Saturday, January 30, 2016

Real Time with Bill Maher: New Rule – Lies Are the New Truth

The Tip Of An Iceberg?

The Worcester Telegram Editorial about the state takeover of Southbridge schools ended by noting, “While the state now has the power to do what’s necessary in running the schools, it can’t do this alone. Just as Southbridge’s problems didn’t occur in isolation, neither will its solutions. It’s up to the entire community, both in the schools and outside the schools, to collaborate in making this work.”

In thinking about this, I can’t help but recall the words of Lisa Rousseau, a Southbridge central office worker at the public hearing on making Southbridge a level 5 district. "We need a huge, huge change in the business office…a lot of our staff have been hired because of WHO THEY KNOW and not because they're qualified." 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Will The Council Shirk Responsibility Again?

The agenda for the January 6th meeting of the General Government subcommittee contained the following item:
2. Review/discuss Town Manager Evaluation form
At the January 11th meeting of the Town Council, Councilor Carrasco announced that he had minutes for the subcommittee meeting. However, he was still typing them up and they would be reported at a later meeting.

At the January 27th meeting of the Town Council Councilor Clemence had apparently assumed the chairmanship of General Government in light of Mr. Carrasco’s accession to Council Chair. She reported that she had no minutes and no meeting scheduled. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - January 27, 2016

The Education Game and How to Play It

By Daniel Chase

I submitted this as part of a challenge for this blog to be a place which fosters creative problem solving.  The intent of the essay is to stimulate other ideas and discussion.

While much discussion has been going on about whether the state takeover is good or not, little discussion is taking place about the educational game as a whole.  The unwritten rules of the game place Southbridge at a great disadvantage.  We are powerless to change these rules.  But we can change the way we play.  If we do that, the state vs. local board issue will become moot.  But sadly at a moral cost. 

Special BESE Meeting - Southbridge Level 5 Public Hearing - January 25, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Southbridge Town Council Agenda - January 27, 2016 UPDATED

Southbridge Town Council Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

January 27, 2016

7 PM

Note: The revised agenda for this meeting was only submitted to the Town Clerk's Office this afternoon. As such any new items may be in violation of the Open Meeting Law.


Southbridge School Committee Meeting - January 26, 2016

Telegram Editorial On State Takeover Of Southbridge Schools

EDITORIAL: A reset in Southbridge – School takeover will help Southbridge turn around its failing schools

It’s not a death sentence, except for the wrong way to run a school system. Think of it as a reset, not just for the Southbridge Public Schools but for the community as a whole.

The Southbridge Public Schools did more than fail its students; it also inadequately prepared students who represent a new generation of Southbridge’s future. This didn’t happen in isolation, however. Southbridge, a town of nearly 17,000 and which has a city form of government, failed its schools. 

Birthday Party For A Rotting Corpse

On Monday, February 15, 2016, Southbridge will mark the 200th anniversary of its incorporation. 
For several years now people have been planning a celebration to commemorate the event.

I, for one, cannot join in that celebration.

Yesterday, three weeks before that event, the state decided that it had to take over the Southbridge public school system in order to restore it to a meaningful level of competency. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Letter From Commissioner Chester

DESE Press Release On Receivership For Southbridge

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Declares Southbridge Public Schools Chronically Underperforming

Vote authorizes the education commissioner to appoint a receiver for the district to dramatically improve outcomes for all students

BOSTON - The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education today voted 9-0 with one abstention to designate Southbridge Public Schools a chronically underperforming ("Level 5") district, thereby authorizing Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester to appoint a receiver for the district.

DESE Board Votes Receivership For Southbridge Schools

Mitchell Chester
At its meeting this morning the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education voted with only one abstention to classify the Southbridge school system as Level 5.

This designation as a chronically underperforming district will result in the appointment of a receiver by Commissioner Mitchell Chester. In the meantime Chester will serve as interim receiver until a permanent choice is made, effective immediately.

The receiver will assume the responsibilities of the superintendent as well as the school committee.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Southbridge Schools Hearing - January 25, 2016

At emotional hearing on Southbridge schools, some urge state takeover

A Couple Of Notable Quotes From Tonight's Hearing

Lisa Rousseau, Southbridge central office worker, "We need a huge, huge change in the business office…a lot of our staff have been hired because of WHO THEY KNOW and not because they're qualified"

Paul Sagan, Board member,  "I have to say that this is an unusual meeting for us...I don't know what else to say."

Mitchell Chester, I have recommended that "we do vote to take receivership"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Former Southbridge High Teacher Weighs In

Today's Worcester Telegram contained a letter to the Editor from a former teacher at Southbridge High school.

I read where Southbridge Schools are in danger of being taken over by the state. This comes as no surprise to me; someone who taught mathematics at Southbridge High School.

It is my understanding that Southbridge has had seven superintendents and seven principals since 2011 – that is almost unfathomable. I mean, that should have set off alarms at every level of government. What is the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education thinking; that the eighth principal and superintendent of schools will turn Southbridge around? What has Representative Peter Durant done to help in this regard? What about the Southbridge Board of Selectmen and School Board – they hire and fire all these people. 

Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

The time has come to do something about the educational system in Southbridge.

For almost thirteen years the district has been identified by the state as performing well below acceptable standards.

Residents know that the problems with the system have persisted even longer than that. 

For a period, under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dale Hanley, the district was making progress in improving its performance.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Group Stages Pro-Casella Rally

P.A. Roddy

Asserting their right to sell out to economic interests, a group of Southbridge residents staged a protest outside State offices on Friday.

Members of the group calling itself Casella Residents Accepting Pollutants said that their status as an environmental justice community is a two-sided coin.

“What people fail to realize is that in order to assure environmental protection for most people requires the relentless exploitation of a few,” said group spokesperson Didi Clemens. “It is the right of a community to sacrifice its long-term well-being for short term gains. The people of Southbridge have done this for years and have honed it to a fine art.” 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Stanton Chosen As Granby Superintendent

The assistant superintendent of Southbridge Public Schools, Sheryl Stanton, has been tapped to be the new Granby superintendent.

The school board here had offered the position to Agawam High School principal Steven Lemanski last month on a 4-1 vote, and he had accepted, pending agreement on a contract. The other vote went to Stanton.

The district this week announced the parties did not come to a settlement, and consequently offered the position to Stanton.

"The Granby School Committee announced at their meeting on Jan. 21, 2016 that (it was) unable to come to an agreement with Steven Lemanski regarding a contract as the next superintendent of the Granby Public Schools," the board said in a prepared statement released Friday morning.

Southbridge Town Council Agenda - January 27, 2016

Southbridge Town Council Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

January 27, 2016

7 PM


Southbridge School Committee Agenda - January 26, 2016

School Committee Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

January 26, 2016

7 PM


Thursday, January 21, 2016

State Releases Graduation/Dropout Rates For 2015

The state today released graduation and dropout rates for 2015. 

Below is provided a copy of these results for Southbridge Middle/High School. Comparable data is also given for the preceding five years (2010 to 2012 are for Southbridge High School. Afterwards the results are for Southbridge Middle/High School). Of particular note is the sudden increase in non-graduating completers in 2013 and 2014 and its dramatic rise in 2015. 

DESE Board Changes Agenda For January 26 Meeting

The Board of Directors of the DESE has changed the agenda for its January 26 meeting since yesterday.

Previously the agenda called for merely holding a discussion of the possibility of receivership for Southbridge. Any vote on the matter had been planned for February 23rd's meeting.

The agenda item now reads:
  1. Southbridge Public Schools: Commissioner's Recommendation on Level 5 District Status - Discussion and Possible Vote

Southbridge Superintendent Candidate Interviews

And Now, A Moment For All The People Crazier Than All The Southbridge Officials Combined

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Telegram Reports On Superintendent Candidate Interviews

Writing in the Worcester Telegram, Brian Lee reported on Wednesday’s interviews of candidates by the Southbridge School Committee.

Sheryl Stanton, Southbridge's assistant superintendent; Richard D’Agostino, a retired Warwick, Rhode Island, superintendent; and Amy McKinstry, Northbridge director of curriculum, were interviewed by committee members Scott Lazo, Dr. Raymond Page, Jill Congdon, William Bishop and Amelia Peloquin.

Why The Delay?

Mitchell Chester
The DESE will hold a public hearing on whether or not the public school district in Southbridge will be taken over by the state. It will hold that meeting next Monday starting at 4:30 in the auditorium at the old high school.

The following day the Board of Directors of the DESE will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at Roxbury Community College. On the agenda is a discussion  of the Southbridge case. However, Commissioner Chester has indicated that he does not expect a vote to be held until the Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on February 23rd. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Selective Memory At Work

Today’s Worcester Telegram contains an article titled “Southbridge superintendent interviews planned Wednesday”.

In that article Southbridge School Committee Chairman Scott Lazo lashes out at the State DESE, local legislators and the previous school committee.

We have criticized Mr. Lazo and others in the past for overlooking the fact that in 2010 as members of the school committee they dissolved the search committee and went ahead without them. The “process” resulted in the selection of Eric Ely as Superintendent whose troubled term ended with his dismissal.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bernie Sanders for President

With integrity and principle, the Vermont senator is calling Americans to a political revolution.
By The Editors of The Nation January 14, 2016

A year ago, concerned that ordinary citizens would be locked out of the presidential nominating process, The Nation argued that a vigorously contested primary would be good for the candidates, for the Democratic Party, and for democracy. Two months later, Senator Bernie Sanders formally launched a campaign that has already transformed the politics of the 2016 presidential race. Galvanized by his demands for economic and social justice, hundreds of thousands of Americans have packed his rallies, and over 1 million small donors have helped his campaign shatter fund-raising records while breaking the stranglehold of corporate money. Sanders’s clarion call for fundamental reform—single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the breaking up of the big banks, ensuring that the rich pay their fair share of taxes—have inspired working people across the country. His bold response to the climate crisis has attracted legions of young voters, and his foreign policy, which emphasizes diplomacy over regime change, speaks powerfully to war-weary citizens. Most important, Sanders has used his insurgent campaign to tell Americans the truth about the challenges that confront us. He has summoned the people to a “political revolution,” arguing that the changes our country so desperately needs can only happen when we wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What’s The Point?

Shortly after the DESE Commissioner announced his recommendation that the Southbridge School District be placed in receivership the Southbridge School Committee's agenda to interview candidates for Superintendent appeared on the town's website.

One has to ask in all earnestness, what’s the point?

On January 12th the Worcester Telegram reported that George P. King Jr., the assistant superintendent of the Bolton-based Nashoba Regional School District, withdrew his candidacy for superintendent. 

Gun Deaths Surpass Motor Vehicle Deaths in 21 States

Gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, a new analysis from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) finds.

ISIS Cash Cache Clobbered

The Defense Department has released a video showing the U.S. bombing of an Islamic State cash stockpile in Mosul, Iraq, on Monday.

Prisoner Swap With Iran

Jason Rezaian
Iran has released four imprisoned U.S. citizens, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, as part of a swap, the office of Tehran’s prosecutor announced Saturday, according to Iranian news media.

The other released prisoners include Amir Hekmat, a former U.S. Marine, and Saeed Abedni, a pastor, and a fourth unnamed American. All four are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens. Rezaian has been held since 2014.

According to Iran’s Fars News Agency, the four were ordered released in exchange for seven Iranian-Americans held in the United States on sanctions-related charges.

MSNBC is reporting that a fifth American, not directly related to the other four, is also being released.

Lazo, Connors Comment On State Action

Speaking to WBUR radio, the Chairman of the Southbridge School Committee as well as the district’s interim Superintendent gave their views on the proposed state takeover of local schools.

Scott F. Lazo, chairman of the Southbridge School Committee, called the December district review “a cherry-picked report of various deficiencies.” He said it ignores the work a new school committee has been doing since it was elected in July.

“We inherited a disastrous atmosphere and a district under siege,” Lazo said Friday. “It seems like the commissioner has not seen the new school committee and the good things that are happening.” 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Southbridge Special School Committee Meeting Agenda - January 20, 2016

Special School Committee Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

January 20, 2016

6 PM


I. Call to Order/Roll Call

II. Welcome and Pledge of Allegiance

Commissioner Recommends Receivership For Southbridge Schools

The exact details of how that action will occur still require that several steps be played out. The first is a public hearing here in Southbridge on January 25th followed by a vote of the Board of Directors of the DESE on January 26th or February 23rd.

Assuming the Board votes to support the Commissioner a Turnaround Plan will be worked out between the DESE,  the group or individual chosen as receiver and local stakeholders. Until this plan is issued all the details of the receivership remain speculative.

The Commissioner’s  press release follows:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Receivership Experience In Lawrence

Tomorrow State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester is scheduled to announce his decision on receivership for Southbridge schools.

If he decides to recommend that such an action be taken, the Board of Education will vote on the issue at its meeting on January 26th.

Prior to such a vote a public hearing will be held in Southbridge at the old high school auditorium on January 25th.

In consideration of what I think is the likely event that such action is taken, I am reprinting an article from Education Week that recounts the experience of such a program in 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Olivo Announces Resignation From School Committee

Citing changes in his personal life as well as needs related to his military commitments, school committee member Christopher Olivo announced his resignation from that body. He stated his ongoing support for the committee and its ongoing efforts.

As with prior recent resignations, his successor will be appointed by a joint meeting of the school committee and the town council.

Also, during the Chairman's Announcements segment of the meeting, Mr. Lazo announced that a public hearing on whether the state should exercise its authority to place Southbridge schools into receivership would be held in the old high school auditorium on January 25th.

Process Be Damned

Arrogance and ego apparently still prevail on the Southbridge School Committee.

Over the weekend interim Superintendent Connors announced his plan to treat the middle/high school as two separate facilities in one building. He stated that he intended to present the proposal to tonight's meeting of the school committee.

During the interview he specifically used the phrase “as originally planned” in reference to having two principals and two separate schools in one building.

The fact is clear that he is parroting one of the favorite refrains of current committee Chair Scott Lazo. Anyone who has followed the matter will recognize not only the phraseology but the vehemence with which it was presented. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Revisiting Span Of Control At SMHS

Back in 2012 when this issue first arose I wrote a piece on the subject of whether Southbridge Middle/High School should have one or two principals.Tuesday night's meeting of the Southbridge School Committee will once again address this issue.

Interim Superintendent Timothy Connors will recommend operating the middle/high school as two separate facilities in one building according to the Worcester Telegram.

The core issue is whether Southbridge Middle/High School will have one principal with oversight of the entire school or two independent principals – one for the Middle School and one for the High School.That is, which administrative model, one or two principals, makes the most sense from a management standpoint?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Connors Will Recommend Splitting Middle/High School

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee, interim Superintendent Timothy Connors will recommend operating the middle/high school as two separate facilities in one building according to the Worcester Telegram.

In the memo that contained this plan, Connors also appeared to be planning for a state takeover of the district.

Concerning the two-buildings-in-one concept, Mr. Connors told the Telegram & Gazette: “I’ve been telling the School Committee since I got here that it’s something we need to move forward with, and I’ll be talking to the School Committee about it at their meeting on Tuesday evening.” 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Obama Calls Out NRA

During the nationally televised town hall on gun violence on CNN, President Obama called out the NRA for not showing up and revealed that the Obama White House has repeatedly invited the NRA to the White House, but they have declined to show up.

The President said:
By the way, there’s a reason that the NRA is not here. They’re just down the street, and since this is the main reason that they exist you’d think that they’d be prepared to have a debate with the President. 

I'm Donald Trump. How Dare You Interrupt Me!

Bernie Sanders protesters interrupted Donald Trump’s rally in Vermont, which led to Trump demanding the protesters’ coats be confiscated, and they be thrown out into the cold Burlington night.

After being interrupted by protesters chanting Bernie, Trump tried to play tough guy and have the protesters coats confiscated because it was “ten below outside” according to the Republican frontrunner.

Southbridge School Committee Agenda - January 12, 2016

School Committee Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

January 12, 2016

7 PM


Southbridge Town Council Agenda - January 11, 2016

Southbridge Town Council Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

January 11, 2016

7 PM


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Superintendent Search Committee Names Finalists

Brian Lee reports in the Worcester Telegram that Richard D’Agostino, a retired Warwick, Rhode Island, superintendent; George P. King Jr., the assistant superintendent of Bolton-based Nashoba Regional School District; Amy McKinstry, Northbridge director of curriculum; and Sheryl Stanton, Southbridge assistant superintendent, were announced as finalists for the position of Southbridge's Superintendent of Schools.

Also Thursday, the search committee issued a letter to state Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester explaining why it went against his recommendation to delay the search.

The commissioner is considering recommending that the Level 4 underperforming district be declared Level 5 and chronically underperforming. It would trigger the appointment of a receiver who would have the authority of superintendent and School Committee.

Earls Tenders Resignation From SMHS

Melissa Earls has submitted her resignation from Southbridge Middle/High School effective June 30th, according to The Worcester Telegram.

Mrs. Earls said she has been hired as head of schools for Academy Hill School in Springfield, a pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 independent school for gifted and talented students. Its enrollment is approximately 107 students. Mrs. Earls said the head of schools there is leaving for a post at a similar but larger school in Virginia. "This place came after me. I didn’t send an application out," said Mrs. Earls, whose daughter, Emma, will graduate from Academy Hill School this year. 

Earth’s Climate Is In Our Hands

'Love Song to the Earth' - Sean Paul, Natasha Bedingfield, Paul McCartney and others

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

DESE Commissioner: “No comment” On Southbridge School Committee Action

Mitchell Chester
Ken O'Brien

On December 28 the Southbridge School Committee held an emergency special meeting to discuss a letter from DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester. In his letter the Commissioner advised that the committee suspend its search for a permanent Superintendent pending the Board of Education’s decision on receivership for the district.

After emerging from executive session, the committee voted five to zero to continue its search.

The following day I contacted the Commissioner’s office to determine if he had any response to that action 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

State legislators Fattman, Durant weigh in on Southbridge schools takeover

State lawmakers from the area are taking notice of a possible takeover of the Southbridge school system. State education officials have described the system as being in disarray and a candidate for receivership.

Sen. Ryan C. Fattman, R-Webster, will meet Thursday at the Statehouse with Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester and other members of the Baker administration to discuss the troubled district. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

First Issue Of Southbridge Newsletter Online

On the cover it is listed as Volume 1, Issue 1.

 In its four pages are a number of articles expounding the virtues of the community. Also included are some exhortations to the readers of the publication to participate in the activities of the town, to support local businesses and to talk up the benefits of living in Southbridge.

Among the featured pieces are an article about groundbreaking for the new administration building and hangar at Southbridge airport, Southbridge’s participation in the “Goods For Guns” program, the town’s receipt of a $30,000 community compact grant and an educational forum on alcohol and substance abuse.

We look forward to seeing how frequently the newsletter will be issued and hope that it will contain increasingly substantive information about the town, its government and local events.