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.