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Supt. Franco saved School Committee from embarrassing itself

Lowell-Supt-Jean-Franco-with-young-learners

Supt. Jean Franco knew that there was no way that this School Committee would approve this motion tonight.

Steve Gendron: Request the School Committee extend the contract of Jean Franco by one year through June of 2016.

At best, they would refer this to a sub-committee after saying nice things about the Superintendent in public but in private her fate was sealed when the committee as a whole, backed out of the 2 year contract she agreed on and only offered and signed her to the one (1) year deal.

Supt. Franco saved the Committee from themselves and from having to start the whispering campaign of why it was time for her to go, despite getting a good review and the improvements the school system has seen under her leadership. She saved them the embarrassment of entering into contract discussion then dragging them on and on until she announced she was moving, just like they did with Supt. Chris Scott.

Tom Byrne used to say that he was amazed that every School Committee member all of a sudden became Horace Mann after being elected to the school board and knew better how to run a system than the people who are actually qualified and experienced to do so. That is the problem with this school committee, they are worried about supposed nepotism, performance based budgeting and wasting time on reports than they are letting the educators educate.

Supt. Franco had until the end of December to make her intentions known but Steve Gendron who I think supports her 100% pushed the envelope to make her decide sooner. The committee needs as much time as possible to get a new Supt. elected by February so that he or she can have at least some impute into next’s years budget. They also want the search done before Election Season kicks off in earnest this spring.

The Whispering that you will hear is that Supt. Franco didn’t communicate enough, that she was slow to respond to the over abundance of motions,reports and request that this committee submits, that she hasn’t implemented Project based budgeting, dragged her feet on the stupid nepotism issue and that the proposed cuts of $1.5 million were to much for this committee.

Mostly the message you will hear is that they didn’t “feel comfortable that we were getting all the correct information we needed”.(where have I heard that before?)

The exercise / motion to propose $1.5 Million in cuts was (in my opinion) a waste of her and her staffs time and energy (and she let them know it IMHO ) by submitting the cuts that she did.

It was sort of a Stop Wasting Our Time response to a stupid and yes it was a stupid motion because everyone including this blogger knew, the city and the State in an election year, wasn’t cutting funding to schools.

In my mind, that move by Franco, though 100% correct was a very public slap to the face to certain members and it sealed her fate. You can’t rebuke your bosses in public and not expect them to respond.

She again chose to be the better person and announce her retirement so that they committee didn’t have to go through the motions of saying we want her when most of us who follow the School Committee knew her fate was sealed with that 1 year contract. The “negotiation” process with Supt. Franco would have ended the same way Supt. Scott’s did, Supt. Franco would have been jerked around until she announced she was leaving. Doing it now saves the committee time and Supt. Franco didn’t waste any of her’s.

Jean Franco will in all likelihood, make as much money in semi-retirement and not have to deal with the BS of Lowell politics. She can teach, be a consultant etc and has a lot to offer the education community.

It will be interesting to watch the process of selecting a new Superintendent. Will any members of this board support Mayor Elliott when he ask’s that a contract not be offered (I’m betting Dave Conway will support) and how do any of the candidates interviewed respond to his question, Will you work without a contract?

Finally I wonder if Dave Conway, Connie Martin, Kim Scott and other members remember how John Leahy,Jim Milinazzo , Alison Laraba and Jacki Doherty faired the last time a Supt. was forced out / retired / changed.

Leahy failed to make the jump to Council, Mayor Jim M. lost his Council seat and Doherty and Laraba lost their SC seats.

Let the show begin…

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Tonight’s City Council motions 11/18/2014

Lowell City Council

Lowell City Council

Here is the list of motions by the City Councilors on tonight’s Agenda

CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS

12.1. C. Martin – Req. City Mgr. have the police department report on the protocols for cruisers responding to calls without sirens and the number of accidents involving cruisers responding to calls when sirens were not activated.

12.2. C. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. review voting locations across the City and how they performed during the last election season.

12.3. C. Milinazzo – Req. City Mgr. to explore the feasibility of moving from the GIC to Municipal Blue Cross Blue Shield offered through the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association.

12.4. C. Leahy – Req. Neighborhoods SC meet to discuss neighborhood concerns including paving and other issues.

12.5. C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have Engineering Department follow-up with Council regarding the recommendations and solutions generated from the City of Lowell Commission on Disability Meeting on November 13, 2014.

12.6. C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. contact the Superintendent of Schools in order to invite the LHS Fall championship teams before the City Council for recognition.

12.7. C. Samaras – Req. City Council go on record in support of District Attorney Marianne Ryan’s proposed legislation which would mandate imprisonment for not less than five years for discharge of a firearm with intent to strike a dwelling house.

12.8. C. Mercier – Req. City Council support for a Home Rule Petition to change the rules and regulations to include track chair lifts for deserving qualified veterans to be deemed a necessity and not recreational.

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Proposed changes to Personnel Ordinances – Places Caps, reduces sick days, gives Manager some authority(?)

ameresco-0101

Lost in this weeks City Council Packet is some changes to the current Personnel Ordinance.

Which reads: Unless otherwise stated, all full-time positions not covered by collective bargaining, including department heads, confidential employees and other non-union personnel, shall be covered by and receive the benefits provided for in this chapter (GN that is chapter 56 entitled Personal.)

Included among the proposed changes, which the City Council has to approve:

January 1st all accrual (sick, vacation, personal days) will take effect instead of the waiting until the hire date (anniversary) of the individual.

All employees will receive their paychecks by direct deposit every two weeks

Personal Days will “increase” from 3 to 4 (with the 4th being designated as the day after Thanksgiving)

Sick days are reduced from 15 a year to 12 a year

Carrying Sick days will be capped at 300

New employees (as of when this passes) will no longer qualify for buy back of unused sick leave

One of the items up for a vote that seems very vague states that:(Bold Mine) Department Heads will receive at least four (4) weeks of vacation*: other professional staff shall receive a vacation allotment as determined by the City Manager based on prior years of service and current job responsibility’s

Fist off who is considered under the other professional staff (would the Asst. City Clerk, Asst. Treasurer, Managers Executive Assistant)and is that fair to the individual? If the current Manager doesn’t like you, can he not grant vacation time? Does that also mean if the Manager wants to, he can say that the Deputy DPD Director gets 6 weeks vacation while giving the DPD Department Head only 4 weeks?

Here is what the existing ordinances states: All employees, except department heads, who have actually worked for the City for 30 weeks in the aggregate during the 12 months preceding June 1 of such year shall be entitled to a vacation based on years of service as follows:

(a) For up to five years of service: two weeks’ vacation.
(b) For five years but less than 10 years of service: three weeks’ vacation.
(c) For 10 years but less than 20 years of service: four weeks’ vacation.
(d) For more than 20 years of service: five weeks’ vacation.

Why would the City / Current Manager seek to change that? Is that something you would leave up to the politics of whoever the Manager is?

Those that are most affected by these changes are the following and I’m guessing some of their direct reports.

City Manager -City Auditor – City Clerk – Council on Aging Director – Fire Chief
Health Director- Human Relations Manager – Inspectional Services Commissioner – City Solicitor
Library Director – City Messenger – MIS- Chief Information Officer -Assistant City Manager/Operations – Director of Neighborhood Services- Commissioner of Parks and Recreation-Assistant City Manager/Director – Division of Planning and Development – Superintendent of Police -Commissioner of Public Works/Assistant City Manager – Chief Procurement Officer/Purchasing Agent- City Treasurer -City Veterans Director
Executive Director – Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility – Executive Director – Lowell Regional Water Utility

* Note that the 4 weeks vacation for Dept. heads has been in place since 1999 and isn’t something being done by this Administration.

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Sunday Notes November 16 2014

TWINS

In this week’s Council Packet we find out from the Auditor that the City Council missed taking a vote by July 15 to cover the cost of the over-run to the snow and Ice removal for 2014. The Auditor interestingly writes “We” when explaining why the error occurred.

In the past, Auditor Cheryl Wright was criticized for being to close to Manager Lynch, yet this Auditor writes a letter to her bosses using the we like she is representing the Administration.

The last time this Administration missed a Financial responsibility they blamed the former treasurer, who will they blame this time? The State or MEME for not approving reimbursement until August? It is a small easily correctable incident but again in my mind, shows the Municipal Finances inexperience of this Administration.

In the next few weeks we should see a motion to allocate the funds to clear that deficit and to see if the Council will vote to abandon Ch. 17 and not have to repay what was used last year and not have a safety net for reserves. I’m hoping they do the right and fiscal prudent thing and make the Manager keep this safety net.

If they do not and vote to eliminate it, they are supplying a great focal point of Financial Responsibility for the Upcoming Council Race. History shows what happens when a State Rep or former Politician becomes Manager. In 1992, Lowell lost control of its budget to the state finance commission due to its unstable financial condition. It regained control in 1995 and has had Chapt. 17 in place since. Even when Manager COX was draining reserves Lowell had that 4.5 Million dollars that saved us from another period of State Control

This week’s Council Agenda is loaded with follow up reports, many involving the Lowell Police.

A) Police Supt. Taylor doesn’t appear to be in favor of allowing officers to take cruisers home, citing many potential issues.

B) The McDonough Report (how come Lowell has so many Police Vehicles) is updated to show Lowell has 125 “Police Vehicles” NOT including 8 motorcycles, a boat, a trailer and 3 message boards. The Supt. explains how that number will be reduced.

C) There is a Report on the Matrix Study Group and their recommendations on the entire Dept. and some suggestions and the status of those.

D) Good news about a new Centralville Police sub-station that will also house the Crime Analysis Unit, Volunteer Coordinator and Sector Captain and Lt. The building is brand new and the Council will need to approve a transfer to do this but it should be a boon for the police and the Centralville community.

E) While the Supt. would like more officers, he seems to want to do this in increments rather than the grandstanding politically motivated way of Mayor Elliott (MY wording NOT the SUPT’s)

There is a response to a COUNCIL MOTION OF 10/15/13 by C. Leahy/ C. Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. provide a quarterly report to Council on motion responses that shows During Quarter 2, there were 73 Motions as well as 48 Responses. The Average Response Time was 19 days per motion. For Quarter 3, there were 38 Motions and 38 Responses with an
Average Response Time of 24 days. It is worth noting that all of Quarter 3 coincided with summer scheduling which contributed to the slight increase in response time.

City Solicitor Chris O’Connor has a response to Mayor Elliott and Kristen Ross Sitawich motions to change the way replacement Committee members are selected or appointed to the Greater Lowell Tech. Basically it says things will stay the same unless we get 10% of registered voters to sign a petition, the Council request and gets 2/3 of the Tech School Committee to approve and then get the other 3 towns to agree, nothing will change because this was written into the charter when the school was created and all communities follow the same guidelines.

The Agenda contains a report on the Snow and Ice removal plans for the City and the downtown titled Winter Operations Program.

It also has a request to over-spend the Snow -Ice account in 2015 which has to be done each year I believe.

Since Council Election season is upcoming this one makes sense to see what areas of the City turn out and what areas Councilors should work on: C. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. review voting locations across the City and how they performed during the last election season.

I forget that Bill Martin is a Lawyer sometimes until he files a motion like this and reminds me: C. Martin – Req. City Mgr. have the police department report on the protocols for cruisers responding to calls without sirens and the number of accidents involving cruisers responding to calls when sirens were not activated.

In the land of Lowell Politics, more bubble fodder….The hottest rumor goes like this, Dave Nangle becomes the Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Baker Administration for the next 2-3 years giving him the background to become the next LRTA Executive Director. Bill Martin runs and get’s elected to replace Nangle, resigns from the Council and Marty Lorrey gets to run as an incumbent.

Isn’t Dave Conway just Bill Samaras lite? Both retired School Administrators (Samaras was Conway’s boss) with limited financial, Economic Development or public safety expertise and mostly sharing the same background. Why would we need two? Does Conway’s announcement indicate perhaps his former boss has told him he isn’t running as some have suggested?

With the growth of Mill City Grows, a new baby and a busy workload, the buzz is Derek Mitchell will not be running for Council. It also wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Mike Gallagher to run. He’s got a great business, is a major fundraiser for candidates and has been involved on both sides in several city cases. An ideal candidate who would be IMHO a great Councilor and a huge plus for the City but he’s smart enough to know being a Councilor isn’t good for business.

Is there a better chance of Ted Panos running now that there is an open seat? I don’t think it matters. He’s got more say behind the mic at WCAP then he would behind a mic at city hall. Fred Bahou may consider running since he has thought about it in the past but after just finishing a State Rep race he may want a break (in his case brake may be more accurate). Allison Lareba showed up to slap the Council earlier this year then disappeared. Rumors say she isn’t interested in running.

With the lack of any real Economic Development in the city, I’m thinking John MacDonald has a solid background and understanding of how to get something done so he would bring a lot to the Council. (someone check on Mitchell, I may have just sickened him). Say what you want about JMAC but I think we’re be better off with him and his expertise in this field on the council than a Conway, Samaras or if the whispers are true another round of BUD!

I don’t believe Steve Gendron is going to run for Council or that his seeking to extend Jean Franco is somehow “protecting” or “Paving the way” for Jay Lang. I belive he supports Jean Franco and wants her to stay another year.

Jay Lang is a bright guy who clearly got the message during the last Supt. search that he doesn’t have the votes to get past the first round let alone the support of Conway, KRS or Kim Scott to be the Lowell Supt. If he wants to reach that position he’ll have to leave Lowell to take the position somewhere else.

Maybe Gendons motion is as simple has why let Conway, KRS or Jim Leary have a say in selecting a Supt. when they may bail to run for Council? Before any vote is taken committee members should state their intentions publicly. I think Dave Conway should recuse himself from any vote on a Supt. since he’s already announced he is leaving. My guess is his ego won’t let him and he’ll insist on voting.

Could Lowell’s own Mary Burns be up for either a job in the Baker State House or a LHA appointment? She’s been a tireless worker for him. Speculation is that KRS will be replaced on the LHA by Baker when her term is up and that isn’t good news for Gary Wallace.

Wanna bet that Brian Bond gets a quick hook from the Dracut Housing Authority? George Anthes of the McLaughlin Group won’t have to whine and wonder who did this? Cathy Richardson was a huge Baker supporter and payback is overdue and will come quickly.

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The King and his Court? Conway for Council, Rodney for 2nd term?

It is not a surprise that Dave Conway announced he is running for City Council or that Rodney Elliott has already had a fundraiser for his next campaign.

I’m thinking that Rodney is setting himself up for a 2nd Term as Mayor, especially to help protect his “Big Brother” the City Manager.

We know Rita Mercier and Corey Belanger are super Rodney supporters and Dan Rourke was also a Rodney guy. Since the selection of the Manager John Leahy seems to be tied very closely to Rodney and Corey.

Dave Conway acted as the Mayor Elliott’s “Aide” earlier this year before Rodney had hired someone and Conway and the Mayor have been very close on the School Committee.

Could we be seeing a pick six assembly to support both the Manager and his little brother the Mayor?

KingandCourt

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PRACTICES WHAT YOU PREACH!

Lowell City Council

Lowell City Council

If you read the Open Meeting Law it states pretty clearly a couple of things.

1) How specific must the listing of topics be in the meeting notice?

The listing of topics must contain enough specificity to give the public an understanding of each topic that will be discussed. It is not sufficient to list broad topic categories, such as “Old Business.”

and yet we have seen the Mayor deliberately post a sub-committee meeting with a very vague topic so he could grandstand and make political hay at the expense of the former Manager and Treasurer while trying to protect his Manager (aka Big Brother).

1. Finance SC August 19, 2014
RE: Discussion of FY 14 and FY 15 City Budget.

That was a WIDE OPEN topic that wasn’t even close to covering the requirement / spirit of the Law and Councilor Bill Martin called him on it at the next City Council Meeting.

2) If a subcommittee of a public body holds a meeting and members of the public body, who are not members of the subcommittee, wish to attend the meeting, must the public body post a meeting notice? (Bold Mine)

No, as long as the public body does not engage in a deliberation. Members of a public body may wish to attend a meeting of a subcommittee of that public body, even where those members are not part of the subcommittee. In those cases, they may sit in the audience and participate as members of the public. They may address the public body with the permission of the chair, and may state their opinion on matters under consideration by the subcommittee. They may not discuss matters as a quorum, or discuss topics which are not under consideration by the subcommittee.

Yet watch many sub-committee meetings such as this one from November 4th and you will see 6 of 9 Councilors inside the Council Chamber Gate with 4 sitting at the desk and 2 at their normal seats. Councilors never sit with “the public” if they attend a sub-committee meeting. To hell with being in violation they don’t follow no stinking rules.

Let’s not forget we have One Councilor whose son received a promotion and another who owns a bar but voted for License Commissioners who oversee his livelihood and a Mayor who wasted so much time on Surveillance because he had a personal vendetta most of the public was unaware of. To Hell with Conflict of Interest or Open Meeting Laws is the message this Council apparently wants to convey.

YES I admit these may be nothing but petty points but isn’t that what we have heard from this Council since January? Petty points about skateboards , bikes on sidewalks, Fire pits,parking, panhandling, jaywalking and Fireworks? While businesses have left the City and shootings and armed robberies are up!

My point is if the members of this City Council disregard the small rules why should they expect the citizens of Lowell not to follow their lead and ignore them? Why keep wasting time on these little rules you want the public to follow if you are ignoring rules that apply to you?

or to put it in simple terms

PRACTICES WHAT YOU PREACH!

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