Monday, December 28, 2015

Southbridge School Committee To Continue Superintendent Search

Ken O'Brien

Despite a request from the Commissioner of the DESE to suspend its Superintendent search pending a decision on receivership for the district, the Southbridge School Committee decided to continue with that endeavor.

Following the roll call, (during which Dr. Page and Mr. Jovan were excused) the Chairman read agenda item number III. Thereafter he went to agenda item IV and the committee voted to go immediately into executive session. It was indicated that this was to consider the legality of any action related to agenda item III, the letter from DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

After approximately 40 minutes the committee, consisting of Mr. Lazo, Mr. Bishop, Ms. Congdon, Mr. Olivo and Ms. Peloquin returned to open session.

Ms. Congdon opened the discussion by expressing her anger and frustration with the letter from the Commissioner as well as the State officials in general. She indicated that she felt that it was an unwarranted action to request the School Committee to suspend its search. She stated her faith in the school system and the search committee. She stated that she was not opposed to a state takeover, but indicated that she felt that a cooperative venture was what is needed. 

Mr. Bishop stated that he looked forward to fulfilling the committee’s responsibility by appointing a leader for the district.

Mr. Olivo expressed his interest in moving forward and felt that the search should continue. Ms. Peloquin stated that, based upon the legal advice that the committee had been given, she was in favor of moving ahead with the search.

Mr. Lazo indicated that DESE did not know the people of Southbridge and that he felt that the committee was moving forward. He stressed that the committee was doing its job and that the State had engaged in criticisms most appropriately directed at a Superintendent and not the committee.

He concluded by saying that, he too, felt that the committee should move forward with the search.

Town Manager San Angelo appeared to say that the town was here to support the School Committee and requested that the Commissioner’s letter be read into the record. Following that he expressed his concern that anyone hired by the Search Committee might have their position abrogated by a move into receivership.

Ms. Congdon indicated that this was possible and would be made clear to candidates.

Mr. San Angelo indicated that he felt that the State should be requested to indicate what their time frame for action was. 

The meeting was adjourned with no vote and every indication that the Superintendent search committee would continue on its currently prescribed course.


  1. Save our Schools -SOSDecember 29, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Part I of II

    If you are concerned and frustrated about the condition of the Southbridge Public Schools please copy and paste this Open Letter to Governor Baker at:

    Dear Governor Baker,
    The time for action concerning the Southbridge School System has arrived. It time to take emergency executive because of the continuing downward spiral of the Southbridge Public Schools before it is entirely too late. The Southbridge School Committees over the past ten years have shown that they haven’t a clue as to what to do. Every time some progress is made in the school system petty politics has reversed those gains. And, with each debacle in the Southbridge School System many parents have opted for either school choice or to move from the district.
    Some of the problems that these parents and students are escaping from include, but are not limited to the following: Critically high dropout, absentee, and suspension rates; Low test scores and graduation rates; and, most importantly, the inability of the local governing bodies to provide constant and consistent leadership and educational policies. All of the above problems are well documented in the many reports the state has generated over the past fifteen years.
    Southbridge has a fifteen year track record of failure and the state’s department of education seems to be complicit in that failure. Evidence of the failure can be seen in the just the volumes reports generated and no real action taken. It seems evident that even the “professional” educators at the state level haven’t a clue as to what needs to be done in Southbridge. If they did, a reasonable person would think that they would have stepped in long ago if they had a workable solution.
    The time is now for a higher authority to take action and, that authority is you. The Governor of Massachusetts has a duty and a responsibility under the Massachusetts Constitution in Chapter V Section 2 to ensure that the constitutionally mandated education of its citizens be maximized and enforced: “ Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education …”
    This is especially important in today’s global economy where a second class education equates to being condemned to being a second class citizen. The second class education that Southbridge is providing its students will no doubt increase the prison population.

  2. Save our Schools -SOSDecember 29, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Part II of II

    There is an indirect correlation between educational attainment and arrest and incarceration rates, particularly among males, the report finds. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, 56 percent of federal inmates, 67 percent of inmates in state prisons, and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not complete high school. Additionally, the number of incarcerated individuals without a high school diploma is increasing over time. . . .

    … Equity plays a large role in the connection between education level and crime rates; African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. It is no coincidence, the report notes, that these same groups are disproportionately relegated to the nation’s most troubled and low-performing schools.

    The report finds that both school climate and discipline play large roles in whether a student graduates from high school and how likely a student is to be arrested or incarcerated. Suspended students, the report notes, are twice as likely to drop out as those who have not been suspended. African American high school students are at least twice as likely as their non-black peers to be suspended. (Alliance for Excellent Education, 9-12-2013, )

    It is time for you, the Governor of Massachusetts to step in and help solve this problem. You have several choices where you can improve the quality of education for the students of Southbridge by Executive Order:
    1. Direct the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to immediately place the Public Schools of Southbridge into receivership. (However, the DESE has proven that it does not have a solution to the educational problems of Southbridge or they would have done so by now.)
    2. Divide the Town of Southbridge into two parts with one part of the students to attend Dudley Charlton Schools and the other Tantasqua Regional / Union 61 School District. This would only apply to middle and high school students. Allow Southbridge to remain in control of the elementary schools in the district. (Understanding the concerns of the gaining districts concerning test scores whether they be PARKS or MCAS, the scores of the Southbridge students would belong to Southbridge. This would also be an excellent way to gauge the merits of this plan. After ten years, revisit the issue of this forced regionalization to ascertain whether Southbridge regain control of its middle and high school students.)

    In closing, there is no argument that the Southbridge Public Schools have been failing the students and the community for over fifteen years. The efforts of both the School Committees Southbridge and the DESE have been dismal failures and the negative effects on the school and the town can be measured by the many parents who have the financial ability who have opted for school choice or have moved from the district. You can also examine the many other metrics on the failure of the schools such as: suspension rates; failure rates; graduation rates, etc. The condition of the Southbridge Public Schools has also had a negative effect on the housing market because who wants to move to a town with a reputation of failing schools. It is in the best interest of the citizens of Southbridge, especially the students that you exercise your Constitutional Powers to protect the educational rights of the Students of Southbridge.

  3. To SOS
    Here is the list of email addresses for the Board of Education, Sagan is the Chair of the board. (Hope they are correct, found them on FB) (Copy and Paste)

  4. I don't think it's a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you. The school committee should suspend the search.


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