Town Council Chairman Shaun Moriarty has released a copy of the letter that body has voted for expressing its lack of confidence in the Southbridge School Committee.
TO: School Committee
FROM: Town Council
DATE: May 20, 2015
SUBJECT: Letter of No Confidence
Due to an unprecedented failure of leadership, accountability, and instability, in addition to a lack of transparency or public empowerment, the Southbridge Town Council felt it necessary to take the action of taking a “No Confidence” vote in the Southbridge School Committee.
Pursuant to an affirmative 8-1 vote on 18 May 2015, the Town Council submits this Letter of No Confidence in the Southbridge School Committee. The Town Council no longer has confidence in the School Committee or its ability to lead from the role its members were elected to perform.
For nearly a generation, our school district has struggled at the hands of politics and disastrous hires in key building and district leadership positions. While we have faced challenges similar to those of other districts, they have not been handled with the success and dignity of surrounding school districts. Prior to this action, various Town Councilors and the Interim Town Manager have offered assistance and constructive suggestions to the elected leadership of our fledgling and underperforming public school district. By and large, most of these efforts have been met with indifference at best.
The recent history of School Committee incarnations is a history of repeated political favors and gamesmanship; retaliatory actions against faculty, administration, and officials, both elected and appointed; and the general public, including its elected representatives on the Town Council, have been repeatedly left in the dark, denied the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue, or develop any reasonable belief in the ability of elected and appointed district leadership to raise Southbridge Public Schools out of Level 4 status. To prove this, let candid facts be submitted.
They have failed to serve as strong and effective leaders of Southbridge Public Schools, and have failed to hire and retain certified and qualified administrators in the district’s central offices. This includes a frequent turnover of, both permanent and acting or interim, superintendents.
They have failed to begin, not just in a timely fashion but at all, a search for a permanent Superintendent of Schools.
They have rushed through and propagated decisions, some in contradiction to prior actions, that have failed to stop the ever-rising tide — and associated costs — of students leaving through school choice, exponentially expanded administrative staff, a glaring void of institutional knowledge. These actions have, at times, resulted in flawed budgeting processes, internal strife and a lack of communication among the members of the School Committee itself, a lack of transparency as well as a lack of public and student cooperation and empowerment, political decisions being made on the eve of elections and changes to committee make-up, accusations and proven instances of political patronage or retaliatory actions and behavior, and has ultimately resulted in a public school system comprised of Level 3 school buildings being labeled and classified as a Level 4 district.
They have failed to allow citizens and Town Councilors to speak on agenda items during School Committee meetings.
They are currently engaged in consideration of a radical restructuring of the district’s flagship building, Southbridge Middle/High School, with but a few months to carefully consider the pros and cons, budgetary implications, educational impact, and alterations to staffing levels. Some members have advocated for approval before such impacts have been studied and weighed, putting the district in a perilous position, just as it did by a similar administrative reorganization three years ago, on the eve of the new school building’s opening. Such action is being considered just a few months before the State Department of Elementary & Secondary Education review and study of SMHS. Additionally, this extensive reconstruction of the administrative makeup turns upside down a facility housing and educating nearly 1,200 students on a daily basis, all while proclaiming the very real need for stability.
The overwhelming majority of Town Councilors contend that the School Committee is ineffective, fails to act in a transparent manner, and, through comments and actions at regular and subcommittee meetings, as well as through its appointed district leadership, exerts control by force or fear in its position overseeing the Southbridge Public Schools.
The Town Council requests the School Committee alters its practices, immediately begins working on an open and transparent search for a permanent Superintendent of Schools.
The Town Council further requests the School Committee does not further propagate great instability with a rushed dramatic restructuring of the district’s flagship building, Southbridge Middle/High School. This is important for a better future for its school leadership and administration, and for a faculty and student body that relies on a professional and accountable public school system.
Southbridge Town Council
c: Interim Town Manager
Interim Superintendent of Schools
Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
Massachusetts Association of School Committees