Sunday Notes June 28th 2015

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Candidates Wanted

With news that Kim Scott is not running for re-election to the Lowell School Committee and Dave Conway leaving the committee for the Council race along with the possibility that Kristen Ross-Sitcawich may choose to not run, the Lowell School Committee needs some strong, unaffiliated candidates.

By unaffiliated I mean NOT another CTI employee, nor a retiring teacher, nor someone whose spouse/significant other is presently a Lowell School teacher and especially not a former Lowell School Committee member who has in the newspaper and on City Life publicly declared “you’re never going to see anybody run that loves teachers more than me.” (Bob Hoey)

A candidate first and foremost has to know exactly what an elected member is supposed to do:

Hiring authority for particular positions: 1.Superintendent, assistant/associate superintendents, school business administrator, administrator of special education, school physicians and registered nurses, legal counsel, supervisors of attendance. In fact under the State law: The school committee is responsible for appointing personnel to the following positions:

Superintendent: The school committee has the power to select and terminate the superintendent, and to establish his or her compensation. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 37) Assistant or associate superintendents: On the recommendation of the superintendent, School business administrator; administrator of special education; school physicians and registered nurses; supervisors of attendance; legal counsel:The Education Reform Act did not change several pre-existing statutes that refer to the school committee appointing certain personnel.

Set Hiring practices and policiesCollective bargainingThe school committee, upon the recommendation of the superintendent, establishes performance standards for teachers and other employees in the district The school committee adopts the professional development plan for all principals, teachers and other professional staff employed by the district.

In my opinion a candidate can’t have ties that are binding to the teacher’s union, it creates an inherit conflict of interest. Nor should they be employed by an agency which receives millions of dollars from the City / School department, again it just looks like a conflict of interest.

A candidate must be willing to take a stand and speak their mind and not worry about the newspaper, radio or big mouth bloggers. Be willing to back up your opinion with facts.

Don’t be afraid to take a position, research it and defend it. If you think Lowell High should stay downtown (I’ve been convinced it should) talk with Brian Martin the LHS Headmaster. No one makes a stronger case for keeping it there. If you think it should be moved, find someone who can tell you exactly where it should go and how the city will be able to pay for it?

Be willing to look a teacher, Union Leader etc. in the eye and negotiate face to face. Look at the current contract, what the average teacher makes and receives in benefits and look at the city budget. Take a look at the median household income for the residents in this city. The same challenge the teachers face in dealing with so many low-income, diverse students is the same challenge the city faces in trying to raise taxes to fund the school and city services. Take a stand and be willing to say I understand you have a tough job and most union members do a good job but we have limited revenues and limited ability to generate more. Or tell a City Councilor and City Manager we need to compensate the teachers / principals and administrators more. Just remember that roughly (Not definitely but I believe I’m pretty darn close) for every 1 million dollars in increase, you add .5% to the tax rate.

Support the Superintendent and staff and realize THEY not YOU are the professionals. My friend Tom Byrne used to wonder why every person elected to the School Committee thought they automatically became Horace Mann. You work selling insurance, for the Fed Gov’t, at a non-profit for a private company as a printing General Manager, whatever your job is, you are not a “professional educator” and you need to support the person you hired to lead the school and not second guess every move.

PLEASE don’t ask for useless, time-consuming reports. No one need to go back for 5 years or 3 years to look at trends or changes. Keep your motions limited and try to remember that all these people have other duties and asking them to be your research staff is NOT what they are supposed to do. If a lowly blogger like me can find most information, I trust you can and should. Once you have it, then ask if you can meet with the Supt., Asst. Supt, Head of Buildings and Maintenance or whoever will help walk you through the information so you get a better understanding.

You don’t have to be OUT 4 nights a week Lowell members (imho) spend way to much time at sub-committee meetings. Keep family time and state right from the beginning that you 3 nights a week, including meetings and subcommittees is all the time you have, Weekend activities are limited to few and far between, except when you are invited on Saturday Morning Live w/ Warren Shaw (that is a must!).

ABOVE ALL ELSE – DON’T MAKE IT PERSONAL The biggest problem we have is the in-fighting on the committee. disagree with one another all you want, challenge motions, don’t agree with everything but above all don’t make it or take it personal.

Take it from me ( 8 stories and 2 editorials in the SUN when I was appointed to the Election Commission) it doesn’t hurt. Campy and company had certain councilors and a Manager they wanted to get rid of. I was simply one of many tools they used to achieve that. It wasn’t personal it was political.

Pawtucketville Citizens Council Chair Deb Forgione fed the Councilors a three-year old post (The women I aimed my tasteless taunt at had NOTHING to do with it and I bear her no ill will), rightfully from all the crap I dished out to Rodney Elliot he introduced it on the council floor and the Sun ran with it. I’m still here, still on the radio and have a cordial relationship with the Mayor, Sun Editor and some Sun staff because I let it go.

(In all honesty I’m still ticked at Corey Belanger for calling for my resignation without ever having the nerve to contact me first to discuss and at Ed Kennedy for being such a total fraud who smiles to your face and stabs you in the back but otherwise I’m good!)

This School Committee hasn’t learned to “let it go” and instead trying to act so PC, they built up resentment and now we have chaos and dysfunction. Speak your mind, say your piece and move on. The most confusing part to me is that a few members and I have had HUGE disagreements on serious issues and yet they still will talk with me at length or ask me to get involved in some school dept activities. It’s to bad they couldn’t do that with one another.

The City is at a crossroad in education, we may be investing millions in a high school, we need to resolve the teacher’s contract, we have a new Superintendent whose 4 primary supporters may all be off the Committee by November and we only have candidates, who may all be good people with the best intentions but all but 1 have an affiliation to the United Teacher’s of Lowell and as much has I like Paul Georges, Mike Earl, Mickey Dumont and company in my eyes having that many people connected to the UTL is NOT in the best interest of the School District or the students.

We need candidates willing to stand up, take the hits that they know will be coming but be willing to do what is best for the ENTIRE DISTRICT!

It is a low paying, time-consuming, family straining position that guarantee’s you will have parents, teacher’s and friends approaching you non-stop with information and questions, you will upset many people by your votes and actions and it is more than 2 meetings a month.

Is there anyone out there willing to run knowing that?

Good Idea / Poor Execution

I think City Councilor Corey Belanger had a good idea in reaching out to Sal Lupoli to see if he might be interested in developing the Hamilton Canal District (see today’s SUN Political Column) but per usual his execution was poor. While contacting ALL your colleagues by email to inform them was a nice gesture, inviting them all is asking them to participate in an illegal meeting and could also jeopardizes Mr. Lupoli’s chances of being the developer if has the City Manager has stated, he puts this out for bid and Mr. Lupoli were to bid and win, another developer could and would point to the entire Council touring the site WITH HIM created a bias and also an unfair business practice.