shoot up the sixth grade in December.
Rather than immediately report the threat to authorities, which state law mandates, she allegedly opted to try to handle the threat as an in-school matter, the sources said.”

The supposed “rumors” that we reported to the public were vindicated as fact, just as we maintained in the face of those seeking to discredit us.

Similarly, now, The O’Zone is reporting a virtually identical case where the Administration has mis-handled the reporting of an alleged incident.

The nature of the incident or those involved is not a matter for the public. Those are matters that will be dealt with through an appropriate and well-defined process. Anyone who chooses to focus upon or emphasize that aspect of this situation are the petty rumor-mongers, fascinated by, and participants in, the politics of personal destruction.

The appropriate matter for public concern is whether the precedent of the past will apply in the present.

Will those who erred in the same way that Ms. Perreault did be held to the same level of accountability? Should they be held to an even higher standard given the recent nature of the penalty imposed on the former SMHS Principal? How high up the “chain of command” does the decision go to violate the clear mandate of the relevant CMR?

That last question is of special relevance. It would be all too easy to use the Principal of the school in question as the scapegoat. However, it is known that the matter was brought to the attention of Central Office administrators before the complainant brought the matter to the police and higher authorities. Those authorities had not been informed even while those higher up in the school department’s food chain were aware of the matter. The Superintendent is solely in charge of putting staff on immediate leave and should be held responsible for the decision to violate the clear mandate of the relevant CMR.  Any attempt to single out the lower level person is merely an effort to perpetuate a cover-up and exempt their superiors whose penchant for micro-management is well known.

Will history repeat itself, as it should? Will it even rhyme, as Twain suggested?

Or will we see clear evidence that justice is a not a function of what may or may not have been done, but who tried to cover up how it was handled?


29 comments:

  1. A reminder that any comments must use a screen name. Posts labelled "Anonymous" will not appear.

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  2. Interesting conduct for a Superintendent who falsely accused others of not following the law.

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  3. Why wouldn't similar administrative violations be treated with the same consequence? Oh yes, because the current administration has a God complex, has no morals, and doesn't feel that the same rules apply to them (and their friends) that apply to anyone else.

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  4. Fed up in SowbridgeApril 21, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    After reading this and seeing results of the survey about Sowbridge schools I believe that the current skool kommittee must go.

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  5. I am totally disgusted by the way this gang is ruining our schools. Bring on the state takeover now.

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  6. I think the blow hard O'Brien needs to read the Ed reform act. A principal puts those in Leave.

    This article is as wrong as the quitter that propotes to know all

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    1. "propotes"? Really?
      A principal must give 7 days written notice. Only the superintendent can give an immediate suspension under Ch. 71. That was the case here. I wasn't giving a seminar on Ed Reform. I was addressing a singular event.

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  7. Tammy Perreault wasn't only fired for her mishandling of the incident of the kid with the knife. That was just the straw ....etc. Remember the letter from Sharon Goulet? Each personell issue is unique and it is very difficult to compare. I wish we could learn of more details but if that's not going to happen, then there is really no need to discuss this.

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    1. The letter given to Perreault specifically cited that incident and the related threat to shoot up the school as the sole reason for her suspension. That is what I reported at the time and I stand by it. If additional reasons were given as to why she was ultimately terminated I am unaware of them.

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    2. Perteault was there because of Ely, Ptencipe, Woodruff, McLouhhlin and Donovan. It's been all downhill since July of 2012. The townspeople spoke, the kids lost.

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    3. I'm sorry Parent #320, if Prencipe and Woodruff were still on the committee, "the girls" would not be this out of control. The four bobble-heads are taking our school district down. Power hungry people who are in love with themselves.

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  8. How did our district become so disfunctional? Our schools have plummeted beyond belief since McLoughlin and Donovan were elected. On one hand I wish they would leave immediately; on the other hand I want them to stay and face us every other week from their "dais.". But I have to admit, my third hand is for the students - time to go girls!

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    1. Spedgirl and the Cheerleader should join them.

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  9. Concerned about lawsuitsApril 22, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    It seems to me that failure to impose the same penalties on those responsible in this case as were imposed on Perreault would strengthen her case for damages against the district.

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  10. Q. How many school committee members does it take to change a light bulb?

    A. We like working in the dark and so should you.

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    1. hey Riddler that answer would require the promised transparency and accountability, best practices and certainly most of all communication that we aren't getting. .
      Of course it would also require a work meeting out of sight of the public at the old high school. Minutes of said meeting might be read to the public at the public work meeting every other week on camera. Where we see no work or discussion actually takes place but some how unanimous votes take place.

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  11. Another interesting fact... Ms. Allen (The last administrator who is now out on "Sick Leave") has gone to the Dominican Republic for a week with girlfriends. If She couldn't handle being the principal then Buzz should fire her like he everyone else. Why do we continue to pay her salary, she is obviously NOT sick. This is an outrage! How do these people live with themselves? Buzz continues to play "lets make a deal" with the employees who kiss his ass. We all know Ms. Allen is good at that!

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    1. Hey, if the boss does it why not the others? Had enough yet Southbridge?
      No Brent Abrahamson wants to join in the "Great Giveaway.". Had enough yet?
      $ 320,000.00 for umemploent through March. What could Southbridge havedone with $ 320,000.00? MMore police? More firefighters? Or better yet. . HOW ABOUT A TAX BREAK!
      I've had enough. . . How about you?

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    2. WHAT? This has to stop! Wake up school committee! I wanted to support you but there is just not a bit of credibility left. Is there anyone out there who can help us? I'm just sick about this!

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    3. I understand that the unemployment costs in May will be significantly higher!This is crazy! Its time to move my family out of here!

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    4. Lick the Bobbleheads OutApril 25, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      $320,000 and it's going up significantly. Add the "sick leave," "paid administrative leave," "months of severance pay," "investigation fees," " legal fees," etc. No wonder our kids' education is poor - there's no money left for them.
      June elections can't get here fact enough. Whatever candidates pledge to strip the power from the Bibbleheads should be everyone's candidates.

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    5. Jake...we can not assume that - just because Ms Allen is working out @ the Y, or travelling to the Island, or making merry w/'friends' on Crane St - she is not sick; medical leave is granted for a variety of medical reasons, some obvious and many of which are not; strict privacy laws & regulations prevent even an employer from knowing exactly what the 'condition' is if the employee does not wish to share the particulars.
      Stress related 'disabilities'/medical leaves are very common these days -and a good case is made better if the employee has an underlying medical condition aggravated by stress; when supported by medical documentation the 'leave' is granted; generally, employers do not handle this 'in house' - it is handled by an outside 'insurance company'; also, when an individual is on 'medical leave' - the employer can not 'terminate' the employee (until and unless the employee returns to work). I am not saying there were or were not any 'deals' made within this framework - and I am inclined to believe there were 'deals' made - but we will never know what they are/or what they were.
      However, I am sure that Ms Allen is in good hands - since I understand that the school nurse was a member of the traveling party, as well as some of the remaining members of the Guidance Dept.(perhaps a last fling before they get the boot!) Perhaps, stress relieving activities like working out, partying w/friends and a trip to the islands is just what the doctor ordered!
      Keep in mind that what people do on their personal time is their business.
      Frankly, I would think that given how outrageous this behavior appears to the tax payers of this community, Ms Allen & company (especially, Ms Allen) would be keeping a lower profile.
      And let us not forget that cell phones are everywhere!! And postings on FACEBOOK can do much damage to a person's current/or future career.

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    6. one less counselorApril 25, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      I would think Mrs. Hatch would be using this time for job hunting!

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    7. That would be the smart move - always easier to get a job, while you still have one - isn't that right Mr Hoffman?? But unless you are a member of the insider circle, don't expect a favorable reponse from Buzz. Of course, perhaps Ms Hatch has 'connections' or been told she's 'safe' - tsk, tsk, don't be fooled when you have served their purposes, this group will turn on you in an instant, throw you under the bus....and run you over.

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    8. Run you over and back up and do it again!

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  12. If you decide to move - good luck seeling your house; RE agents are having a hard time selling homes here between the taxes and the "terrible school system"

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    1. House for Sale - NOTApril 25, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      Zillow.com just put out a press release today saying house prices are up 3.2%. How we do in'? Thanks to our schools and high taxes.
      Chris Clark chewed and screwed, and Buzz will be doing the same. But we will have Cathy Nikola to save us!

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  13. Please keep in mind that NONE of the Bobblehead's terms are ending - they will still be there when we wakeup the day after the election; so it will still be 4 Bobbleheads VS 3 additional members - ah, but I understand there are more Bobbleheads running....so we'll all be dizzy from the bobbing on the dais..GOOD GRIEF!

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    1. one less counselorApril 25, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      Well Bobblehead Abrahamson is one of the candidates. OMG! we'll have to listen to that empty can drone on and on. What a wind bad! Another one who has all the answers, even before he knows the questions. Just like McLoughlin and Donovan. Our kids are all but done for.

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