Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why’d They Diss Bliss?

Ken O’Brien

Allow me to return for a moment to the issue of the recent action by the majority of the School Committee to extend the contract of Sheryl Stanton for another year.

At the time of the vote the Committee had an application in hand from Steven Bliss who had recently announced his departure from the position of Superintendent of the Dover-Sherborn school district.

Committee Vice-Chair Kara Donovan referred to any consideration of Mr. Bliss as changing the process for a person. Committee Chair Lauren McLouhglin stated that she believed Bliss had submitted his letter based upon inside information, which she found very concerning. 

Frankly I find both of those remarks extremely disingenuous.

Even more absurd were the remarks by Committee member Brent Abrahamson who referenced the disastrous search that resulted in the appointment of Eric Ely. When he spoke of the search process being hijacked by the School Committee I couldn’t help but think that was precisely what had been done by this majority since the subject of a search was first broached.

I wish that someone had proposed asking Mr. Bliss if he would be open to serving a year as interim superintendent and delaying the vote until he responded. Based upon the Committee’s schedule, that would only be a matter of a week.

If he was interested then it would have come down to Ms. Stanton who less than a year ago was a middle school principal, served six months as Director of Teaching and Learning and four months as acting superintendent. The argument that extending her contract would contribute to the district's stability hold as much water as a sieve.

 On the other hand we would have had Mr. Bliss who had twice before been a school principal (in Southbridge and Sturbridge), had served four years as an assistant superintendent and two years as a superintendent. In addition, from all I have been able to find, he received glowing comments from all of those concerned with his previous positions.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, the majority of the school committee was primarily motivated by its desire to put a principal in her place – the students be damned!


NOTE: There is still the somewhat distant possibility that, assuming Mr. Bliss would consider a one year appointment as acting superintendent, the vote to appoint Ms. Stanton could be rescinded. Normally, according to Robert's Rules, you cannot rescind a vote when "a person has been elected, and the person was present or has been notified of the action." However it is to be noted that this vote was pending contract negotiation. If a fourth vote was obtained that would block approval of any contract then the motion could be rescinded and a vote between the two candidates could be held.


  1. They say that you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It appears that not only did the four members of the school committee do that; they also decided to act like the horse’s other end.

  2. Go back and read the Southbridge News article when Bliss bailed from Wells and went to Tantasqua. He sh@t all over Southbridge.
    Now he needs a job!
    How about a real search for a LEADER !

    1. Since the online archives for the Southbridge Evening News only go back to March 2008 and he left Wells in 2006, perhaps you could supply us with a copy of the article you refer to.

  3. Give a good guy a break.May 17, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    He did not sh#t all her Southbridge- what he stated was true, and if he was listened to we would not have the mess we have.

  4. Give a good guy a break.May 17, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    (All over)

  5. Please talk with the people over at Dover-Sherborn before you lay out the welcome mat.

    1. What I do know is that the School Board in Dover Sherborn expressed regret at his departure. Also, during his tenure the D-S district slipped from Level I to Level II due to results at the middle school. It returned to Level I the following year.

  6. Better Than StantonMay 17, 2015 at 5:57 PM

    Do your homework new school committee. But he will most cer be better than Stanton.

    1. Do your homework indeedMay 18, 2015 at 2:27 PM

      To better than Stanton - statements without facts to back them up are useless and are generally seen as dirty politics.

      Did Stanton do any of the things that Bliss has done over the years?

      Bliss has an MO moving on quickly - Bliss said. “It is very important to me to come into a district to make changes, to get momentum moving and move on. It’s kind of my MO. And everyone knew that coming in.”

      Bliss was overly involved in an at risk school choice student from Southbridge not only involving their legal eligibility to attend Tantasqua but also in allowing use of the School pool on the weekends without direct supervision or rental fees.

      Bliss starts the great Crime and Punishment debate when he over reacted to the Senior week Relay for life prank in a rather DUCKY way. Resulting in the suspensions being reduced and graduates allowed to walk at graduation .

      Bliss is being less than honest in his reasons for leaving Dover Sherborn if he is applying here for the very same position and without a job listing existing.

      Bliss added that working with children and families is a mission that speaks to his heart.
      His decision to resign, as he put it, is rooted in the students.
      Bliss added, “At the end of the day, however, and as I have long believed, one must truly love the daily tasks he/she is called upon to do in his/her job, and that is an obstacle I simply cannot overcome. Simply put, I miss being with kids and miss the daily interaction found in the classroom and in the schools.”

      So, how exactly is Bliss better than Stanton? Thought so!

    2. To do your homework indeed
      Looking over your attempt to disqualify Mr. Bliss you provide very little of substance in evaluating a nine year record since he left Wells.
      First you maintain that he has an MO of moving on quickly. He spent 3 years at Tantasqua and 6 years at Dover Sherborn, four as Assistant Superintendent and two as Superintendent. Just how is any of that moving on quickly?
      Second, you lump together two events with the vague accusation of being “overly involved”. Just what does that mean? I encourage people to read the article you cite from the April 10, 2009 Sturbridge Villager ( You’ll find that he addresses these accusations quite thoroughly.
      Then you accuse him of being less than honest in his reasons for leaving the Dover Sherborn district. On what do you base that accusation? If it’s in relation to his comments about being closer to the students, that’s hardly a basis. There’s a very distinct difference between the relationship to students in a regional school district as opposed to one that encompasses a single town.
      In summary, if this is your catalog of complaints regarding the nine year record of someone in an inherently controversial series of positions, then I would conclude that his record is exemplary.

    3. Bring back BlissMay 18, 2015 at 3:39 PM

      I agree with Mr. O'Brien. Mr. Bliss has an outstanding record while Stanton doesn't have a record. If we're going to go with a one year appointment which is the better choice for our troubled schools? I say go with someone who has proved that they can do the job rather than someone who has yet to prove themselves.

    4. Do your homework indeedMay 18, 2015 at 4:34 PM

      First, these are his words quoted in the article and not mine.
      Bliss said. “It is very important to me to come into a district to make changes, to get momentum moving and move on. It’s kind of my MO. And everyone knew that coming in.”

      2nd - Southbridge hasn't given Stanton a chance to do the job that she stepped up to do for us. She already knows all the players, understands the issues and can make faster and more informed decisions than anyone new coming in and without going through the districts learning curve all over again.

      We have had so much change that it has cost us dearly in almost every way imaginable. If you feel that Bliss is so qualified for the position let him apply when the position is actually available and go through the official process like anyone else.

      3rdly, We've heard the better than slice bread argument before. Didn't Buzz use similar language when leaving other positions before taking on another? How did that dishonesty and all his years of experience and outstanding record work out for us? Embrace the concept and logic as we have been down the dark road of experience before,

      Look, everyone's job is more difficult when others put up roadblocks. A decision has been made and now its time to support Stanton and give her a chance. The concern for our school district are well document on this blog and now is the time to stand strong behind Stanton unless or until an actually proven reason exists to do otherwise. Imagine where Mr Bliss's career would be today if others never gave him the same chance that you are trying to denying Stanton.

    5. First, if that’s the case, isn’t that what you want?
      Second, what you say about Stanton could be said about just anybody in the system. She didn’t have to take a very big step to take a job that was basically handed to her. If anything the Chair delayed and delayed naming a search committee with the obvious intent of extending Stanton’s contract.
      What is your obsession with having someone apply when the job is posted? Did Stanton wait for that? The argument, especially when it applies to a one year appointment, is meaningless. Bliss has presented his credentials and interest and deserves as much consideration as Stanton.
      Third, I documented Buzz’s prior history in the article Blind Faith. Nothing similar appears in relation to Bliss. Consequently the analogy does not apply.
      Your final argument, that Stanton has been appointed and therefore we should all stand behind her is just plain vapid. She was appointed (pending acceptance of the terms of a contract to be negotiated) devoid of any competitors for the position. It is my contention that Bliss is better qualified for the post and that is something we should all want.

    6. Hummm Bliss was Ass't Superintendent at Dover Sherborn until then Superintendent Valerie G. Spriggs retired. Read the article here nowhere does it say DS tirelessly search for a Superintendent. They merely promoted their Ass't Superintendent. So what makes Southbridge any different from Dover Sherborn? Superintendent leaves, Ass't Superintendent promoted oh wait we have idiots running the MS/HS and morons on our School Committee!!!

      By Ellen Ishkanian Globe Correspondent January 20, 2013

      Assistant superintendent Steven B. Bliss has been promoted to superintendent of the Dover, Sherborn, and Dover-Sherborn Regional School Districts, and will take over from retiring Superintendent Valerie G. Spriggs, effective in the 2013-2014 school year. Spriggs took over the system in 2008, and Bliss was hired the following year in a partnership that has resulted in the district’s schools “consistently being ranked among the top in the state and nationwide,” according to a press release from the regional school committee. Bliss’s experience as a principal, assistant principal, director of finance/operations, and teacher was cited by the committees, which also said the appointment will provide a smooth transition and “optimum stability for our complex, multi-town school system.” Spriggs will continue as a consultant next year to support the transition.

    7. Do your homework indeedMay 19, 2015 at 12:57 AM

      Yeah No difference! Finally the lights are on and someone is home and awake.
      Finally, somebody gets it. As talk to DS seems to know Bliss wasn't going to be renewed in Dover -Sherborn and needs a job. (Well as much as any trust fund baby does.)
      Stanton stepped up the same positional ladder as Bliss did. Although through circumstances that were a bit more chaotic. Stanton shouldn't be branded with the same Blueberry stains of the S.C. ilk she inherited. She isn't political and has quietly gone about the business of improving education.
      Despite the rumors the restructuring will not be a budget issue without a director of operations salary included in the next budget. Yup she is quietly making changes we have asked for and unfortunately not seeing any love from Southbridge. Separate her from the mess that is the SC and give her a chance to earn your trust. The very same chance Dover-Sherborn gave Bliss.

      However, given the town councils vote tonight of no confidence in the S.C. . now I'm not sure it will matter who is in charge, new or experienced, as the state takeover probably took another step forward, as did the resulting higher taxes. Please be careful what you wish for.

    8. More of the sameMay 19, 2015 at 10:21 PM

      This School Committee has repeatedly failed in its primary responsibility to choose sound leadership for the district. Now we are supposed to trust them in their latest effort? Get real!

  7. get rid of stsntonMay 17, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    Oh, have to agree, Stanton needs to go

  8. The difference is that Southbridge has been running on "Interim" superintendents since Ely left. And they have all been tainted by the Buzz / Gardner mafia.

  9. In light of recent news, we can look back at this and say... "Phew, dodged a bullet with this guy..."


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