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. 

What all the members of the School Committee apparently overlooked is the fact that Public Input is held before the meeting is called to order. As a result, the mandates of the School Policy Manual do not apply.

The policy that prevents such criticism of school personnel has no basis in law. It is interesting to note that such a policy is provided for in guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. However, unlike most such policies, no statutory basis is provided supporting it.

It is well within the purview of the School Committee to devise policies to govern its own operation. However, it is not within the purview of the committee to apply those policies outside the domain of its own meetings.

Since the Public Input portion of the evening’s agenda takes place before the meeting is officially called to order the policy against stating criticism of employees cannot be enforced.

Ms. McNeill should have been allowed to make her statement without interference from the dais.


My appreciation to the reader who pointed this out.


  1. Stand up and be a manNovember 18, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    Ken if those on School Committee are so horrible, then instead of attacking them from your keyboard. Why not put on your Sunday best and grow a set and face them at the meeting. They violated her rights so you say, they say different. Well go teach them law then and have your debate with them. Better why don't pull your papers and run against these horrible people, destroying our district (which started HOW MANY YEARS AGO?) Instead of pointing fingers, placing blame, poking fun at people, insulting people, and trying to get the town to hate people. Do something constructive, stand up and be a man and offer help and support to those who at least stuck their necks out and are trying. Right or wrong they are trying. All you do is foster hate and your followers feed on it. If this town can't get a Town Manager, what makes you think we get another Superintendent. Oh wait I know the players behind the scenes, want what Bill Bishop? or Amy Allen? seriously! What experience do they have that makes either a better choice over the current Superintendent? What makes anyone think we are going to get a messiah Town Manager or Superintendent? What's the real issue with the Superintendent? Is it because she is female? Is it because she is from the Springfield School District? Is it because she doesn't hide the fact she has a partner? or is because she wants to hold teachers accountable? hold principals accountable? to do what they were hired to do, educate our children and turn this school district around. So the that we can be removed from level four.. How dare she hold public employees accountable to do their jobs and do it well. I expect the School Committee to hold her accountable as well, if she is not doing what she was hired to hold teachers accountable, principals accountable, see that the MCAS score improve, and get the dam state out of our schools. As far as those who sit on town council and school committee, I will be voting out those that I personally don't think are doing what they were elected to do and promised to do and I will vote for those who I personally think are trying their damndest to help our town and school district.

    1. Tired of Clueless School Committee MembersNovember 20, 2014 at 7:12 AM

      Well you're not going to get a "Messiah" for school superintendent when you don't even bother to conduct any type of search for one. This school committee has never even advertised for a superintendent, so how can they create a solid applicant pool?

      "hold principals accountable" They don't stick around long enough to see the results from MCAS testing from one year to the next. Now we have the showdown at our 75 million dollar high/middle school. Either Superintendent Gardner or Principal Earls and her assistant principal are leaving shortly after the latest grownup feud. More instability for our teachers and students.

      The above poster is part of the problem. He has all the answers, but doesn't have a clue what thee questions are.

  2. This comment suggesting Ken put on his Sunday best and face the School Committee gave me a sincere belly laugh.

    First of all, why should anyone bother to put on their Sunday best to address the disrespectful School Committee or the Clown Council? It is not and should not be the uniform of the day. Perhaps flip flops and a wife beater shirt would be too informal, but if you consider the way people are treated, Army Fatigues and a helmet would be the most appropriate dress for the way Citizen's are usually treated.

    Consider the way the Town Manager treated Pulaski two weeks in a row. After checking the DEP website, I have checked and his claim that over half the landfill capacity in the Commonwealth is going to be gone by the end of 2015 - it is correct, but the TM boldly mislead the Council by claiming this valid position w inaccurate information. Also the TM contradicted himself by claiming last week that the John was wrong about his concern that only Municipal landfills were being compared, and the TM insisted public and private landfills were being compared, but last night the Manager stated it would only be public landfills run by private companies that will be compared. Outside if Nantucket, Southbridge will be the only such landfill by 2016! Too bad Pulaski missed that one!

    My point is that even if the Attorney General was to address the Council or the School Committee on a point of State Law, she would risk being bullied and corrected by the likes of Monique Manna or self acclaimed Open Meeting Law expert Denise Clemence. So why should Ken O'Brien waste his breath on these pompous arses? Personally I do not like Pulaski when he goes off subject and I think he needs a haircut, but like Councilor Marcucci stated last year, he has been right about the landfill all along, yet despite his well reasoned concern last night, even the people he supported turned their back on the Southbridge Taxpayer and is allowing the tenant to determine what they will pay. I still can't believe the Town does not even run the scales at the Landfill.

    I can not believe that the Superintendent of Schools was hired without a proper search.

    Or that our Highway Department's Engineer was not a qualified MA Engineer.

    Or that our Library is closed on the weekends.

    Or that it is 19° and we do not have sidewalks on half of Main Street.

    Or that the Business Development department has more staff than it has created jobs, and that it discourages instead of invites new business. Look at the way they fought that interesting new Art Gallery/ NightClub? At least that man persisted, but most businessmen run from such discouragement.

    Or that the Police Union runs the Town as much or more than our Town Council.

    Or that the biggest polluter in the State( a Charlton Company) pulls more strings with the Board of Health than concern for our health?

    Moriarity is refreshing and gives some of us a little hope, but it is too little too late. What are we supposed to be celebrating in 2016?

    We have a dysfunctional town government at every turn with the possible exception of the Fire Department.

    Frankly this Town does not deserve the attention Ken O'Brien and others give it, but the Council and the School Committee, with the exception of a few members on each panel deserve nothing but ridicule and public scrutiny.

    Carry on Ken O'Brien! 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. Let's hope Charlie Baker sends us adult supervision?

  3. Recall Abrahamson NOWNovember 19, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Having witnessed Brent Abrahamson's antics last Wednesday night and again on Monday night at the town council meeting, it is apparent that he is ill-equipped to serve on our school committee. He is an embarrassment to our community. He lacks human decency, aptitude and competence.

    While it is too late to recall McLoughlin and Donovan, Abrahamson has over two and a half years left on his term. In that amount of time he will most certainly cause the district legal problems, fiscal problems and public relations problems. Let's start a recall of this egomaniac.

  4. To Stand Up and be a Man, you should stop blaming Ken for stating his opinion!! Why don't you stand up and be a man and sign your name to your comments? Ken is informing the public which the School Committee lacks in doing. For your information and anyone else reading this comment Ken is correct. The School Committee removed Public Input from being part of the meeting to outside the meeting so people could say whatever they choose. Public Input doesn't need to be recorded because it's not part of the meeting. End of story. School Committee members should learn and know their jobs if they want to run a successful meeting. Ken keep up the good work on informing the public!!

    1. Pot Calling Kettle BlackNovember 20, 2014 at 7:17 AM

      Seriously Mrs. Woodruff? You want to comment on how a successful meeting should be run? Go back and watch some of the videos during your tenure as the committee chair. Now those meetings could be tops on America's Funniest Home Videos.

    2. YO Pot...is that you Quinney? Or maybe the Chief Berry??? No, no, no, it must be the King of Blogs Brently the Basher.

    3. What? Brent blogs? I thought he hated bloggers. Especially this blog.

    4. BA blogged for years in a number of places. Most recently it was at massachusettsobserver.blogspot.com which he stopped when he decided to run for school committee. He still runs a blog about old radio programs.

  5. Well said, but it would be nice if Monique Nanna or Denise Clemence could be the Vice Chair to represent the upstanding church going ladies of our community.


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