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.
“Well, as I was saying, during the Parent Teacher Night Mrs.Earls was addressing the crowd as to what the school's motto was. She said 'What do I always say kids? To be?-' and the crowd joined her and responded with a 'Be nice!' and yes of course some people can see it as childish but when she said this I looked over and saw that the Superintendent and the short bald man who seems to always be with her, were laughing at Mrs. Earls and what she was saying and if you ask me, I dont think that that is very professional and like I said I watched a few of the older School Committee meetings to see how things worked and in the last one I saw that the Superintendent is on some sort of investigation? How could you guys allow my education; kids' education to be in the hands of someone who takes everything as a joke? Even after the allegations were read she had a smirk on her face. I dont know about you but if I was being accused of doing such things as putting someone in a room and threatening them, I would for one not be that calm about it, and yes I understand that you have to remain professional but I definitely wouldn't be smirking about it even if I was trying to be professional. Like, dont you have kids who go to that school?” I then started to tell her a story about how the Superintendent came up to me at school with her assistant after the investigation started, but Mrs. McLoughlin cut me off and said that she was sorry for me “being dragged into this adult drama, because that's what this is, really, a bunch of adult drama.” She then confirmed that the Superintendent was on a 30-Day investigation and she mentioned how even her own kids were made a part of this as well and she wasn't happy about that either. What I was going to tell Mrs. McLoughlin was that when the Superintendent and her assistant stopped me, she asked me how my year was going. I responded by telling her that it was going well. She then got very personal asking how my classes were going and if there was anything I needed because if there was, she would take of it immediately. I told her that they were going fine, and said thanks and walked away. This was weird to me because the only reason she knew me to begin with is because I unintentionally spoke out against her when Senator Moore came to our school last year. It made me feel uncomfortable because it seemed like she was trying to get me on her side or something.
I then went on to say “And the second thing is that a teacher from my school, Ms. Levister, said last year that her and all her friends from Springfield were gonna come to Southbridge Middle/High School to fix the district because our school sucked and she didn't like our principal. Which is fine, but, if you're actually gonna help us then do it, don't walk around bragging about how you're going to do it, actually help us...you know, up until this year I felt like all my hard work was for nothing, and coming from the family that I come from, its hard to be where I'm at. And for so long it goes unnoticed but then I got the John & Abigail Adams Scholarship...people like Mrs. Earls and Mr. Cacace are good, they make sure that our hard work is recognized. They even called us down to the office to congratulate us and take a picture.”
Mrs. McLoughlin then asked me if I heard the thing about Ms. Levister myself, and I said “yes and a bunch of my friends told me the same thing.” She then asked me if anybody told me to go up to the podium and say what I said, and I told her “No. I went up there on behalf of myself, like as a student from Southbridge High.” She then asked me if I knew Dr. Page, and I told her “No, like I said before, I watched some of the other School Committee meetings and I saw one person went to him for help, and I didn't know if that was a thing or not, but I thought I'd try it anyway because you weren't letting me speak.” She then reminded me that there were policies that they had to follow about speaking against people who were up there. I told her I understood and she told me I could find her email on the school website if I had any other issues.
I am sending this to all of you because all I ever wanted was for my story to be heard. I remembered that the School Committee member Mr. Abrahamson mentioned some sort of blog at the last meeting, so I Googled “Southbridge blog” and the Ozone came up. I then saw two articles about me and of course I read them. It really upset me to read that people were saying that my teachers asked me to go up there. I did this all on my own, and if anyone tries to tell you different, they are lying. Also, some people wrote on the internet that it was a “coincidence” that student reps are picked by the principal and I was the only one who ever went to the podium, but after watching the November 17th Town Council meeting, isn't it also a “coincidence” that Mr. Abrahamson used the words “lynch mob” just like the poster on the blog?
If I had known that my rights had been violated when they told me I couldn't speak anymore, I would have definitely made a bigger deal of it that night, which is why I am sending this letter now. I like Mrs. Earls and I liked Ms. Allen too, please don't let what's left of the “good” in Southbridge go.
I sent this to the School Committee, Town Council, Town Manager, ACLU, and the Telegram and Gazette.