Saturday, March 28, 2015

What Is Wrong With Southbridge?

Ken O’Brien

Southbridge has struggled for over a decade with underperforming schools.

Southbridge has witnessed a continuing relative decline in property values.

Southbridge has experienced a steady decline in the number and variety of businesses in the community. 

Now, by a significant margin, we know that Southbridge has the highest rate of unemployment in Worcester County. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Town Manager's FY 2016 Budget Proposal

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - March 23, 2015

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - March 24, 2015

The Southbridge Community Supports Our Students

Charges Against Dr. O’Leary, Dismissed, To Be Re-filed

Ken O’Brien

Earlier this week charges against Dr. Thomas O’Leary in connection with slapping a 6-year old  patient in October of 2013 were dismissed in East Brookfield District Court.

However, according to Timothy Connolly, a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early, Judge Maura McCarthy did so without prejudice.

The charges stemmed from an October 2013 office visit to Harrington Physician Services, where O'Leary worked at the time. According to the Telegram & Gazette, O'Leary was with the boy, being treated for ADHD, and his father, when the boy removed his shirt to throw it at the father. 

Tourism Funds Targeted By Baker Budget

Center Of Hope Also Targeted (see below)

Gov. Charlie Baker is proposing an $8 million cut to state funding for the Office of Travel and Tourism and would come close to eliminating state funding for regional tourism councils.

Officials from the tourism councils say the money is an investment, which is paid back many times to the commonwealth through increased tax revenue and spending by tourists. The Democratic-controlled Legislature has restored governors' proposed cuts to tourism in past years and is likely to do so again. 

MTA President Madeloni on Governor Baker’s Proposed Budget

Governor Baker’s proposed budget is troubling for its lack of vision and absence of meaningful investments in education and other vital community services. Although some of the governor’s ideas appear positive, his budget is ultimately a proposal that shortchanges students, families and our cities and towns by including cuts to kindergarten expansion programs and providing inadequate funding for our public schools, colleges and universities.

While keeping school districts at foundation levels, as is constitutionally required, Governor Baker’s proposed spending plan fails to address the fact that many of our communities already face significant shortfalls in the resources they need to provide children with the schools they deserve. Public education is the center of our democracy and the heart of our future, and the Commonwealth’s spending priorities must recognize that. 

Teacher Survey Recommends PARCC Over MCAS

Ken O’Brien

A group of Massachusetts teachers told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Tuesday that the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test outperforms the MCAS test, and they recommended the board adopt the new test statewide.

Twenty-three teachers who are participating in the Teach Plus Massachusetts Policy Fellowship presented a report to the board that included feedback from 351 classroom teachers in 74 school districts who looked at the PARCC test. Teach Plus is a national non-profit focused on policy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Southbridge Has Highest Unemployment In Worcester County

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) released preliminary February 2015 estimates that show the Massachusetts total unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent from the January rate of 5.1 percent, a 0.2 of a percentage point decrease. Over the year, the unemployment rate fell by 1.1 percent from 6.0 percent in February 2014.

Southbridge, however, experienced little of the good news in the report. Compared to its immediate neighbors, Southbridge experienced chronically high unemployment.

National Grid Files For Electric Rate Reduction

Ken O’Brien

National Grid electric customers could see lower bills this spring.

The company has asked the state’s Department of Public Utilities to allow them to change the the Basic Service charge from the current price of over 16 cents a kilowatt hour to just over 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

The decrease, National Grid explains, is primarily due to fluctuations in the wholesale electricity market prices, which are costs the company does not control. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Southbridge School Committee Meeting Of The Whole - March 18, 2015

Video By Bill Bishop

How The Republican Budget Screws The Middle Class

Ken O’Brien

“The simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer,” wrote Paul Krugman, The New York Times ‘columnist and Noble Prize-winning economist. “We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.” 

The GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets drastically cut spending on education, retirement, environment, road and bridges, climate change, immigration, job creation, Obamacare, food stamps, and other social welfare programs. At the same time it gives the Pentagon a blank check, and includes tax cuts for the rich and corporations while raising taxes for lower-income Americans. That’s the analysis by the National Priorities Project (NPP), not just Krugman, and they make an even more disturbing point. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Oregon Reverses Voting Law Trend

Ken O’Brien

Last night Rachel Madow reported on a major break from a national trend. For more than a decade, voting rights advocates have on been on the defensive. They’ve resisted one effort after another to restrict access to the polls, efforts that got new life following the Florida election fiasco of 2000, when a large black turnout almost (or maybe did) put Al Gore over the top in the Sunshine State, and that reached full force following Barack Obama’s election in 2008. 

Between the 2010 and 2012 elections alone, governors signed into law 23 bills that imposed constraints on voting, including requiring photo ID at the polls and curtailing same-day registration and early voting. While there have been defensive victories here and there, the resistance has been futile in many states and not helped by the Supreme Court, which in 2008 ruled in favor of voter ID laws and in 2013gutted key elements of the Voting Rights Act.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Obama Smacks Down Republicans With The Reality Of His Economic Success

Ken O’Brien

President Obama smacked down Republicans today by contrasting his record of economic success with the reality of their trickle down failures.

The president said:

Now, I want to return to the issue of the debate that we were having then because it bears on the debate we’re having now. It’s important to note that at every step that we’ve taken over the past six years we were told our goals were misguided; they were too ambitious; that my administration’s policies would crush jobs and explode deficits, and destroy the economy forever. Remember that? Because sometimes we don’t do the instant replay, we don’t run the tape back, and then we end up having the same argument going forward. 

Charter Review Committee

Ken O’Brien

Back in November The O’Zone pointed out that the Town Council Chairman had yet to appoint a Charter Review Committee as required by the Southbridge Home Rule Charter.

Well, tonight the Charter Review Committee will finally meet in the George Parent Community Room at 7 p.m.

I must say that I was somewhat surprised to see a note about this, given that I don’t recall a public announcement of its membership. Then again, it could have happened while I was indisposed due to a recent hospitalization. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Budget Questions For The School Committee

Ken O’Brien

On Wednesday, March 18, there will be a committee of the whole meeting of the Southbridge School Committee. This meeting will be held in Room M100 at 25 Cole Avenue. The purpose of the meeting, according to the agenda, is a budget work session addressing the current budget and the Superintendent’s proposed FY 2016 budget.

Yesterday I presented an analysis of the FY 2014 budget data based upon its comparison on an expenditure per pupil basis with other school districts across the State. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Examining The Southbridge School Budget

Ken O’Brien

Speaking in the March 13 issue of The Southbridge News, Acting Superintendent of Schools Sheryl Stanton said, “We are not seeing the increase to the overall school budget that we need to impact some of the high priority issues. We need more people aware and educated of this. We need to make an argument as to why these expenditures are required.”

In order to look at the district’s budget in a meaningful fashion, I have taken the most recently available data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This data compares the FY 2014 budgetary data for 307* of the State’s school districts on an aggregate as well as a per pupil basis. (

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The "Mo' Spin" Zone

Ken O'Brien

This week on Real Time with Bill Maher the host rather succinctly summed up the case regarding the journalistic integrity of one Bill O'Reilly and his employer Fox News.

Have You Tried Yale?

Dean By Day, Drug Lord By Night

Shaun Harrison, a former dean in Boston’s Public School system, is accused of shooting a 17-year-old student execution style after an argument over drug-running. That’s just the start of it.

On Thursday a Boston Public School employee, reverend, and anti-violence activist was arraigned for the execution-style attempted murder of a 17-year-old student who attended the school at which he worked. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Insubordination Vs. Intolerance

Ken O’Brien

The Worcester Telegram reports that Southbridge Town Manager Kevin Paicos has directed an independent contractor not to use one of its employees to plow in Southbridge. The prohibition comes following a statement by the employee on his Facebook page.

Derek Julian, an employee of J. Bruso Construction of Southbridge posted the following message on Facebook:
"Way to go town officials at the top of the chain ... make a big mess during the day ... get the towns people all pissed off and screw up traffic drastically ... not to mention hurt the businesses income ... all to 'TRY' and save a $ ... its called night work for a reason ... .and kudos to the department workers for doing the job they did with the mess they had to deal with." 

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Backlash

Ken O’Brien

Within hours of our publication of “The Quiet Surrender” the backlash by the forces supporting the McLoughlin/Donovan regime began.

Perhaps they feared that turning people’s attention to the potential productivity of telling the public the truth might actually inspire qualified people to run for School Committee in the next election.

Nevertheless, the backlash against Ms. Earls began with the reposting of an exchange of a questionable nature on another local site specializing in reposting tweets. 

That exchange appeared as follows: