Saturday, October 17, 2015

Troubling Questions About Bliss Departure

Ken O’Brien

Like so many things in Southbridge, recent events in the school system have brought out the usual trolls.

 Rancid comments from those who have, and will apparently never stop having, a stake in sanitizing past failures fill the prior article announcing the Superintendent’s resignation.

But there are confusing issues raised by the recent departure of Superintendent of Schools Steven Bliss. In fact, a careful consideration of the available information raises more questions than it provides answers.

Let us start with the premise that Mr. Bliss had decided that he wished to leave his position for whatever reason.

The first public indication of his potential decision was the announcement at October 6th’s meeting of the School Committee that he was on medical leave.

This was followed up at Wednesday’s special meeting with the announcement of his resignation. According to the Worcester Telegram the School Committee Chairman cited Mr. Bliss’ health concerns as the reason for his decision.

If the explaining had stopped there it would have been the end of the matter (at least for most people). Whether it was the real or entire reason, there would be little ground in questioning it.

However, it did not end there.

Mr. Bliss followed up the School Committee’s announcement with an email to the Worcester Telegram. In that email he stated that in addition to the health matter, he also found that the job was not the right fit for him.

After a couple of medical issues spanning the past two weeks and, “much soul searching, I decided that the work of the Superintendent is simply not a good fit for me in that the work for the most part had little to do with teaching and learning and causes one to be further removed from working with students and teachers in a meaningful way,” he said.

“I have decided to pursue other professional opportunities in the field of education, be it in the form of educational consulting work or in a private school setting,” Mr. Bliss said.

It is downright impossible to believe that after four years as an Assistant Superintendent and two years as Superintendent at the Dover-Sherborn District that this came as a surprise. However, it did reflect essentially the same message as his farewell to that district where he said, “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.”

Regardless of what his detractors may wish to imply, Mr. Bliss is not a stupid man. He was certainly aware of the Southbridge school system’s troubled history. Why would he aggravate the situation with this additional explanation when the medical excuse was certainly adequate and essentially non-controversial? The elaboration certainly would not be helpful in gaining another Superintendent’s position.

It is also open to question why, after having his “application” since May and having hurriedly appointed him permanent Superintendent, the Committee and he had failed to reach agreement on a contract. 

Despite the desire of those with vested interests to seek simplistic excuses, there seems to be more at play here than meets the eye.

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