“Noting the ‘most important’ School Committee role is choosing the superintendent in a process that’s ‘as open, transparent and effective as possible,’ she said she feels the committee needs to be able to let the person chosen do the job.”
Those were the words of current School Committee Vice-Chairman Kara Donovan in The Southbridge News 11 days before the 2012 election. That election placed her on the committee, presumably in part because of pledges like that above.
Such a commitment flies directly in the face of Wednesday night’s agenda item calling for the appointment of Patricia Gardner as Superintendent of Southbridge schools. Where was the “openness and transparency”? No public posting of the position, no search committee, no competitive interviews. What became of the much-hyped precedent of the principal search committee which garnered so much fawning praise from partisans only a few weeks ago?
In the same piece she went on to say, “It’s not their [the School Committee’s] job to meddle in the day-to-day operations,”… There needs to be a restoration of mutual accountability, mutual responsibility, rather than a culture of bullying and meddling.”
Anyone who has kept abreast of committee members’ practice of questioning and observing faculty and staff during school hours know how disingenuous that promise has turned out to be.
Similar sentiments were expressed by current committee Chairman Lauren McLoughlin three days later in her own campaign interview. “McLoughlin’s core issue is communication and the fact she feels the district
has not done enough to promote the good aspects of the schools, build
a better public image for itself, or reach out and involve the community in
decision-making. ‘We have to rebuild the reputation, and that’s not an easy
thing to do, not a quick thing to do,’ she said, noting that it starts with
talking to the community.”
About the only justification that I can imagine being offered by these leaders of the School Committee for this affront would rely upon the laughable premise of “trust”. After all, they might argue, “We have worked with Ms. Gardner. We know her commitment to the program that Superintendent Nembirkow has laid out. To engage in a prolonged search at this time would be detrimental to continued progress,” I can envision them saying.
Such an argument, no doubt, would be a laughable rationale for abandoning their campaign promises. Any issue of trust related to performance needs only to be judged in light of Mrs. Donovan’s own words in the above cited article.
Worse yet, she notes, too many people simply give up and leave. Although school choice families all cite different personal reasons, “collectively it’s a no-confidence vote” in the system as a whole, and a problem that has been “largely ignored” during the recent focus on building the new school, she said.
It’s a really big oversight. She carries around the figures: In 2005, Southbridge spent $168,625 on tuition for students going to other districts. This year, that figure is $1,049,903, and the cumulative bill comes to about $5.6 million in that time.
She noted “it stuns people” when she shows them such figures, and feels it deserves “moral outrage” even more severe than the ire the public heaped on the town for $250 trash tickets. The vast majority of those kids are not returning to Southbridge, in large part because parents she’s talked to don’t want to disrupt their kids’ relationships again, she said.
There’s also been a similar “transiency” among the staff in that time period, including four superintendents, four business managers, 16 principals and numerous teachers, she observed.
Not only have these issues been amplified under her stewardship, they have been compounded by an unprecedented level of unemployment insurance costs.
Any attempt to ask the public to rely upon the committee’s informed judgment has long ago lost credibility.
Any belief on their part that this appointment, carried out in this way, would be received by the public as a fundamental improvement upon the past instilling a new-found confidence is, quite simply, ludicrous.