Thursday, December 31, 2015

DESE Board Meeting On Southbridge - December 15, 2015 - VIDEO

On December 15 the Board of Directors of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education held a regularly scheduled meeting in Malden.

On the agenda for that meeting was a discussion of the just released District Review for the Southbridge School District.

As a result of that review, as well as a consideration of prior history, Commissioner Mitchell Chester indicated that the prospect that Southbridge would be moved into level V status remained on the table.

If that were to take place, Southbridge would join Lawrence and Holyoke as Massachusetts communities that the DESE had moved into receivership. 

Following is a video of that meeting as it relates to Southbridge.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mulder And Scully Return

The truth is out there… and we’ve got the inside story on the thrilling return of The X-Files.

After 14 years Mulder and Scully return for six episodes covering the gamut from the paranormal to the extraterrestrial.

Go behind the scenes with Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and all the key players as they reveal secrets from the set and take you on the epic journey of bringing this classic series back to TV.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Letter From DESE To Southbridge School Committee

Click link for related article in Worcester Telegram

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - December 28, 2015

Most Massachusetts Communities Ignore Public Records Law

The Massachusetts public records law (MGL Ch 66 §10) provides that the custodian of any such record shall respond to a request for a copy of that record within ten days. It also provides that (in most cases ) such a copy shall cost five dollars for the first six pages and fifty cents for each additional page. If a search is required to provide such a record, the requester shall “pay the actual expense of such search.”

A test co-sponsored by The Boston Globe and WCVB television found that 58% of the cities and towns in Massachusetts failed to comply with the law. 

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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

AG Rules Southbridge School Committee Did Not Violate Meeting Law

Susan Spencer Teleggram & Gazette Staff

The Southbridge School Committee did not violate the state's Open Meeting Law when it voted to appoint an interim superintendent and a recording secretary in July, the attorney general's office ruled last week.

But Assistant Attorney General Hanne Rush wrote in her letter of Dec. 22 to the School Committee's lawyer, Kimberly Rozak, that because commitee Chairman Scott S. Lazo knew the identity of the sole candidate for each of the two positions, he should have posted their names on the meeting agendas.

Herding Cats

On December 15th the Board of Directors of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education met in Malden. On their agenda was the issue of the continuing underperformance of the Southbridge school system.

The Worcester Telegram reported, “Deeply troubled about the state of Southbridge public schools, Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester said a recommendation to place the district in Level 5 receivership is not off the table.” 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Emergency School Committee Meeting - December 28, 2015

Southbridge School Committee

Emergency Special Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

December 28, 2015

7 PM

The O'Zone reports that the letter from DESE Commissioner Chester advises the School Committee to suspend the Superintendent search until the receivership issue is resolved.







Addicted To Fear

This has been a bad year for America. We've lost the ability to tune out. We no longer know how to calm down and appreciate what we have. Switch off the wi-fi for a few days, turn off the TV, and it's amazing how much more reasonable the world instantly seems.

Though our economy may not be what it was, we're actually safer and less susceptible to crime or war than at any time in our history. But in the same way retailers want us buying on Christmas, others want us scared to death and addicted to news of threats at home and from abroad. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Sufi Muslims Play Christmas Music



Four Schools To Exit Underperforming Status

The state announced that four schools designated as "underperforming," or Level 4, will exit that status after meeting their turnaround goals. Of the more than three dozen schools that the state designated Level 4 in 2010 and 2011, the majority have exited underperforming status.

"Some of the smartest efforts in the Commonwealth can be found in turnaround schools," said Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester. "I'd like to recognize all the educators and families who are providing students with a better future by raising expectations and implementing reforms." 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Track Santa

Abuse Found At Peck School In Hoyoke

The Disability Law Center (DLC) recently released its investigation report on the treatment of children in the Therapeutic Intervention Program (TIP) at the Peck School in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The report shows disturbing findings of “abuse and neglect, improper practices, and unsafe conditions” and that “[t]he District must take immediate corrective measures to prevent further harm to these children.”

The DLC, led by Executive Director Christine Griffin (who also serves as Chair to AAPD’s Board of Directors), is an organization “authorized to investigate incidents of alleged abuse, neglect, and civil rights violations of persons with disabilities within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bill Belichik - "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

Health Care Cost Rising At Slowest Rate Since 1961

The revised third quarter economic data contained some good news for President Obama and the Democrats. Thanks to Obamacare healthcare costs have risen at their slowest rate since 1961.

From The White House:

Prices of health care services have risen just 0.7 percent over the past four quarters, extending the recent period of exceptionally slow health care price inflation, while expanding coverage has driven faster growth in aggregate utilization of health care services. Prior to 2015, an increase in health care services prices as low as the 0.7 percent increase over the most recent four quarters had not been seen since 1961.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SpaceX Historic Rocket Landing


Southbridge Classification And Tax Rate Slide Presentation


     READ MORE >>>>

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - December 21, 2015

2015 Lie of the Year: the campaign misstatements of Donald Trump

Politifact 

It’s the trope on Trump: He’s authentic, a straight-talker, less scripted than traditional politicians. That’s because Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down. Bending the truth or being unhampered by accuracy is a strategy he has followed for years.

"People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts," Trump wrote in his 1987 best-seller The Art of the Deal. "People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Southbridge Town Council Agenda - December 21 2015

Town Council Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

December 21, 2015

7 PM



Agenda

Dianne Williamson: A view from the Southbridge educational trenches


Kelly Landine is a gifted, devoted teacher at Southbridge High School, deemed so troubled and chaotic that it's at risk of a state takeover.

I've known her for years and once sat in on an English class she taught at Quinsigamond Community College. I was awed by her ease in the classroom and her connection to the kids, many of them minority students. She made them laugh and made learning fun, and it was clear they adored her.

What Is The Law On School Receivership?

The Massachusetts General Laws lay down the broad terms related to receivership of a school district. Specifically such actions are governed by Part I, Title XII, Chapter 69, Section 1K. That Section is titled “Determination of district's chronic under-performance; designation of receiver; creation of turnaround plan; annual review; failure of municipality to fulfill fiscal responsibilities.”

As will be seen the law allows a good deal of discretion in spelling out the details of receivership. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Boston Globe Editorial Board On The Holyoke Receivership

Holyoke schools have the best chance if the state takes over

Massachusetts Education Commissioner
 Mitchell Chester recommended the
 state take over Holyoke schools.
Chronically underperforming
school districts are often a hodgepodge of dysfunctional components. They require dramatic and decisive intervention in order to give their students a better shot at success. The Holyoke Public Schools have reached that crossroads. Late last month, State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester recommended that the state take over the Holyoke schools and bring in outside help. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should grant Chester’s request to put the district into receivership — a proven path to improving struggling schools. 

Is Moriarty’s Decision Fair To Southbridge?

Ken O’Brien 
Council Chair Shaun Moriarty has announced his decision to resign from the Southbridge Town Council effective January 9, 2016.

However, he has already resigned his position as Council Chairman. That resignation was effective as of December 15.

His reasoning is that this will spare the town the need to hold a special election prior to the regular election to be held the last Tuesday in June.

The question is, “Is this really fair to the voters of Southbridge?” 

Friday, December 18, 2015

DESE Solicits Bids For Receivership Of Southbridge Schools

The Worcester Telegram reports that the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has issued a bulletin calling for bids from individuals and nonprofit groups interested in serving as a receiver for Southbridge schools.

"This BID is designed to select an individual or nonprofit organization to serve as the receiver of the Southbridge Public Schools, should the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education vote to designate the district as Level 5,” the bulletin said. 

DESE Slide Presentation On Southbridge District Review




Thursday, December 17, 2015

Who Is the Biggest Liar in the 2016 Election?

 December 15, 2015

George Orwell once said politicians' words are "designed to make lies sound truthful and murder sound respectable." PolitiFact, founded by the Tampa Bay Times in 2007, was designed to examine those truthful sounding lies – and some outrageous sounding truths – and to determine the actual facts underlying both.

The website doesn't check every politician's or candidate's statements, just the ones likely to provoke the most debate. But even by that scattershot standard, the website has had its work cut out for it this election cycle, as PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan discussed in a recent piece for the New York Times.

Let's Set The Record Straight

Ken O'Brien

Last night Rob Curtin of the DESE presented his report on the District Review of Southbridge schools.

Following the presentation, and several comments from School Committee members, Chairman Scott Lazo offered some closing remarks.

The gist of those remarks was that he and his three new colleagues on the committee marked a new day, distinctly different from the prior committee chaired by Lauren McLoughlin.

He particularly pointed to the search for a new Superintendent of Schools, not just now but in 2010 as well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Congratulations Councilor Vecchia

Ken O’Brien

Kudos are due.

Over a year ago Councilor Albert D. Vecchia, Jr. spearheaded a concerted effort to stem the rising tide of local tax increases.

Monday night’s meeting of the Town Council confirmed his success.

The tax rate was set at $20.21 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. This was a marginal decline from the prior rate of $20.36.

Before proceeding I want to iterate, congratulations Councilor Vecchia and thank you!

The question that next arises is, “What now?” 

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - December 15, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Telegram Reports That “Receivership of Southbridge Schools Possible”

Brian Lee reports that “…Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester said a recommendation to place [Southbridge schools] in Level 5 receivership is not off the table.”

Robert Curtin, director of education data services for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, told the board “Statewide, only alternative schools, or those primarily designated for special education students, were lower than Southbridge's middle-high school.”  

Curtin will make a presentation of the District Review report at tonight's School Committee meeting.

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - December 14, 2015

Twitter Feed On DESE Meeting Regarding Southbridge Schools

Ken O'Brien

8:30 AM

There's a contingent from Southbridge here today including @AmeliaPeloquin (also @BLeeTG, so local coverage) #MAEdu

At Mass Board of Ed meeting to hear discussion about the District Review report. Southbridge SC members Lazo and Bishop are here as well.

Here's What Has Happened To Income Distribution


Monday, December 14, 2015

Moriarty's "Goodbye" Message

From Shaun Moriarty's Facebook page:

Priorities.

There are few things that better show your character than what you prioritize in life.

I was raised to uphold a basic tenet that has served me well in life: Make no promise that you cannot or will not keep. In my campaigns for a seat on this Town Council, I didn’t do much in the way of your standard political campaign promises. I did, however, promise two things to the citizenry of Southbridge: 

Moriarty To Resign From Town Council

Brian Lee tweets: Southbridge council chairman Shaun Moriarty announced he is resigning from the nine-member panel, effective Jan. 9







UPDATE

Southbridge Council Chairman Shaun Moriarty to resign By Brian Lee

SOUTHBRIDGE -Town Council Chairman Shaun M. Moriarty announced Monday that he's resigning, effective Jan. 9.

The teacher at Pathfinder Regional Vocational High School in Palmer and former Southbridge Evening News scribe cited his increasing commitments.

Just Wondering...


One Child Every Other Day In Three Years


Trump Driven Hate-Fest Obscures The Real Issue

Ken O'Brien

The public, driven by Republican candidates and media pundits, is preoccupied with the threat of radical Islamic terror.

The reason? The media savvy campaign of one Donald J. Trump.

As one source noted:

81:1.

Does that ratio seem out of whack? That's the ratio of TV airtime that ABC World News Tonight has devoted to Donald Trump's campaign (81 minutes) versus the amount of TV time World News Tonight has devoted to Bernie Sanders' campaign this year. And even that one minute for Sanders is misleading because the actual number is closer to 20 seconds.

For the entire year. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Republicans Give Big Oil Billions To Export Domestic Oil


Only a person who has been comatose over the past couple of decades is unaware that there are no lengths too far for Republicans to go to provide profits for the oil industry at the expense of the American people; both economically and health-wise. It is just what they exist to do and they are at it again. Republicans are wont to claim that America’s energy independence is their primary concern to prevent providing the Middle East with oil profits from American consumers, but they are a day away from making America much less energy independent and the oil industry billions more in profits. 

Southbridge Schools: What Next?

Ken O'Brien

The Worcester Telegram has described the recently issued report on the Southbridge school district as “scathing”.

Anybody who read the report on this site two days in advance of the Telegram article didn’t need to be told that.

What we did get from the Telegram article was a repetition of the views of Southbridge School Committee Chairman Scott Lazo. He summed up his comments by saying, “…we are ready to correct a five-year mess.”

His comments have been echoed in the past by former Chairman of the Committee, Jack Jovan.

As the report makes eminently clear, the problems go back to 2004 when the district was first declared underperforming. Trying to limit it to the last five years is grossly unrealistic.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DESE Board Meets On Tuesday: Southbridge Schools On Agenda


Ken O'Brien

The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 15.

The agenda contains an item specifically related to the just issued District Review Report on the Southbridge schools.

According to the meeting agenda:

Good Guy With A Gun





                                GO TO VIDEO

Thursday, December 10, 2015

State Releases Southbridge School District Review Report

The state issued the result of its review of the Southbridge School District today. The report is based upon interviews conducted by personnel from DESE’s Center for District and School Accountability from October 19th to October 22nd

The release comes a day before the district is scheduled to host a visit from DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

Below is the Executive Summary of the report (excluding the district profile and a description of the review process) .

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Leadership and Governance
Leadership in the Southbridge Public Schools is currently in a state of disarray. Since 2010, the district has been unable to sustain consistent leadership at any level. The constant change in district and school leadership is symptomatic of the discord that has taken place on the school committee, which has not adhered to its appropriate roles and responsibilities. The school committee has involved itself in the operations of the school district in order to advance personal interest, and interviewees told the review team that the school committee recently exerted its influence into the personnel matters of the district and misappropriated district funds. 

The View On Guns From Down Under

Recently we ran a report on how Australia responded to gun violence. I thought it would be a good idea to gain a perspective on how that action is viewed by the vast majority of Aussies (albeit from a somewhat satirical standpoint). Herewith is one point of view published the day before our article.

******
Australia Enjoys Another Peaceful Day Under Oppressive Gun Control Regime

"...the peaceful two decades that have followed are "probably" because the Australian government decided to strip us of our God-given right to own projectile weaponry capable of shooting down helicopters."

3 December, 2015 10:05
CLANCY OVERELL, Editor  The Betoota Advocate

Due to the nation’s controversial and oppressive gun restrictions, no one has died as a result of a mass-shooting on Australian soil today, for the 7158th day in a row.

Local cinema attendant, Christina Upton can’t believe it has been a whole 19 years and 7 months since a heavily armed white Australian male decided to shoot at a crowd of unsuspecting Australian civilians for no reason.

She says the peaceful two decades that have followed are “probably” because the Australian government decided to strip her of a God-given right to own projectile weaponry capable of shooting down helicopters. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Before Muslims It Was Catholics

Ken O'Brien

Since Donald Trump put forth his proposal that Muslim immigration into the U.S. be put on indefinite hiatus, much has been said about it being a unique and unprecedented watershed in American political history.

Never before, it is repeatedly claimed, has religion been a basis for restricting access to the liberties enjoyed by other immigrants.

The reality, however, is that it is not all that different than the experience of Catholics over the past 200 years.

A wave of anti-immigrant sentiment occurred after the huge migration of Irish Catholics into the U.S. during the potato famine of the mid-19th century.  Continued immigration caused the Roman Catholic population to grow rapidly even in this hostile environment. In 1784 there were only 30,000 Catholics in America but by 1820 this number grew to over 300,000. Petitions from the northeastern states to Congress, asked Congress to pass laws limiting the new immigrants’ right to vote. 

May The Force Protect Us

Somebody has got to say it – December 18 makes an ideal target for ISIS sympathizers.

On that day hundreds of thousands of people will be attending the opening of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

If we learned anything from events in Colorado at the opening of The Dark Knight Rises a few years ago or the more recent case of the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris, it is this - people sitting passively in a theater are perfect targets for a deranged killer or killers. 

It is not any attempt on my part to cast a somber pall over what is expected to be a joyous occasion for so many people. Rather, I hope that by raising this prospect that our security personnel are properly prepared to deal with this matter.

Walmart’s Impact On American Job Loss

A report issued today by the Economic Policy Institute focuses on jobs lost to the U.S. economy as a result of Walmart’s Chinese imports.

Imports from China have cost the United States a lot of jobs—3.2 million of them between 2001 and 2013. And Walmart accounted for around 415,000 of those lost jobs, the  report estimates. That’s 13.2 percent of the jobs lost to Chinese imports that can be attributed to Walmart. 

Stanton Is Superintendent Candidate In Granby

Southbridge’s Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Sheryl Stanton, is a finalist for the Superintendent’s position in Granby.

The three finalists for the permanent Superintendent position will be visiting Granby next week. They will meet with staff and tour the schools during the day. There is an opportunity for any member of the community to come and meet them at an open reception, which will be followed by a School Committee meeting during which the final interview will take place. The public is also welcome to attend the School Committee interviews, as they will be done in Open Session. Both events will take place in the Media Center at Granby Jr.-Sr. High School. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

DESE Head Mitchell Chester In Southbridge December 11

Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester will visit Southbridge this Friday, December 11. He will be accompanied by the author of the report on the site visit assessment of Southbridge schools.

Southbridge Middle/High School is one location Mr. Chester plans to visit.

His visit comes shortly before a planned presentation to the School Committee of the report on the assessment of Southbridge schools prepared following a site visit in October. That presentation will be made to the School Committee on December 15.