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:
The attack drew a swift and impassioned response from Town Council Vice-Chairman Carrasco.

Esteban Carrasco Jr To Whom It May Concern and to the person who sent this to cause more damage and harm to our community. I was at the "so called assembly" that this was said and no students were called out by name. Rather we had an assembly with a speaker (who spoke about choices among some other things) and Principal Earls in closing her remarks referenced talking about some seniors that made some choices early in there [sic] education referring to there [sic] freshmen year of high school (which was 3 years ago and not under her leadership) that they have not been able to recover those choices and she was urging the 8th, 9th and some 10th graders who attended the assembly to make the choice now to do what's right! This is unbelievable how people like to talk and take things out of context and run with them. I urge people to check the facts before posting information that is not factual or information taken out of context COMPLETELY!!

Nevertheless, the host of the site went on to repeat the discredited claim that the names of students were called out. In addition they went on to replay the presentation by the SMHS Principal where she stated that in excess of 20 students were at risk. My question is, why is that kind of openness and transparency (which has been so sorely lacking) now a topic of criticism?

Undaunted the sponsor of this site launched into another attack on Ms. Earls a couple of days later, attacking the record of the Martin Luther King, Jr. charter school where she had previously been Principal.

Apparently deeming this insufficient, they then posted the following:

First, I’m surprised by the notation that the original tweet disappeared. Seems to make the whole thing seem so conspiratorial. However, here’s the whole twitter history.

Second, the aggregated numbers fail to illustrate progress made at the school. If one looks at the data providing annual comparisons one sees marked improvements in Mathematics and Science, Tech and Engineering. The declines occur in English Language Arts.

One has to wonder why there is talk of eliminating this school on somewhat shaky data when Southbridge has been allowed to continue with far worse performance for so long.

Third, of course, is the attempt to compare The MLK Jr. charter school, comprised of grades K through 5, to SMHS which is an entirely different population comprised of grades 6 through 12.

Finally of course, as in so many cases, is the issue of politics.

The tweeted article notes, “The sanction was recommended by Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester in a memorandum saying that "despite prior probation and conditions, as well as attempts to improve the instructional program, MLK's academic track record is not acceptable."

What is overlooked is Mitchell Chester’s longstanding opposition to charter schools. As the Pioneer Institute remarked just eight months ago, ” This past week, at the urging of state K-12 education commissioner Mitch Chester, Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts Board of Education took a vote against Massachusetts’ nation-leading and achievement gap-closing charter schools. The vote reminds us once again how intellectually warped so much of K-12 education policymaking remains.
 The biggest victims of this BOE vote are the tens-of-thousands of underserved poor and minority children trapped in chronically underperforming urban school districts with no school choices and zero way out.
The vote reminds us that despite the huge gains the country has made since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education and the events in places like Birmingham, Alabama, in the early 1960s, as a people America still has, in the words of poet Robert Frost, ‘miles to go before [we] sleep,’ to make access to equal K-12 educational opportunities a reality. “

The bottom line was summarized by one commenter on that other site, “This whole thread is non-productive...”

Perhaps the sponsor of this line of attack could adhere to earlier practices and just throw in the towel…


  1. There are some major concerns and issues with this topic that require thought and explanation. However, there is little thought needed to know the reason for the tweets from Everything Southbridge. ES is a friend of former Superintendent Gardner and is pissed at Earls for contacting Page and filing a complaint against Gardner (Gardner was investigated and ultimately left the district after a 6 month tenure).

    The real issues are masked and missed when personal disdain lead the debate. We should all care little about the MLK school results and its future. Those problems have a school commitee/board of directors, parents and taxpayers of Springfield to work with.

    The issues for the Southbridge educational community are many: drop out/graduation rates; 7 figure costs for questionable/wrongful personnel terminations; revolving administration/faculty; massive student choice costs; huge increase of central office personnel, etc. And Southbridge has a school committee, parents and taxpayers to address these problems.

    And there, in fact, lies the problem. Our school committee is inept, secretive and arrogant. Parents are shunned and taxpayers left in complete darkness. They have failed to appoint a permanent superintendent, or even do any type of serious search, in over two years. They have allowed our new school to become completely dysfunctional, not a result of a single administrator, but rather a result of the endless parade of principals at the school since it opened. (Yes, they don't "technically" hire the principals, but we all know they do. How else can you explain how Mrs. Earls was appointed having been interviewed by the search committee and not selected as one of the three finalists? How did that happen?)

    How did that happen? Yet another principal hired without any 6-12 experience? She may have the skills at some future point, but was hiring a person with no middle/high school experience what was needed after the disastrous mismanagement of our district's flag ship since it opened in August of 2012? Who squashed the 3 true finalists for this position? Were they ever interviewed by the absolute hiring authority of principals - the superintendent? (Buzz at the time) Or did the district just hire another PAB (Pal of Buzz)?

    Mrs. Earls stated that "there are 106 members of the senior class." Let's see how many are awarded diplomas on June 5.

    On a side note: Wasn't it in Springfield where several students were awarded diplomas without having earned the required number of credits? I seem to recall that the principal who allowed this was a former Quaboag principal. Perhaps the moderator's memory, or one of the blog readers, can help us out with this event.

    1. You are absolutely correct about the twitterings of ES - and I suspect that they will continue.

      Tho Mrs Earls has no experience as Principal for grades 6-12; but unlike those that came before her (going back to the Ely/Perreault regime) - she has sought out veteran staff/educators to get a history of what worked and what didn't work - ie - what programs/policies/protocols were working that brought Sbdge High School to a Level One status in August of 2012 w/dozens of School Choice students returning in September, 2012 - programs like Freshman Academy, credit recovery (that was done in house @ minimal cost); Virtual HS, close monitoring of students right from the beginning of their high school career to make sure that students (and parents) were aware that MCAS scores/credits etc were on track for a successful graduation and there were no surprises in senior year - most, if not all of these programs were abolished from the moment the doors opened in Sept, 2012.

      Mrs Earls showed much strength and courage when she stood up to those in the administration that were abusing their position - she 'did the right thing'. It was wonderful to see her so relaxed and self assured at the last presentation she did.

      It is sad that there may be a number of students who are not in a position to graduate this June - especially since we have so many high priced administrators, directors of curriculum, guidance specialists etc etc etc - all these 'chiefs' gathering data, making reports, powerpoint presentations - yet, students are falling thru the cracks because the teachers/guidance counselors are unable to do what they need to do because their hands are tied.

  2. The letter read by school committee member Erin Quinney by the spedpac committee was childish and unprofessional. In almost every town the spedpac is made up of a few people it is not a huge social event. Why was this really written?
    Are they really gone though, because their facebook page has very recent updates and posts to it by the spedpac?

    1. Spedpacs are supposed to be advocates/liasons (to the community/school committees) for the sped students in the district; sponsoring programs/fundraisers/events to raise awareness for/about sped issues in our district is great - BUT - there are other non-sped students whose educational needs are not being met because there appears to be waaaaay too much focus on just the sped students; School Committees oversee the $$$ spent on the education of ALL the students in the district - sped, non-sped, gifted, etc and that just does not seem to be happening in Southbridge - which has also contributed to the exodus of students to school choice. The letter read by Ms Quinney talked about disbanding the spedpac, turning away a donation (supposedly the donor took it back) because of hurtful comments on social media, including the blogs. Yes, childish, to take your ball and go home, instead of really being an advocate for the sped students. There will always be those idiots that say hurtful things - about whomever & whatever (as you can see for the twitterings) You have to just 'let it go' and take the high road. It would also have helped their cause - or anyone else's for that matter - if more than one person had reviewed/edited the letter in the hopes that it was an intelligent /well constructed statement that was presented to the public - personally, I think it was out of place to devote time at a SC meeting to it. It accomplished nothing.

  3. This week the high school is giving the MCAS retake exams. My teenager tells me things are still not organized well and a senior who recently moved to Southbridge was not given the test so won't be getting a diploma in the spring. Can we EVER get it right?

    1. What Did You Expect?March 7, 2015 at 7:55 AM

      This, and so many other problems, have only been an issue since McLoughlin and Donovan got elected. Prior to this, our high school was listed as a Level 1 school in a Level 4 district. But Lauren and Kara decided to dump that principal and go into the "principal-for-a-few-months" approach. All of the principals since have lacked ANY MCAS retake experience; and in some cases, have lacked proper certification from the dept. of education. And I fully expect the current principal to hit the road as soon as she can find another job.

      What did they, or the 1450 dolts who voted for them, expect?


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