Thursday, December 25, 2014

Grotesque Ineptitude

Ken O’Brien

What Tuesday’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee lacked in substance it made up in illustrating the ineptitude of its members.

The starting point, of course, was the absence of Superintendent Gardner from the dais. This naturally leads to speculation as to the result of the Flick report and whether we are in for yet another change in district leadership.

Let us hope that, if this is the case, there will be a return to the “best practice” of appointing a committee consisting of appropriate stakeholders to recruit and evaluate candidates.

Next there was the embarrassing spectacle of the committee devoting time to issues over which it actually lacked jurisdiction. For a group that seems to have devoted the bulk of its efforts to rewriting the Policy Manual (while assiduously avoiding informing the public of the nature of changes), it seems to have precious little grasp over what matters fall within its purview.

Then there was the abysmal display of the lack of financial sophistication in discussing matters before the committee. Whether it was in accepting a donation from the Rotary Club or discussing the implications of a Special Ed student’s transfer into the district, there was either a lack of forethought or a firm grasp of the budgetary impact. Most upsetting in the latter case was the lack of anyone who could provide solid answers.

This matter was further compounded when the issue of appointing a Director of Finance came up. Mr. Abrahamson moved to have the action postponed until February 10th. The specific reason for this action remained markedly vague during the discussion, but might be related to the matter of the future of the Superintendent. Whatever the case, it leaves open the question as to what candidate would be comfortable with a month and a half delay. The committee voted in favor of the motion and the public was, once again, left in doubt.

Finally, the public was subjected to two more rants by members of the committee. The first, predictably, was by Brent Abrahamson. Aside from clearly deserving a certificate of recognition as the public official most in love with the sound of his own voice, his diatribe focused on the amount of time local cable had devoted to airing repeats of the prior school committee meeting.

Beyond what might be construed as an implied threat against Mr. Montigny, what was the point of this?

This was followed by another lecture to the public by Erin Quinney.

The response to this lengthy repetition of past appeals is quite straightforward and clear. There is a division in the community for one reason and one reason only. You have failed.

You have failed miserably.

It is not a case of a former town council chairman saying “education is good if you can afford it”.

Statistics show that, on a per pupil basis, Southbridge is among the leaders in Worcester County in education spending.

The problems have multiplied since you and your colleagues have taken over.

Turnover among leadership, staff and educators has skyrocketed under your stewardship.

A bureaucracy has multiplied like rabbits at 25 Cole Ave.

And students have departed the district under school choice en masse. 

It is time to stop using the children as some kind of human shield against your critics.

Your critics are not the problem – you are.


  1. What a sad display of total ineptness! It's time for the people most damaged by this ineptitude to speak up - the students and parents. I'm tied of hearing how "really, really hard" everyone is working. Try working "really, really smarter!"

    No organization, corporation or institution can have success with a constant flux in leadership and employees. What we have witnessed since McLoughlin and Donovan were elected has been instability in leadership and staffing that no institution can withstand. They have continually made bad decisions on superintendents. From renewing Ely's contract two additional years with only three days experience on committee, to relying on an obviously senile Nembirkow, to anointing an obviously ill-prepared Gardner (not to mention the interim superintendents) our schools have been spiraling downward under these poor leaders.

    Under the Ed Reform Act of 1993 school committees have had clearly defined lines to navigate within. This committee should consider a group reading and discussion of the law. Their roles are not to be roaming around the schools counting what they think are football helmets (they were actually baseball helmets), demand teachers they think are doing a bad job to be reassigned or terminated, select the business manager, or so many other grievous oversteps by this inept crew.

    Hiring the superintendent is one of only two positions that a school committee can LEGALLY make; the other being the Director of Special Education (Of course with Quinney on board we probably don't even need one of those.)

    It has been over two years since Ely was placed on paid leave, with his subsequent resignation two months later. This school committee has failed its fiduciary obligation to hire a PERMANENT superintendent to guide this struggling district through turbulent waters. Instead they brought in ineffective, incompetent and indifferent failures.

    Donovan, McLoughlin, Quinney and Congdon need to be held accountable for their failure to find a true leader for our schools. When your search is done in a vacuum you usually end up with floor sweepings.

    1. What's in our future?December 26, 2014 at 10:50 PM

      What's in our future? I see McLoughin Superintendent of Schools (she thinks she knows best), Congdon Ass't Superintendent and Curriculum (she thinks she knows every thing), Page Director of Finances (he could use drinking money), Quinney Director of Sped (she already does it now), Olivo Director of Food Services (he looks like he really likes to eat), Donovan Director of Operations (she will make sure there are plenty of tissues), Abrahamson MSHS Principal (he will bore the kids so bad, they will be sleeping). They want to run the schools, so let them. My kid will be going to Southbridge West Quaboag....

  2. BA - A Sad Little ManDecember 25, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    Brent Abrahamson should spend his time working on his, and his fellow school committee members, work. He is not in charge of local cable access, or whether other new members attend their required training sessions, or taking attendance of members attending subcommittee meetings. He continues to demonstrate what a first class blowhard he is.

    But attacking the cable TV guy? Seriously, that guy is at everything filming and putting a positive outlook at some of the good things that happen in Southbridge. Granted, the school committee meetings are not part of the good things, but with oversight of half the town's expenses, everyone should have the opportunity to view the meetings. Not everyone is a retired school teacher with a hefty pension. Some of us work second and third shifts, and our tax money is the same as his.

    But Abrahamson consistently demonstrates that he is a bully. He has verbally attacked a student speaking at the podium, gone to the podium to lash out at a town councilor, and now he shifts his menace to the cable TV guy. What a sad little man! How far has our school committee fallen.

  3. Everyone in town needs to listen to Quinney's monologue. She "ran to turn the schools around." Mission accomplished! You have turned it from going in the right direction totally around into a decisive nose dive!

    She is also a strong contender for "I love the sound of my voice" award. But at least Windy Abrahamson uses the language well.

  4. You people can bash these hard working ladies all that you like, but they are making a real difference. Just wait and see. Come this June Lauren and Kara will be reelected by massive majorities. Then you’ll have nothing to do but cry in your beer with all your buddies.

    1. WOW, denial, denial, denial. "Making a real difference?" Whoever thinks this must also think Abrahamson and Quinney are also "Making a real difference.?

      These four fools have crippled our schools to the point that not even the proverbially threatened state takeover can save them.

      All the flab four can do now is attack the TV guy and the people who are trying to inform the community about the committee's dysfunction and pending budget shortfall.

      Personally, I can't wait for the June elections. There are a few candidates headed our way that will "do the right thing" for our students and taxpayers.

  5. And The New Superintendent Is . . . . .December 27, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Does anyone know who today's superintendent is? Have "these hard working ladies" finished their search of Springfield's skid row for the next leader of our schools?

  6. When are the Doocey investigation report on Ely and the Finch investigation report on Gardner going to be released? What are Lauren and Kara hiding? They gave these two awful superintendents (and a couple others) cart blanch, big salaries, and no oversight. Apparently the non-partisan private investigators didn't share the girls' blindness.

    As to these two being reelected to the school committee, anything is possible in Southbridge. But the discussions in the community in stores, coffee shops, churches, the post office, the library, and hair salons don't sound like there is any support for these two.
    Abraham Lincoln said it best , "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

    1. "Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of."
      Bill Moyers

    2. Ely came on board when Jovan, Lazo, O'Leary, Dominko, Principe, Woodruff and DiGregorio were all on SC. Principe, Woodruff, McLoughlin and Donovan voted to extend Ely's contract (weeks after last two were elected) Lazo, O'Leary, Dominko against. Only to have the shit hit the fan, weeks after his extension. Principe, Woodruff, Lazo, O'Leary, Dominko, McLoughlin and Donovan were all sitting when Wiggins was made interim super. The same group all were there when Buzz selected to super, Never once was McLoughlin or Donovan in charge, that would have been Woodruff (chair) and Principe (vice). After Principe and Lazo didn't seek reelection Congdon and Quinney got in, O'Leary went MIA. Then Woodruff was still chair, until she jumped ship as she says "bullied off", personally I think she realized she was going to be out numbered in voting by McLoughlin, Donovan, Congdon and Quinney and Dominko (was playing nice with these 4) and O'Leary was still MIA. Then McLoughlin, Donovan, Congdon and Quinney and Dominko all voted for Olivo to take Woodruffs seat, which they all gave Buzz a extension. As far as Gardner getting a fat check, go request the budget from 2 years ago, last year and this year she was given less money the Ely and Buzz. Buzz I would agree with you was given cart blanch to what ever he wanted and again I agree there was no oversight with him, but Gardner? I swear McLoughlin has to be calling the shots, she is always in the district offices. No over sight? I don't think so, again McLoughlin is always there. I don't know if McLoughlin would be reelected (she's not getting my vote), but Donovan I think she will.

    3. To Clarify your Clarify: Mr. Ely was hired in 2010 - yes, by Jovan, Lazo, Prencipe (not Principe), O'Leary, DiGregorio, Dominko, Woodruff; In May, 2012 there was a failed attempt to terminate Mr. Ely - and there were issues regarding his not having been given a formal review (seems there was not a concensus as to the review process);
      The election was held on June 26, 2012 - and Donovan/McLoughlan were elected; the next SC meeting was originally scheduled for July 10, 2012 - BUT - following the election, was moved up to July 03, 2012 - and it was at that meeting that there was a vote to extend Mr Ely's contract. Still no 'review', still no 'process in place to 'review' - reasons given for not being able to terminate - shouldn't this hold true for a contract extension????? McLoughlin/Donovan had been on the SC just (1) one week - this was their first meeting!
      Thank God the contract extension was never signed because 6 months later Mr Ely was in fact terminated after having been on 'administrative leave' for about 3 months.

    4. Sharon
      It was their first meeting so of course they would play follow the leader. Here's a prediction for ya - I say Buzz tries to make a play to come back, he has McLoughlin wrapped around his finger and he is such a good bs'er that he will convince at least three others to bring him back (wink). Then I bet everything will perfect once more in wonderful Southbridge (not). Honestly if I worked here I would bail, way to much bs going on. God forbid if someone gets a hair across their backside with you, they can make up any old lie and get you placed on PAL, sc will hold another useless investigation and then sit with their thumbs up their butts while scratching their heads. We need people with backbones sitting on the sc, not players, whimps, idiots and good ol' boys.

  7. The BobbleHeads and company will pay for there political sins come the next election. But, until then we the people will be paying for them with our hard earned cash. Right now Gardner has no choice but to try to get out of the game with some employability intact. To do this she must try to keep the report confidential. This will be part of the agreement in her exit plan. However, with the legal and arbitration problems that face the district any good lawyer will force them to give it up. So, in the end it will cost the district even more settling with all those former employees who have cases against the district.

    What the district should do is reach out to these former employees and offer them fair settlement deals. This will limit the cost of paying the costs of high priced attorneys on both sides.

  8. Who said the following on her facebook page when she ran for school committee.

    This person now has a record of performance should she decide to run for re-election. Three years later, ARE WE A BETTER DISTRICT??

    "I am running for School Commitee because I believe the time has come for new people, with new ideas and fresh perspectives, to make informed, consistent and fair changes in our schools for all our kids. We need to get back to our ABC's: Accountabilty, Best Practices and Communication. These must become the guiding principles in the leadership of this School District. Until they are better put into practice, our School District will not flourish and re-gain the trust, confidence and respect it deserves"

  9. More Teachrts LeaveDecember 30, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    Well our children attending the new school will find three less teachers returning. One has left for Bay Path, and two to other districts. Can you imagine who will be leading those classes on Monday! Our poor students.

    The school committee had allowed this massive rift to grow between the new school and central office. The secret school committee has failed to come forth with the action/inaction regarding the Gardner investigation. Staff have no choice but to seek employment elsewhere. Earls and her possy hopefully see the handwriting on the wall. Head for the exit!

    1. Right you are. A Business teacher at the high school, and a Science teacher and an ELA teacher at the middle school.

    2. More Teachers Leave !December 30, 2014 at 9:37 PM

      I'm not on the school committee, I state the truth!

    3. I didn't mean to criticize, merely to expand on your original comment. I apologize if you took offense.

    4. More Teachers Leave
      Do you think it is because the sc changes superintendents more then their underwear? I would venture a guess it is, who the hell would want to work here? What's it like 4 superintendents with in 2 years? Not to mention how many director of curriculum, principals at the high school. As far as Earls she has to as dumb as dumb can be, not to see that she herself is a pawn in the sc power play going on.

    5. Well we have ANOTHER 3 teachers blowing out mid-year. Actually, it's become a weekly occurrence at the high/middle school. But I don't see any advertisement for replacements on the district's website,, newspapers, or anywhere else. I guess they're using the Springfield phone book.

      Now ask yourself, "What quality of teachers are we going to find in January?" Only those that suck, as they're looking for work in January!

  10. Save our Schools --SOSDecember 31, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Does anyone know what the status of the NEASC visit is? Did they visit already or are they coming in the Spring? The way things are going, if and when they do come, it will be easy for them to pull the accreditation for the middle high school because of the huge turnover of personnel and the financial mismanagement of the district.

    1. There's No Fooling NEASCDecember 31, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      It took 8 years to get our high removed from the NEASC "probation" status placed on the school after the 2004 site visit. Over seventy citations were issued. The work began during the in January 2005. Principal Haskins started the process with an English teacher, Amy Allen, doing the bulk of the written responses. The process continued under Principal Bishop with all areas corrected, with the exception of one big one - a new building opening, by mid-2010.
      NEASC restored SHS to full accreditation on August 7, 2012, one week before Principal Bishop retired.
      As for the 2014 visit? Well it's been postponed because of the constant upheaval in administration at the building and at central office. I believe they are scheduled for sometime this spring.
      We should all be prepared for a scathing report. So much work was done since their last visit, including the high school earning a Level 1 status for the 2011-2012 school year. But since August of 2012 the school, and district, have gone into an unmanageable free fall.
      McLoughlin and Donovan and their pals can sit at the dais every other week and tell us all they want about how good things are going. Well they have absolutely no chance of playing that tune for a group of highly-qualified REAL educators who will leave no stone unturned when they visit. Make no mistake about it - this report will be truthful and damming of what's taken place over the past two and a half years.
      Unfortunately this report will not arrive in town until the Fall, after the June election. Do you think these phonies will post the document on the school website? Or will it go way of the Ely, Perreault, and Gardner investigative reports?


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