Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Promises, Promises

Ken O’Brien

Kara Donovan
“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
Lauren McLoughlin
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.


  1. I thought the recommendation from the improvement plan was to get a Superintendent that had experience. And we wonder why the district administration is a level 4.

    1. Gardner has experience, in being passed over for a superintendant position in at least two other districts.

    2. I don't even know where to begin. When these two individuals ran for office they spoke of how they would transform the school district by instituting best practices and accountability. What have they accomplished in the past two years, they have destroyed the morale at the middle-high school, they have caused the school choice numbers to raise to over 1.2 million dollars, this was after we saw decreases and students wanting to stay in the district. No we have parents fleeing the district at a greater pace than ten years ago and begging other districts to open seats up. Many of these parents were the ones that were involved in the district and many backed this leadershiop.

      We have no idea how much has been spent on all the legal matters over the past two years. The unemployment costs are sky rocketing and there are still many legal matters pending, all under Buzz and he is taking off...or is he?

      They post an agenda item to appoint a Supt of Schools, doesn't state interim, this means that she would be the full Supt of Schools and given that Buzz stated that he would stay on to mentor the new supt, this shows that they have a plan to have no search and just hand the mantle to someone that has little to no experience in the job, oh and by the way, Buzz won't be doing it for free and we will have yet another Central Administration salary taking away from the needs of our children.

      Where is the open and transparent process, several current school committee members were very critical of prior school committee actions, I for one think the prior leadership two years ago was much more open and transparent than this bunch.....let us not forget when Mcloughlin and Donovan took office, in their first week they extended Ely's contract and fired Bishop....since that date the district has done nothing but go backwards and not forwards....many didn't like Bishop because of of his personal relationships with Lazo....but guess what, he was getting the job done and now that half of his staff is gone they are all clamouring for those days back!!!!!

      Folks, are we better off as a district than we were two years ago.....I say NO!!!

  2. Time To Admit FailureMay 27, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Kara Donovan is as big a fraud as McLoughlin (figuratively speaking). These two women have done nothing but drag our system into oblivion.
    Their voting record stands for itself. There were people who truly wanted to work with Southbridge. But the girls, along with 1450 voters, and this blind worked hard for "change."
    Do they know or card how many people they have damaged? And for what? Their sad little egos. If they think they are doing a good job they are not only incompetent, but stupid, ax well.
    It's also time for Olivio, Congdon and Quinney to publicly state their pleasure, or displeasure, with the committee leadership. Time to step up, or shut up and admit you are OK with them. The silence is deafening.

  3. Was the executive session after the last school committee meeting to negotiate a contract? Can the agenda be changed by the committee during the meeting to change it to interim superintendent? Would that allow such a long term commitment (1 year)? Would it open them to legal action by Gardner if they have negotiated a contract for full superintendent for a year?

  4. Why are they in such a hurry? They are afraid that the yet to be elected committee may want to go in a different direction. Just like they did the moment they were elected. We do not need any more of Buzz's shenanigans not do we need any more of the bouncing bobble-headed form of government.

  5. Did they skip past Public Input?

  6. Easy Law Suit WinMay 28, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    I think this appointment of a female superintendent without any search process plays very well for Bishop's sex discrimination suit.
    Abrahamson thinks Bishop will come back if Lazo is elected? He just HSS to sit back and watch these dopes build his law suit
    Thanks you idiots.

  7. We Hire Another "Also Ran"May 28, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Seriously, the bobbleheads just introduced the new "principal" of our 75 million dollar school. Seriously? Shame on the selection committee! Oh wait - the selection committee didn't put her name forward! Sorry committee members. Your efforts were of little value. You can never get these hours back.
    Put our students got another short term principal. 4 or 5 months. What a true shame.

  8. Gee, they didn't seem to have a problem with hiring Buzz as interim superintendent.

  9. When a person looks upwards they are often thinking. In particular they are probably making pictures in their head and thus may well be an indicator of a visual thinker.
    When they are delivering a speech or presentation, looking up may be their recalling their prepared words.
    Looking upwards and to the left can indicate recalling a memory. Looking upwards and the right can indicate imaginative construction of a picture (which can hence betray a liar). Be careful with this: sometimes the directions are reversed -- if in doubt, test the person by asking them to recall known facts or imagine something.


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