Saturday, November 1, 2014

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. 

The yet-to-be-named investigator will be appointed by committee Chairwoman Lauren McLoughlin and will report findings 30 days after the appointment.

Mr. Page said he received complaints from several employees about Ms. Gardner. On the advice of Mirick O'Connell, the committee's Worcester law firm, he said he gave the written complaints to Ms. McLoughlin on Oct. 17.

Mr. Page, who noted he hadn't passed judgment on the allegations but merely acted as a messenger, said an employee had approached him on Oct. 8 about Ms. Gardner. He said he was told by the employee that Ms. Gardner allegedly told the employee's subordinate that Ms. Gardner would come after the subordinate if the subordinate talked about a meeting the subordinate had with Ms. Gardner and Director of Operations Walter Solzak.

During that meeting, Ms. Gardner and Mr. Solzak allegedly confronted the subordinate about "actions or inactions" on the subordinate's part last school year, Mr. Page said.

Ms. Gardner also allegedly told the subordinate that she would "shred documents related to MCAS testing procedures," according to Mr. Page.

In addition, Ms. Gardner allegedly told the employee she needed to convince the subordinate to produce a statement acknowledging that a former employee instructed the subordinate to sign documents related to MCAS.

When the employee refused, Ms. Gardner told the employee that the employee was trusting the wrong person, Mr. Page said.

Last month, Ms. Gardner reported to the public that serious mistakes had been made on MCAS testing by the previous administration, and that people at that time had been "dishonest."

On Tuesday night, the School Committee meeting's agenda included an item to meet in executive session to discuss a complaint against an employee. Ms. Gardner asked that the item be taken up in open session.

Ms. Gardner's lawyer, Michael J. Long of Hinghan, said Ms. Gardner would ultimately be credited for trying to find out what went wrong with the MCAS testing and scoring last year.

"To the extent that that resulted in some people being taken to task, that's the superintendent's job," Mr. Long said.

In an interview Friday, Ms. Gardner said she opted to have the matter considered in open session because she had nothing to hide.

"We're moving forward," she said. "We got a great report" from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, "and since I began here, my plan has been to turn around Southbridge Public Schools through transparency, and that's what we intend to do."

She declined further comment.

The fallout stems from Ms. Gardner's announcement last month that the administration was "horrified" to learn about last year's missed MCAS retesting opportunities for then 11th-graders.

She went on to say that 38 seniors hadn't passed MCAS.

The following week, Ms. Gardner said that it was learned that fewer seniors than was originally thought had missed opportunities to twice retake the MCAS last year when they were juniors. 

But the superintendent went on to complain about last year's failure to develop Educational Proficiency Plans for students who fell in the "needs improvement" category.

Addendum: The following comment was appended to the Telegram article.

The Superintendent and Mr Solznak also sent letters out to all the Southbridge homeschoolers requesting information that exceeded legal requirements and they tried to insist homeschoolers needed to report to school to take the MCAS (which is also illegal). The MCAS measures the performance of public schoolers only, not private schoolers or homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers in Southbridge had to retain professional/legal respresentation to help get these two bullies to back off, and stick to the state law as opposed to their new and (illegal) policies. 


  1. Who Hired This Suprintendent???????November 1, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Who else did the McLoughlin/Donovan school committee interview for this position? Oh, that's right, they didn't advertise the position, have any search committee, do any interviews, follow their own selection policies.

    So who are they going to blame? This one, like the rest of the gaffs we have witnessed over the last two years (declining MCAS scores, MCAS tests not offered to students, revolving administrator/teacher door, massive departure of students for other districts, etc) rest solely with McLoughlin and Donovan.

    I find it fascinating that McLoughlin wasn't quoted in the Telegram article. She ran to every Boston media outlet when this blog referenced her girth. Why so silent Lauren? Why aren't you coming to the defense of the person you anointed to this post?

    Why no public acknowledgement that the other anointed acting/interim/posing superintendent Master Buzz has resigned from his $27,000 "consulting" position?

    Where's all the "transparency" stuff you boasted about when you campaigned?

    1. Gardner needs to go and go soon. She has the capability to wreak havoc throughout this entire district with no one to slow her down. Shredding evidence to make Amy Allen look bad sounds like a Gardner move. Going after Anthony Cacace and Melissa Earls for no good reason sounds like a Gardner move. Sending Solzak after people to dig up dirt sounds like a Gardner move. Promoting Levister (her friend) to dean sounds like a Gardner move. Screwing over the district sounds like a Gardner move. No change here.

  2. For all their efforts to portray those who disagree with them as "bullies" it is becoming increasingly clear that this school committee is at the forefront of this tactic and fosters that talent in those they employ.

  3. It's the same old story about the cover up being worse than the original offense.

  4. Save our Schools --SOSNovember 4, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    May be Gardner the Hut should read her own blurb that she puts on School Spring about Equal Opportunity Employment. Especially the last line.

    Southbridge Public Schools is committed to maintaining a work and learning environment free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/civil union status, ancestry, place of birth, age, citizenship status, veteran status, political affiliation, genetic information or disability, as defined and required by state and federal laws. Additionally, we prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose such discrimination and harassment or who participate in an equal opportunity investigation.

  5. Gardner v. Building AdministratorsNovember 6, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    It has been 9 days since this complaint was publicly aired at the open school committee meeting of October 28. Has an investigator been hired? Are these charges being taken seriously? Why no updates from the school committee? Another cover up? The assistant principal allegedly assailed by Gardner, and the principal who filled the complaint had best get their resumes in order.

    Either way, if Gardner is found culpable, she is gone. If she is vindicated, the assistant principal and the principal will have little choice but to leave. More revolving door of administrators.

    More change, more blaming the last person, more ineptness. We never had such discourse when Mr. Jovan ran the school committee. I wish he would come back to the board. The voters gave him the boot after successfully navigating the district through very tenuous waters, so he probably won't. But he's the person to help right the SPS Titanic.


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