Under the title Southbridge school reorganization plan meets resistance, Telegram reporter Brian Lee summarized tonight’s meeting on the proposed restructure at Southbridge Middle/High School.
“The School Committee hosted a well-attended public hearing Tuesday on a proposed restructuring of the 3-year-old middle-high school that would eliminate 13 administrative positions and create 12 new ones in 2015-16, including the creation of principal jobs for both programs.
“Many people expressed that the proposal was being rushed and was perhaps politically motivated to target certain existing employees.” He reported.
He then went on to summarize the comments of a number of those present.
David Williams, a teacher, parent, and former president of the teachers’ union, said he absolutely believes the school needs someone to be in charge of the middle school.
But a complete restructuring wasn’t necessary, Mr. Williams said.
Regarding the public angst, Mr. Williams suggested that the state wasn’t going to “storm-troop Southbridge and haul people off to some educational prison” because the district wants to hire a principal.
But at the same time, he said, “We don’t need to fire anyone, because this clearly looks and smells like a veiled attempt to do something you keep saying you’re not trying to do.”
He added that if there’s a problem with the administration, then the superintendent should do their job and properly evaluate the principals, not try to restructure “to get rid of someone.”
Resident Mark Peters said he had spoken to school staff at various events and had asked them what they thought about the plan.
To his surprise, he said, some said they had no comment, didn’t feel safe commenting, or didn’t know if it were a good or bad thing. He expressed concern that the plan lacked input from existing teachers and administrators.
Kenny Allard, a sophomore at the middle-high school, said he was concerned about the possible turnover of administration.
The student offered that the current administration had made vast strides in education, atmosphere, discipline and morale of students and faculty, and said the possibility of dismantling the current administrative teams would once again bring change. Since eighth grade, he said, he had seen six principals.
Kerry Walker, the parent of a sophomore at the school, said Principal Melissa Earls has made great strides in her first year at the school, reinstating the school council, creating a student advisory board, and attending as many events as possible. Ms. Walker asserted that she had not seen one person from the central office or on the School Committee, other than parents, at sports, chorus or band events or other school functions.
Jason Jarvis, the father of two students in the Southbridge elementary schools, implored the committee to “stop the rush and stop this restructuring at this point in time.” He added that the entire process “does not look good from the road.”
Catherine Nikolla, a former town councilor and school building committee member, said she had to “keep a straight face” about the talk of restructuring because “the school has been restructured ever since it was built.”
Ms. Nikolla went on to say that she is not happy that the committee allowed former Superintendent Basan Nembirkow to fire people at will. “You were his boss and you allowed it,” she said, adding that she was sorry in many ways that she got involved in building the building.
He closed the article with a comment from Acting Superintendent Sheryl Stanton who said “the comments were appreciated, but she noted that underrepresented parents and staff, who would offer the other side to the story, had not come out to speak publicly, for whatever reason.
Once that side does speak publicly, she suggested, is “when you get traction.”
Former Middle/High teacher John McHugh remarked on his comments on Councilor Moriarty’s Facebook page:
My full remarks are as follows: Important Questions that need to be answered.
1. Where are the decision making matrices that define the problems that this restructuring plan is supposed to solve?
a. What are the exact quantifiable problems with the way the ISS Program is being run? What were the other options that were examined? What are the blessing and curses, positive and negative with leaving the status quo or the other options?
b. What are the quantifiable problems with the single principal model that we now have? Again, what other courses of action were examined? What are the blessing and curses, positive and negative with leaving the status quo or the other options?
c. Dr. Page brought up the idea of using a Jr. High model and moving the sixth grade back to the elementary schools. Was this idea ever discussed as to its merits and impact on the district? If the district went to a Jr. High / Sr. High Model would there still be a need for dual principals?
2. Where is the decision making matrix on not conducting a superintendent search starting when the then acting / interim Superintendent Buzz Nimberkow was let go or quit? Then again when Gardner was asked to leave?
3. The Following are statements:
a. Southbridge Public Schools deserve and need a Superintendent who is totally focused on the schools and the students. This requires a Superintendent who is qualified and experienced and one that is not working on their PhD. It is in the nature of attaining a PhD that the candidate must do original research… In common terms they must experiment on our students. In essence our students become stepping stones to the PhD candidate’s future.
b. It is the appearance that the Southbridge Public Schools are being run by caprice, whim, and vindictiveness. We, the citizens and taxpayers Southbridge deserve to know the facts behind the decisions that are being made in our name.
c. I have no way of knowing whether Superintendent Stanton is the best person for the job or not. But I do know that she is the product of the Buzz / Gardner vetting system. That is enough to know that maybe she carries some of the stain of those failed administrations.
4. Finally, is there a plan to reduce the 30 central office / administrative positions that are listed on the DESE website?