Sunday Notes June 7th 2015

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The loudest “noise” in the Lowell political bubble has to do with the bitterness and attitude of Lowell School Committee member Steve Gendron. Unhappy with fellow members Kim Scott, KRS and Dave Conway because of the anti-nepotism policy they pushed along with their ANYONE but Lang attitude during the Superintendent search, combined with his exasperation with the Mayor who he blames for going along with the “Gang of three” it has caused him to act like a spoiled, belligerent child.

Rumors are floating about, including in today’s Sun of his alleged unprofessional behavior during the meeting to settle a MOU or employment agreement with the new Supt. and that it was the cause of what is being reported as a major blow-up between he and the Mayor.

Gendron it is being said is intent on making the new Supt. so uncomfortable that he decides on his own in December to bail and that Gendron is offering challengers strategies to unseat a few fellow members.

The fallout from the divide over the Superintendent hasn’t stopped and spin talk is in full effect from both sides.

It’s being pointed out that while certain members pushed for making teaching experience a must for a new Supt., not realizing Lang had experience, the new Supt. has No Classroom experience, yet received support of Scott and KRS who thought that would keep out Lang.

There is also spin out there that says Lang and UTL leaders including Paul George’s are to close and for things to change in dealing with the UTL,both George’s and Lang have to go. Funny thing is, in fact the Union kept Lang from being a finalist last time out and that It was overheard at the last teacher picket from some Union Activist, that there was some consideration about attending the Chelmsford meeting a few weeks back to bash Lang especially about Special education funding. No love for Lang has the UTL!

Good Luck to this committee trying to find an experienced , qualified Business Manager willing to work without a guaranteed contract. With a Superintendent barely getting hired on a 4-3 vote, having no contract, union contracts unsettled and a School Committee fractured and up for re-election word is spreading fast among qualified individuals that right now “There is a lot NOT TO LIKE about LOWELL”.

It appears to be a conflict of interest” or “a pathetic attempt at gaining a political base”

Those are two of the comments I’ve heard directed toward Kim Scott’s attempt at reviving the City Wide Parent Council. Has a mother with students in the school Kim is a concerned parent, so is Kristen but their involvement in trying to reactivate the group which had faded away is not being looked on favorably by some parents, teachers or fellow committee members. I was told that if you look at the Lowell City Wide Parent Group page on Facebook you will notice who the two main posters are.

Teachers and some parents think they should be concentrating their attention to contract talks and hiring qualified staff and paying attention to things happening at all schools not just the one their kids are at. Some fellow members think they are just using the group to try and find or strengthen their own political base.

People who think it’s politically motivated point out the group includes former school committee members Jackie Doherty, Alison Lareba and Joe Mendonca who was at one time a chair of the City Wide Parent Council. It has been pointed out to me that supporters of Kim and Kristen who don’t have students in the Lowell School System including former Sun reporter/ Mayor’s aide , current Methuen Mayor’s aide and Dracut resident Jen Myers along with Dracut State Rep. Colleen Garry are members. Other members include Lowell State Rep. Rady Mom, former City Councilor Vesna Nuon and Lowell License Commissioner Cliff Kreiger. To date no other current school committee members or challengers are part of the group. Full disclosure, I am an invited member of the group and have a daughter in the Lowell School System.

I see it as an attempt to get more parents involved in the school system and a place to be able to find information about events and issues but can also see others looking at it skeptically

City Unions, especially Teachers, firefighters and 1705 watching closely.

Expect all eyes to be watching the City Council this Tuesday and which Councilors support these two items.

2) Ordinance-Create position of Deputy Director of Administration and Finance and establish salary
3) Vote-Authorize filing of special legislation relative to the appointment of a non-civil service Fire Chief in the City of Lowell.

The rank and file firefighters are not happy with the way this Manager has treated the Fire Dept. nor in his attacks on former Fire Chief Pitta whose interest was more in keeping stations open than in Murphy saving money to balance his budget. Many feel they are being treated has 2nd class 1st responders and are concerned that if Branch St. happened today, more lives would have been lost. Interesting that Councilor Danny Rourke is the only Councilor with a campaign sign up at the Lowell Firefighters Club. Many individual firefighters claim State Rep. Tom Golden’s good will, along with his cousin being a Union Officer has helped Rourke even when Rourke seems to have abandoned them in favor of Murphy.

1705 who are battling the Administration over being paid OT if they work during a week that they used a vacation day, have been told by the Manager and Mayor they have no money for raises in the budget at a time the union contract is up for renegotiation. Other will be watching to see if another high paying position will be approved. Will Councilors who in the past supported the workers again allow the Manager to create a new position that is Non-Union and adds another administrative position?

I’m hearing that City Unions are growing more and more frustrated with the Murphy Administration. Combine that group with the upset lawful gun owners and a candidate interested in a Council seat would have some pretty solid backing. Unfortunately for these groups, no candidate including current Councilors or announced challengers have stepped up to challenge this administration or this Council so far. Atop bad, because it would give a boring election some life.

There is also a wide belief that given the biased, slanted coverage provided by the Sun during the last election, some candidates are staying away. It appears if you don’t play golf, own or bet on horses or are a wine lover than your subject to overblown, negative and unfair coverage. Yet the Sun imho is still the strongest of all media here in Lowell and still can/ does have the most political influence like it or not.

Random Notes…..

Nice turnout at School Committee challenger Andy Decouteaux meet and greet this past Thursday night. Always a pleasure to see former councilor Frankie and had a chance to meet some other family members. Andy seems to have a solid base and son Matt did a great job on his campaign art.

Heard a rumor that Leslie B the WCAP morning show breakout star, was overheard at Mike Miles retirement party telling people her morning show main man Ted Panos would be going to Harvard taking a course offered by his favorite Walkabity planner: I was able to dig up the rest of the info on the course.

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SIGN UP FOR MY HARVARD COURSE!

On June 25 and 26, I will be teaching a two-day seminar at Harvard GSD on the Walkable City. It ain’t cheap, but you get a master class in city planning, plus a piece of paper that looks for all rights like a Harvard diploma. For your office — think about it! Here’s the link:

http://execed.gsd.harvard.edu/walkable-city-2015

Let me know if I will see you there! And now, for your moment of Zen, I thought I’d send along a popular passage from Walkable City, after 30 months, still Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in City Planning and Urban Development.

(Here’s a link to my website, for that and more: http://www.jeffspeck.com)

Thanks for reading, JBS

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4 thoughts on “Sunday Notes June 7th 2015

  1. Kim Duggan Scott

    It is a public group! I took the time to invite people that I really like and that would be interested. I hope others will do the same or that people join on their own. The only motive for the group is to promote parent participation. Thee is no conflict, because all parents of Lowell Public School children are members by charter. It is unfortunate that some people want to play petty politics. It does not however surprise me at all.

    Reply
  2. Averell

    So many issues this week. I have already decided that I am not voting for Gendron ,Martin , KRS or Scott. If they think people are not paying attention, they are wrong. We need a School Committee that will get along and not stage WW III.

    Reply
  3. Averell

    And I hit the wrong button again. sighhhh. We do not need a new Deputy Director of anything here. As for the Fire Chief, keep politics out of it and go with Civil Service. We need a qualified Chief and not someone who will bow to the Manager and cut our public safety people yet again. Another Branch Street is inevitable if that happens.
    As for the city unions, if the teachers get a raise and the others don’t, I see a whole bunch of angry workers. Historically, teachers have gotten raises , even in tough times, when others have gone without. If that happens again, it could get nasty.

    Reply
  4. Chuck Cormier

    Let me say this, hiring a 72 year old person for this position is disgraceful. If he was a
    Super star ithat would one thing but he is not. Not hiring Jay Lang was a mistake for us, but good for him.

    Now the people that caused this mess should be held accountable. All four
    Failed to convince me they have a clue..I read about some members are against the appearance of Nepitism , those same people never said anything about cronyism. Why
    Would that be? Ask Conway if he believes the same about cronyism.. Shame on us for having such petty people representing us…Has anyone ever visited winchenton ?
    Wow…not his fault , good luck new Super you will need a lot…

    Reply

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