Sunday, December 14, 2014

You Get A Day Off, And You Get A Day Off, And You… Oops! Never Mind

Ken O’Brien

During Councilors Forum at last Monday’s Town Council meeting, Councilor Carrasco revealed the plan to close school administrative offices during the period from December 24th to January 5th.

This wasn’t some rumor that the Councilor latched onto and ran with. He attempted to contact school department personnel. He had the Town Manager contact the Superintendent. All got the same message that administrative personnel would be given an additional 5½ days off with pay, a perk not afforded to other non-union town employees.

True to his word he appeared at the School Committee meeting the next night during public input.

During the Superintendent’s Report Ms. Gardner addressed the issue.

Several comments about this.

First, the councilor’s information was correct. Ms. Gardner clearly states at the outset that the initial action had been rescinded. She then follows with a number of lame justifications. For example, turning down the heat in the buildings, as if that would compensate for the vacation salaries paid during the period. Or the fact that people on salaries had been working long hours. Surprise, isn’t that why they’re on salaries?

Then Brent Abrahamson launched into another assault on the Town Council about misinformation. He did not focus on the issue at hand, but rather addressed comments by Councilor Manna regarding the condition of Southbridge schools. He engaged in matters of semantics regarding the use of the terms Level IV and underperforming. While he was technically correct, he avoided the obvious fact that Councilor Manna’s remarks addressed what everyone knows to be true – that Southbridge schools’ performance has been spiraling downward for almost twenty years.

When Councilor Carrasco rose to address the issue again the Chairwoman’s immediate response was to tell him No, he could not speak. Committee member Abrahamson interceded to allow him to speak. The Chairwoman stated that it was against the Committee’s policy, but she would (graciously) allow the Committee to decide the matter this time. It voted to allow the Councilor to speak.

Councilor Carrasco recounted the lengths to which he and the Town Manager had gone to clarify the matter before he brought it up at the Council meeting.

The Chairwoman then remarked that she was concerned with what she termed “the politics of shock and awe” in Southbridge, and she wished that matters were brought to her before they were spoken about openly.

Here lies the crux of most of what goes on with this Committee. She said that she had just heard about the matter and was researching it when she heard about the prior night’s comments at the Town Council. This makes one wonder to what extent she knows what is going on. Earlier Councilor Carrasco had said that the matter had been brought to his attention 2½ weeks ago. Gardner states that administrators knew about it for a month. Either the Chairwoman is out of touch or she is dissembling. Whatever the case, her plea to bring matters to her implies more of an attempt to stymie any criticism than to facilitate communication. It is of a whole with the attempt to silence Sarai McNeill, to alter the rules relating to Public Input, the scant information on policy changes, the relentless expansion of administrative staff, the adoption of a consent agenda and the ongoing exclusion of any public input on items on the Committee agenda.

It is increasingly clear that the Committee, under the authoritarian rule of this Chairwoman, has sought to institute opacity in place of any vestige of transparency that previously existed. And then members rail against rumors that circulate, whether with foundation or not, in the vacuum created by their own chokehold on information.


  1. We Dn't Need No Stinkin" HelpDecember 14, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Seriously, with what these central office over-paid; and in most cases, needless employees, accomplish on a typical day, what difference does this make? We just had the superintendent take a week off during school days, that's how needed she is. So I suspect her posse is of little value on "slow" days.

    But I must say, the perception of this school committee, under the McLoughlin/Donovan leadership, is totally UN-wanting of public input or scrutiny. They rail against anyone who questions their actions. They slip in and out of their own policies whenever it is convenient. This committee is more flawed than the system they preside over.

  2. penny wise/£ foolishDecember 14, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    This Reverend Currasco has been working hard to keep the budget in check, even when the budget was being passed, he asked questions that were not easy to ask.

    It is sad that I have become such a skeptic, but when Councilors rally around Mr. Vecchia, I become cautious. That said, I do believe Councilor Currasco is sincere.

    My true concern is that he may not be experienced enough to realize the best way to reduce our tax burden. Add up the money thst soild have been saved from the wages paid to the School Admin when getting extra paid personal days, the cost of the former temp Town Managrer's travel allowance, half of the $27,000. Landfill comparison study, and how much extra our unlicensed engineer us getting, it us not 1% of the additional funds we would be getting from Casella if we were getting what was promised seven years ago.

    These penny issues are indeed important, and they add up, and I am grateful for the good Councilors efforts, but if he invested that same hard work on getting money from the landfill operator that we are entitled to, he could see somewhere between 50-250 times more money for the same level of struggle.

    What bothers me the most is how Councilors Manna & Clemence in particular appear to be hostile toward Councilor Currasco trying to ease our tax burden.
    Even Councilor Peloquin has been wishy washy about making a positive difference. In my opinion, It is the Councilors with the mist financial security that are least motivated to help townspeople in these difficult times.

  3. News Flash. . .
    School Committee executive session Word night to deal with Flick investigation. Word has it Gardner is safe.
    Apparently this what "do the right thing" looks like.
    Well Gardner will be having a Merry Christmas, the new school staff ? Not so much! (You can all thank Dave Williams)

  4. Wed Night 6:00 PM Be ThereDecember 15, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    Wednesday night. . . Be There. . .

    1. As I asked earlier, I wonder if Gardner will opt to have this executive session open to the public.

  5. "Transparency?"December 15, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    4:30 PM on Monday, December 15. This meeting is not posted on the district or town website. Another "secret squirrel" meeting.

    1. I beg to differ. It is posted on the town website.

    2. "Transparency"December 15, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      I stand corrected, it is on the town website. Why not the district website? Not enough central office help?
      The district website had a curriculum subcommittee meeting slated for the same night at the oldschool. Is that still happening?
      More chaos from the " do the right tthing" gang. I wish they would do something right - like resign!

  6. I think it's fair to conclude that, since a vote to remove a superintendent must be done in open meeting, that Gardner will be hanging in there. Good for her, bad for everyone who tried to topple her.
    But this is the proven leader that the girls wanted. They aren't going to 86 her, that would be admitting they had made a mistake. They will never admit that they made a mistake. They still won't admit that their vote to turn the new school over to one principal was a major mistake. Well it's obvious to any one with a brain that it was a huge gaff.
    Alas, when they fail to oust Gardner it will leave Earls, Facade, and others no choice but to move on.
    And the train is once again leaving "Dysfunction Junction.". ALL ABOARD"

  7. Thank Goodness for The BloggersDecember 16, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Well it's quite obvious that the bobbleheads and their dismal appointments take the time to read this blog daily. Their website was updated to reflect the committee/subcommittee meeting changes. They have also posted their interpretation of the district budget. Both of these adjustments appear to be the direct result of statements made by posters on this site.

    It's disappointing that with all the central office personnel kicking around that it takes bloggers to see these issues. I suppose Abrahamson will continue to complain about the bloggers. But in reality, the bloggers are getting things fixed far swifter that he and the girls do.


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