Sunday, August 24, 2014

Town To Trinity – “You’re On Your Own” II

Ken O’Brien
Apparently there are rumors being perpetrated that Trinity Catholic Academy had been offered a contract with the town to save its hot lunch program, but that offer was declined.

I can find no evidence of this. Rather, all indications are to the contrary.

Despite repeated assurances from the district that arrangements would be made, when the time came the district failed to deliver.

The following email exchange should put that rumor to rest.

From: Josie Citta
Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 11:36 AM
To: Aaron Osborne
Subject: Lunch program
Mr. Osborne,
I understand that you are the interim finance director.  I am trying to get an answer as to whether or not the town has a plan/contract ready for us at Trinity with regard to our hot lunch program.  If you could  give me a call, I would appreciate it as explaining details in an email can be cumbersome.  There is am element of urgency to this situation as I must inform my parents as to whether or not they will need to provide a bag lunch for their children.
I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.
Thank you,
Josie M. Citta
Trinity Catholic Academy
11 Pine St.
Southbridge, MA  01550
From: Aaron Osborne
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 2:06 PM
To: Josie Citta
Subject: RE: Lunch program
Greetings and my apologies for the delay in getting back in touch with you.  At this time, it does not appear that we are in a position to enter into a contract  for food services with Trinity.  If anything changes in the future, we will let you know.
Aaron Osborne
Supervisor of Instruction/Acting Director of Finance
Southbridge Public Schools
25 Cole Avenue
Southbridge, MA 01550


  1. . . . .Pants on FireAugust 24, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    More untruths from "Team Transparency."

  2. Isn't this the same school committee leadership team that whined not too long ago that "we need the community's support to improve our schools?" Well support is a two way street.

    We have a parochial school struggling to make ends meet. They can't just raise taxes like our town council continuously does. They can't afford to pay a mystery superintendent $27,000 a year to stay home and answer a phone call or two. They can't afford $140,000 superintendent to have little, or no, real power. They can't afford a central office payroll that equals districts twice the size of Southbridge.

    But they provide a quality education to many Southbridge students - at an additional cost to those students' parents.

    Our district doesn't seem to mind sending over a million dollars each year to neighboring school district because the Southbridge district continues to fail the students.

    Shame on this school committee.

  3. done with this townAugust 24, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    The school district stated at the last meeting they need to lower pre-k tuition to retain children in the district, that parents told Pat Gardner they would've sent children to public pre-k but it was too expensive and now their children have made friends and they will leave them at the other school. Seems to me they were speaking of Trinity. Seems to me this lunch deal fell through because the district is trying to purposefully sabotage trinity so that less parents choose to send their children their, and rather send their children to Southbridge public, which would have an immediate impact on the standardized test scores at the public school. I'm sure though the trinity parents will actually grow stronger and come up with a solution to this.

  4. Why should I be paying for a Catholic School to feed children with my tax dollars that 1 their parents choose to send them there, then provide your kid with food 2 not all those kids at the Catholic School are SOUTHBRIDGE CHILDREN 3 then if you insist on paying for a Catholic School, then provide it for all the other private schools/not publicly funded schools in Town.

    (Public Aid for Private Education Constitutional Provisions:
    The Massachusetts Constitution provides that no appropriation of public money may be made to aid a primary or secondary school that is not publicly owned and under the exclusive control of public officers authorized by the Commonwealth. Mass. Const. Ann. Amend. Art. 18 §120).

    This BS has been going on for how long?? The original School Committee and Superintendent that entered into this violated the law and then each School Committee and Superintendent there after continued this violation. You can afford 3000 a year to send your kid there great for you and your child. If memory services correct you also have to volunteer, Then volunteer to go in and cook a hot meal for the kids... You know the saying sacrifice one for hundreds? Well that's what the School District did, they sacrificed the Trinity Students (lunch) for the Thousand Southbridge Public Students (lunch). Now every student in "Our Schools get to eat free"... Honestly I think this whole thing reeks of Pat Woodruff, the poor women spurned...

    1. You are missing the point.
      This situation persisted for over three decades and apparently nobody realized it. For at least two months Nembirkow and then Gardner said they would work out a transition. Then, at the last minute, they sent the interim business manager to say that Trinity would get no help. They could have told us that two months ago and we would have made other arrangements. Instead we relied on their word and we were left with nothing.

    2. Just because I opt to send my child to Trinity and I live in Southbridge, my tax dollars still stay in Southbridge and pay for your child’s education. And when my child is grown and no longer going to school, and I am still living in Southbridge, my tax dollars will still be paying for someone else’s child to go to school. Also, my child paid for those lunches too, it was not a free lunch.
      Not BS I agree with you about the commenter missing the point. However, I do not agree with you that for over thirty years no one realized this, because they did. The School committee, past and current knew of this. There were no free rides for anyone. And the whole free lunch - well that is not a Pat Woodruff deal that is a current school committee deal. And if you read the papers you will see there were many schools that opted out of the program because they did not know how this would affect their E-Rate.
      Instead of Buzz and Patricia Gardner, the current Interim Superintendant telling Trinity they would work something out, they were told at the last minute by another Interim worker that there would be no contract. And it appears there was no explanation as to why. That's good business, isn't it?
      It also appears the school committee could have been better informed, or at least have done their homework on the situation. I am so tired of hearing that no one can find anything and always blaming the other administration. It is time to take ownership, not pass the buck.

    3. I was on the school committe for three years and did not realize we were spending tax dollars at Trinity. My boys go to Trinity. I love the school. I don't think we should be sending any of our taxes there. As PureBS points out, that is illegal. I'm not sure what arrangement the school committee could have come up with that would not be in violation of the law.

    4. How does any of that justify stringing TCA along for two months before telling them "Ummm, sorry, we can't help you"?

    5. Saying the school committee was stringing Trinity along implies the SC knew two months ago there was no way they could spend public funds on a private school but chose not tell Trinity. I don't want to believe that. I think it's more likely that it took this long for their lawyers to get back to them with an opinion.

      This should have been a no brainer. The SC should have told Trinity long ago that there was no way the town could keep funding this program but given how long this has been going on, someone must have been trying to find a way to keep things going. Given the spirit and values the school tries to instill in the students, I think we should not judge the SC, thank them for the help they've provided in the past and move on.

    6. The SC currently spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to host Head Start at the Cole Ave Bldg. Are they obligated to do that? No, they choose to throw away money on lower tier (you know, the ones dropping their kids off in pajama bottoms), but they are going to punish the middle class who send their kids to parochial school. BTW, when you get lunch at Trinity you pay cash for it, there are no handouts. And like the person pointed out earlier, that money goes to the public school budget. Congrats to the school dept. for enforcing the rules the way they have. Also, congratulations to all the litigators out there who have made big hay off the school dept with all the wrongful terminations. Now there is an extra 10k of shut up money to help pay someone who got dicked by the school district. Of course, it will cost more than that.

      It's just vulgar.

    7. Pure BS cites a section of the Mass. Constitution that has been amended three times. Students at Trinity currently are transported by the same bus services as public school students. If that is permitted, you mean to tell me that there was no way a similar arrangement couldn’t be worked out regarding lunch services?

    8. Re : Same bus service - add special education services too!
      Where is the public funds going to private school line if not for Lunch?
      Bus services shouldn't be paid for by the public budget either.
      Taxes paid go to the public school and Trinity simply isn't that.
      Unless someone can state a law that allows for paid Bus services,Special ed services, any others, ditto- all need to be pay for play or eliminated.

      Trinity needs a safe serve trained person w/ kids serve kids lunch as a duty or service like other private schools do in the area. Solving the lunch help is easy
      however, no one deserves to be kicked to the curb in the fashion Trinity was.
      Par for the course with this SC.

    9. If I had it my way we wouldn't be spending PublicTaxes on either, but the Law is the Law...

      Education Laws and Regulations
      603 CMR 28.00: Special Education
      (e) Private schools at private expense. Nothing in 603 CMR 28.00 shall be construed to limit the rights of parents to have their children educated at private schools, completely at private expense. To the extent that public school districts provide and pay for special education services for eligible students enrolled in private schools at private expense, the following requirements shall apply:

      1. Each school district shall provide special education designed to meet the needs of eligible students who are attending private schools at private expense and whose parents reside in the jurisdiction of the school district. The school district shall provide to such students genuine opportunities to participate in the public school special education program consistent with state constitutional limitations.

      2. The school district shall provide or arrange for the provision of evaluation services and an IEP for any eligible private school student whose parent resides in the jurisdiction of the school district. The evaluation may take place in the public school, the private school, or an appropriate contracted facility, provided that the school district shall ensure that a representative of the student's private school is invited to participate as a member of the Team pursuant to 603 CMR 28.05.

      3. The school district shall provide or arrange for the provision of the special education described by the student's IEP provided that school districts shall ensure that special education services funded with state or local funds are provided in a public school facility or other public or neutral site. When services are provided using only federal funds, services may be provided on private school grounds.

      4. Special education provided by the school district to a private school student shall be comparable in quality, scope, and opportunity for participation to that provided to public school students with needs of equal importance. Programs in which both public and private school students participate may not include classes that are separated on the basis of school enrollment or the religious affiliation of the students.

      Pupils who attend approved private schools are entitled to the same rights and
      privileges to transportation to and from school as are provided by law for public school students, within specified limits. Mass. Gen. L. Ch. 76, §1.
      (taken from MGL Ch 76 ss 1)
      Except as herein provided, pupils who attend approved private schools of elementary and high school grades shall be entitled to the same rights and privileges as to transportation to and from school as are provided by law for pupils of public schools and shall not be denied such transportation because their attendance is in a school which is conducted under religious auspices or includes religious instruction in its curriculum. Each school committee shall provide transportation for any pupil attending such an approved private school within the boundaries of the school district, provided, however, that the distance between said pupil’s residence and the private school said pupil attends exceeds two miles or such other minimum distance as may be established by the school committee for transportation of public school students. Any school committee which is required by law to transport any pupil attending an approved private school beyond the boundaries of the school district shall not be required to do so further than the distance from the residence of such pupil to the public school he is entitled to attend.

    10. It seems that both provisions violate the earlier citation from the state constitution.

  5. Pure BS - What you neglected to state is the children in Trinity that purchased the school lunch, paid for their lunch (not free nor reduced). Every penny of the lunch money was given to the Southbridge Public School District.

    1. Do you have evidence of that???

    2. Pure BS, the financial records of the Southbridge School District are open to the public. I will not do your homework for you. Via the Freedom of Information Act, you can request the income/expense records for the Food Service Department. In addition you can request the last two audits performed on the Food Service Department by the State of Massachusetts. Your spouting of misinformation is solely based on your ignorance.

  6. A Drop in an Bottomless BucketAugust 26, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    A couple of points . .
    1. According to today's Telegram, ALL students in the Southbridge Public Schools will be receiving FREE lunch this year.

    2. The school committee has "waived" fees for all sorts of groups, activities, and special interests for years. Does every child who participates in youth soccer or football attend the public schools? Didn't the committee waive all fees for the Air Force band concert recently? Doesn't the school committee spend more than the cost of two part-time lunch ladies for graduation to be held at McMahon Field rather than in the new school?

    3. If this school committee is so "cost conscience," (which they are SO NOT), then they should stop spending $500,000 for unemployment, $$$$ for legal fee, $$$$ for lost arbitrations (wait until you hear about this week's lost arbitration - certainly won't be mentioned at tonight's meeting - but it's a major $$$$ cost for the taxpayers), $27,000 for a dial-a-superintendent-mentor, endless "paid administrative leaves,: etc. And these righteous, pontificating, hypocrites sitting at the "dais" are slapping the students and parents at a tiny parochial school in the amount of less than $10,000. What phonies!

  7. Ok people it's time for my 2 cents on this one!! I have done my homework on this lunch situation. Thirty plus years ago the School District and Trinity had a good faith agreement to feed the children. Back then the School Committee and Trinity worked as a team. They were given 2 people to work there and the food to feed the kids. Trinity has always paid for their lunches and milk which covered the cost of the employees and the food. There is nothing illegal about it. Now the cost of everything has gone up and quality of food down, therefore leading to less kids buying. As a result, Trinity brings in less money while the cost of everything continues to increase. The School Committee has known about this because we approved the lunch prices. There were 2 audits done by the State and they went to Trinity and were ok with it. The records are out there showing all the money Trinity made and sent back to the District. Trinity never abused the system nor kept anything a secret. It is just unfair how things have turned out and the ones it hurts most are the children.


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