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.


  1. Listening to the town chair comment on the revolving door at the Middle/High school really hit home for me. I am an E.A. on the high school side and there is no doubt that the last few years have been uncomfortable, to say the least. I would like to throw my two cents into the ring in the hope that those in charge may actually hear the voice of one of the low men on the totem pole.

    Melissa Earls is one of the best principals with whom I have ever worked. She is positive, energetic and considerate. She is visible to the students as well as the staff. If there is an event or activity, Ms. Earls is in attendance. If a student or staff member has a concern, she makes herself available as soon as possible. Her motto "be nice" may sound silly, yet it makes a difference in the atmosphere around the building. The amount of time and energy she is putting in to create a positive learning environment for our students and staff is tremendous. And it is working.

    My biggest fear right now is that we will lose her and once again, our school will lack the leadership it has finally has.

    I guess we will know more once Dec. 3rd rolls around. It is going to be a very tense few weeks.

  2. Can't See the Forest Through the Trees (even with the leafs gone)November 21, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    The town council spent a great deal of time pounding the town accountant about adding a more proficient person to serve as assistant town accountant. This is a department of 2 people. The cost difference between the current clerk and the proposed assistant town accountant is $8,000.00 a year. A rather small amount.

    The town council should be looking at the school department to cut costs. They have wasted MILLIONS of dollars on stupid expenses: unemployment, lawyers, law suits, paid leaves, more lawyers, investigations, lost arbitration costs, unfunded teaching positions, more central office secretaries, more lawyers - and the town council is diddling around, nickle and diming over $8,000.00 well spent dollars.

    What's wrong with Southbridge? There you have it.

    1. But if you ask for a raise it's no surprise That they're giving none awayNovember 22, 2014 at 1:52 AM

      to Can't See the Forest Through the Trees (even with the leafs gone)
      trying leaving the ivory tower you call town hall once and while.

      The answer isn't to punish the people in the trenches who are doing the heavy lifting in trying to turn around our schools by cutting the school budget. Nor is it to deny our students the resources they need for education like the paper shortage occurring right now, So don't start this cut the school budget rally cry because it will only make things worse than they already are.

      The answer is installing a financial overseer and putting the level 4 administration and misguided SC under receivership. Dear DESE we know you read this blog so if you really want to be part of the solution and stop adding to the problem give us a financial overseer who actually gives reports to the town Accountant and can make this School district accountable to the taxpayer once again.

      Mr Vecchia you want the figures of the legal expenses well go see your town finance people because they are supposed to be keeping a second set of books on school expenses and should easily be able to answer your question. If they can't well they aren't holding the School district administration accountable for the taxpayer and we should all know about it. You don't have to wait for an unresponsive, arrogant SC to get these figures just walk into that ivory tower on Elm st and see the finance people that pay the bills and request them. We should all know the "Buzz" ing and staggering amounts and I look forward to hearing how much money has been wasted on needless legal fees..

  3. Wow, it's very obvious that Councilor Carrasco just got a sweetheart deal from the current school committee for use of several areas of the former high school. I believe it is at no cost.

    He wants no part of trying to bring all stake holders to the table to discuss the continued failure of our school district.

    Mrs. Quinney's assertion that MCAS scores "are trending upward" is a bold faced lie. The district is a disaster and the town council had better get off their asses and try to save our town.

    1. lets watch the meeting firstNovember 22, 2014 at 2:04 AM

      To Lets Talk - If you saw the video of the SC when the state was here you wouldn't have said this. What he said was accurate and everything that was asked for by the state is all in this video -

      Your implications are simple unjust.

    2. I have watched the video. All the self congratulating is over nothing more than a plan. We have had numerous plans before this one and all have been greeted by the committee as marking a turning point until it didn't. Those earlier plans are gone as are the people who put them together. So now we have an entirely new team that is telling us the same things we've heard before. I hope they are right. Experience tells me they are not.

  4. I stared in disbelief watching Mr. Abrahamson. His talk about lynch mobs and confrontation show where his head is at. I strongly suspect it is also representative of a majority of school committee members when it comes to dealing with not only the town council but anyone who might disagree with or even question them. They have circled the wagons and are going to go down fighting.

  5. I have to wonder how long after this the school committee will continue to live in denial of what is so obvious to most of us. How much longer will they continue to waste money to say nothing of our children's future.

  6. How do you like it Brent?November 22, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    It's amusing to watch Brent Abramson talk about a lynch mob mentality when he was the one leading the lynch mob when Scott Lazo was on School Committee. At least Scott got us the new school. What has Brent done other than introduce a whole new volume of hot air into the otherwise chilly air of McKinnon chamber.

  7. Where's the Budget?November 22, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Why isn't the school department budget posted on the district website? I'd like to know how much money we are spending for lawyers. I heard at the local coffee shop that it's 19 times more than what is budgeted for text books. Can this be true?
    Honors chemistry classes have not had textbooks since the schools moved in 2012? How can this be? Why?
    This is totally incompetent management of our schools.
    I doubt if our lawyers go three school years without their money. Why no chemistry honors books for three school years?
    Budget is the responsibility of the school committee; they obviously like lawyers more than textbooks. But 19 times more -
    PUT THE 2014-15 SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET ON THE DISTRICT AND TOWN WEBSITE. Show the students, parents and taxpayers what our school committee believes is more essential for our students.

  8. His message was clear ~ Get ready for some SC retaliation.

  9. GET YOUR KIDS OUT! Is there a clearer way to send the message to the school committee and district administration? I feel truly sorry for the teachers we have who are amazing that they have to work in these conditions! The schools Oprah builds in Africa probably have textbooks, but we can't get them in Southbridge???

  10. I'd like to make the point that I chaired this town's last Town Manager Search Committee. In the course of that task the issue of the Southbridge schools rarely, if ever, came up. Now, however, as Councilor Carrasco implied, it has become a major issue. It is clear that things have become immeasurably worst over the last six years, and, I would argue, especially over the last three. More than anything else the onus resides with the current committee, its leadership and the current and preceding administration.

    1. Why Potential Town Managers Run Away From HereNovember 23, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Any town manager applicant with an ounce of brains would run away from this town. Why? Because of the looming financial disaster that our school committee has caused.

      One only need look at the "payback" contract that McLoughlin and her pals inked with the teachers' union.
      *A new perk slipped in Article 23-1.8 provides for everyone to be paid $125.00 for each personal day a teacher doesn't use. (teachers are afforded 2 personal days each year) Since the use of personal days came to an almost complete halt (teachers used sick days instead) this cost was astronomical. It was also non-budgeted. Where's that money coming from?
      I would also ask that if so few personal days were actually used, why offer any?

      But the even greater financial issues with the contract surround the "New Salary Grid." There are 90 different salary figures based on years of service and level of education. I am currently calculating the actual percentage amounts and will post the entire grid on this site when completed.

      Couple this contract with the other widely noted "dumb" spending, mostly on the mistreatment of employees, and you can see why town manager candidates run from this town.

    2. The referenced contract can be found at

    3. To Why Potential town managers run away: The 90 different salary figures you refer to is close to what most districts in MA have. I have not seen the Masters plus 45 or 60 as it would not make sense to have so many credits and not have earned another masters, CAGS or PhD. So the more education a teacher as the more they get paid that is common in most industries. The sad part if you look is as soon as you hit 10 years of teaching you die at the rate unless a new contract is negotiated and a percentage is added to the table. Keep in mind that teachers who have 10 or 40 years experience make the same unless there is a stipend for years in a district which doesn't amount to much. I will say Southbridge is very much behind most districts which could add to the reason good people won't come and/or stay as I see they are about 10,000 behind the district I work for.

    4. To More on Why: regarding Let’s Talk – Thank you for speaking the truth!
      It may not be Let’s Talk fault but they are clearly ill informed. The suggestion of a “Payback” is faulty and baseless. Campaign finance forms show all contributors and I’m challenging Let’s Talk to back up that faulty implication with evidence that simply doesn’t exist or to simply stop spreading lies.
      Regarding the personal day issue let me throw some sobering cold water on that wild accusation as well. It came to be because Southbridge historically lags behind contract date renewals, neighboring pay rates, image, and quality of leadership. Recruitment has also taken a hit where others look elsewhere before considering here. You can’t stymie employee pay, work environment, leadership effects on Staffing and expect to retain or recruit valuable, talented people without offering something in return - like this bite size carrot for sticking around in spite of the hot mess the district has become. If you could people like our Town Chairman would be working for Southbridge and not in a safer and easier neighboring school district that accepts our school choice students.
      You complain because you fail to understand that this bite size carrot is a win -win situation for all involved. The district benefits because they potentially keep a teacher in front of a classroom for a day that otherwise might not be instead of a substitute. The students benefit because they have their teacher in front of them and not an inexperienced substitute (unless that Substitute is a former teacher.) The taxpayer is not inconvenienced at all because guess how much that Substitute gets paid for the day? The teacher gets their whopping $125 compensation per day for not going to the doctor, not going to their kids whatever, not attending to their family’s emergency and instead serve non-appreciating public members like you. On top of that they gave back personal day time from the previous contract in this contract as part of give and take negotiations.
      All, so you can include them in your hate for SC members. If you wonder why a town manger candidate would be leery of coming here it is because of misinformed rumor mongers as well as a destructive school district allowing itself to be misdirected by a check cashing law firm. That is far more an accurate statement than blaming our teachers working in conditions that some would consider deserving of additional combat pay. Our teachers, overall, are not the problem in Southbridge but rather they are the solution. So let’s keep the focus on the root causes and try to fix those causes while supporting the people who really are trying to make a difference despite all this nonsense happening all around them. I for one salute our teachers and give my thanks to them. Thanks, that is not nearly offered up frequently enough in this town.

  11. Go back to the video of the meeting with the DESE. One of those congratulating Southbridge on its plan was from Winchendon crowing about shedding their Level IV status and now holding at Level III.
    Well, Winchendon is now in the midst of a budget shortfall of $3.8 million and is meeting about how to address that issue and whether to fire its Town Manager. I have to wonder if there's any connection.

    1. We're on our way to a similar budget disaster.

  12. To Let's Talk: The information you are providing is wrong so let's clarify. Councilor Carrasco did not get a sweetheart deal at all. There is a Youth Center that opened down town with the help of a CDGB grant(federal grant) that was acquired before he was elected to the council. He was part of the committee that developed this. The Youth Center is run by donations and volunteers with no paid position. The building was purchased and the rent was to be 5 times the rate. The Youth Center could not sustain that. As the students are in desperate need of help. The use of the old high school was offered as it was not being used and it was for the students of Southbridge. It is not free and it is not without many conditions. Yes Councilor Carrasco is one of many volunteers. So where you get the idea of him getting a sweetheart deal is very offensive to the students of Southbridge. Maybe stop by and volunteer so you can get a real sense of the sweetheart deal you refer to.

    1. It is nice to learn that the troublemaking Church v. State fanatics are not getting in the way of Reverend Currasco's Christian Youth Program, and it is beautiful that the Town is covering its expensive heating costs with the rent the Church program is providing. It's win/ win for all parties involved. And yes, atheist children are allowed to participate too.

      What we need now is to get this program into the new High School too. Maybe if we can get these wild rascals to focus on traditional values instead of expensive sexy clothes and cheap drugs their grades will go up?

  13. Does anyone know the student population of our school district as reported to the State on October 1?


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