Saturday, November 29, 2014

Prospect For Winter: CBS Boston

Progress? Really?

Ken O'Brien

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

So said John Lennon.

Recently the Town Council discussed the state of affairs in Southbridge schools.

Members of the School Committee present at the meeting protested that the latest report on the schools’ Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP) offered hope of making progress in escaping from the town’s Level IV status. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

What Happened To The Charter Review Committee?

Ken O’Brien

As we pointed out in an earlier article, the Town Council has jumped the gun in its call for the landfill reimbursement receipt study by over six months.

On the other hand, it has been derelict in its responsibility to fulfill a recurring provision of the town’s home rule charter. That is the obligation to name a Charter Review Committee every fifth year following the adoption of the Charter.
12-5-2: The chairperson of the town council shall appoint a charter review committee every five years. The committee shall consist of five members, and shall report its recommendations to the town council within one year from the date of its appointment.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Official Teaser

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Introducing Santa's Little Helper

Ken O'Brien

Now that we've had our fill of turkey and all the fixin's, attention turns to the next big task.

That, of course, is the compilation of gift lists for the Christmas holiday.

Going into our first holiday without a daily local paper, The O'Zone is making an effort to offer an alternative diversion.

We've launched Santa's Little Helper.

Happy Thanksgiving

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - November 25, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Having It Both Ways

Ken O’Brien

Late in tonight’s meeting School Committee member Erin Quinney added an item to the agenda.

She sought to amend the existing School Committee Policy by placing the call to order of the meeting at the start of the meeting.

She explained that as a result of circumstances that arose at the November 12th meeting she had contacted the Attorney General’s Office to seek clarification as to when the Committee’s meeting was considered to be in order. Through a rather tortured explanation she ended up expressing the view that, even though the call to order followed Public Input, the meeting was actually in order as soon as the committee assembled on the dais. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sarai McNeill Speaks Out

Sarai McNeill

My name is Sarai McNeill, I'm 17 and I go to Southbridge Middle/High School.

On November 12, 2014 I spoke during Public Input at the Southbridge School Committee meeting. I wasn't able to get everything out that I wanted because I was told I was not allowed to say it during Public Input.

As soon as the school committee meeting ended, Mrs. McLoughlin asked if I wanted to tell her anything and I agreed so that way I could explain what I was originally going to say at the podium. She pulled me aside to an area outside of the Council Chambers and she advised me to wait until the people passing by were gone and once she gave me the go ahead, I began. 

It’s Time To End The Lawlessness

Ken O’Brien

It is fair to assume that publicly elected bodies will act in concert with the law, their policies as well as the will of those who have elected them.

The current School Committee has failed on all counts.

It began almost immediately following the resignation of former Chairman Patricia Woodruff.

The (then) Vice-Chairman invoked a little known clause in Roberts Rules of Order to succeed to the Chairmanship without the election called for at the time in the Committee’s policies. This was done despite the provisions of one of the other policies (specifically policy BEDD) which said, “Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised will govern the proceedings of the Committee, except when those rules are in conflict with the Committee's approved policies and regulations.” 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It’s Time To Put Benghazi Nonsense To Rest

Ken O’Brien

The latest findings, released Friday, into the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, has refuted claims that there was a cover-up or that officials didn't do all they could at the time to save the four Americans killed that night.

The declassified two-year investigation by the Republican-dominated House Intelligence Committee, which conducted an exhaustive probe into the incident, debunked claims that the White House cooked up phony talking points for then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pulawski Was Right About Casella Contract

Ken O’Brien

At Monday’s Town Council meeting Councilor Clemence added an item to the agenda relating to the landfill reimbursement receipt study,  the so-called MFN clause of the town’s contract with Casella. That clause calls for a review of the contract every seven years from the effective date of the contract so that Southbridge will receive the highest compensation from its arrangement with Casella.

As he had previously, citizen John Pulawski protested the action. He argued that with the closing of numerous landfills around the state in the coming year the town was acting prematurely.

He also argued that the side letter signed between former interim Town Manager John Healey and Casella had set the effective date of the contract a year later than was being assumed by the Town Council.

Vecchia Pledge Calls For Reduction In Town Budget

Ken O’Brien

At Monday night’s Town Council Meeting Councilor Albert Vecchia read a pledge to reduce departmental budgets by 1%  from current levels during fiscal year 2016.

The pledge cited four specific reasons for its enactment:
     1.      The pressure on residents from increasing water and        sewer rates;
     2.      The imminent expiration of landfill revenues;
     3.      A stagnant commercial tax base;
     4.      Increased out of school placement.

The pledge was signed by Councilors Moriarty, Carrasco, Vandal, and Estrada as well as by Vecchia.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Council Chair: Schools Are In A "Death Spiral"

Ken O'Brien

At Monday's Town Council meeting, during Councilors Forum, Councilor Monique Manna brought up a motion to request a joint meeting with the School Committee and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 

While the motion was ultimately postponed until January, the discussion that ensued illustrated that our primary law-making body has had it with the ongoing situation with the Southbridge school system. It was clear that Councilor Manna was seeking what the current School Committee leadership refuses to provide - ANSWERS.

All taxpayers in the town of Southbridge should watch this video.

Southbridge School Committee Agenda - November 25, 2014

Southbridge School Committee Meeting

LOCATION: Robert G. MacKinnon Council Chambers, 41 Elm Street

DATE: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

*6:30 p.m. Parent/Student Reception for MCAS Awards*

TIME: 7:00 PM


I. Welcome and Pledge of Allegiance

II. Public Input*

III. Call to Order/Roll Call

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why The Schools?

Ken O’Brien

Recently someone commenting on this blog noted, “Personally I think you focus on the Schools too much, but this is your creation and you are entitled to be critical of any of the poorly run departments of this overtaxed poorly run town.”

Others have indicated that they think I have a vendetta against the School Committee and that I’m using this forum to constantly attack them.

The reality is that I have come to the conclusion that the abysmal condition of our schools is the basis of much of what is wrong with Southbridge. 

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - November 17, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

(Almost) A Year Of Healing

Ken O’Brien

There is a time when I have to admit I was mistaken.

I was mistaken about Shaun Moriarty.

After initially encouraging his run for town council, I failed to endorse his candidacy.

After his election, I criticized his seeming lack of knowledge of government and politics. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Shutting Her Down Was Wrong

Ken O’Brien

Last Wednesday Southbridge High Senior Sarai McNeill attempted to voice her criticisms of the school Superintendent during the Public Input session prior to the School Committee meeting.

She was quickly interrupted by School Committee member Brent Abrahamson. He opined that her remarks violated the committee’s policy against criticizing school personnel in open session. His point was just as quickly validated by Chairman McLoughlin. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Teen And The Trolls

Ken O’Brien

Once upon a time a brave young girl was troubled by events at her school.

Determined to make things better she screwed up her courage. She took her issues to the local committee in charge of her school to lodge her complaint. However, she was unaware that it was the policy of the committee not to allow any public criticism of their personnel. The trolls who viewed it as their mission to keep things hidden from the public quickly cut her off.

Crestfallen, the young girl returned to her seat. Fortunately, she had said just enough to allow the discerning public to ascertain the truth she sought to reveal. Also, she had learned a valuable lesson about trying to deal with problems in an open and forthright manner in her little village.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Alayne Fleischmann Exposes JP Morgan's "massive criminal securities fraud"

By Luke Brinker from Salon

Investigative journalist Matt Taibbi returned to Rolling Stone last week with an extensive report on the case of Alayne Fleischmann, a former JPMorgan Chase diligence manager whose warnings about high-risk mortgage securities went unheeded in the run-up to the financial crisis. In the piece, Fleischmann revealed that prior to being laid off in 2008, she witnessed “massive criminal securities fraud” at the bank, but the Justice Department ultimately opted for a $13 billion civil settlement with the bank instead of pursuing criminal charges. On last night’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” Fleischmann and Taibbi discussed JPMorgan’s conduct, the Justice Department’s failure to prosecute Wall Street crime, and why the culture of Wall Street still hasn’t changed.

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - November 10, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pivot?

Ken O’Brien

The School Committee has appointed John M. Flick of Gardner to investigate allegations made against Southbridge Superintendent of Schools Patricia Gardner. He is mandated to present his findings to the Committee by December 3rd.

While indicating a concession to public opinion, the action is essentially meaningless.

First and foremost is why the Superintendent was not put on paid administrative leave as has been the practice in the past. Certainly the charges preferred against her would seem to warrant such an action. According to the presentation made by Committee Member Raymond Page the Superintendent threatened not merely to “get” the complainant. She also attempted to compel the individual to sign a document implicating a former school official in acts of misconduct and threatening to destroy documents relating to last year’s MCAS. In addition, she supposedly made reference to the medical condition of an employee, indicating that, had she been aware of the condition, they would not have been hired. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Talk Takes Place Of Candid Conversation

Ken O’Brien

Next month the taxpayers of Southbridge can expect to get whacked one more time.

The Town Council will once again go through its annual ritual of hand-wringing while raising the tax rate and most likely maintaining its status as the highest among local communities. 

Worcester Telegram Reports On Gardner Complaint

Today's Worcester Telegram carries an article titled Southbridge superintendent in hot water over probe of MCAS mistake by Brian Lee.

Superintendent of Schools Patricia Gardner allegedly threatened to "come after" a school employee if that person did not cooperate with the superintendent's desire to assess blame for mistakes made administering the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests last year, according to Raymond Page, a School Committee member.

As a consequence, the School Committee unanimously voted this week to authorize hiring an independent investigator to look into the allegation of "a serious account of unprofessional behavior" against the first-year superintendent.