Sunday Notes February 5th 2016

cawley

We need to hear the presentation and numbers explained in more detail, If you look at the cost estimates you see dollar figures listed under these titles
F2010 Selective/Building Demolition
F2020 Bulk Demo
Temp Facilities 32 Classroom Allowance
Temp Facilities Gym Allowance
Temp Facilities Admin
Temp Facilities Cafeteria

for the different scenarios, these need to be clarified. If there is a plan for Temp Facilities then parents need to be informed of what that plan is. It also needs to be explained how a complete renovation can cost almost the same as a brand new school.

Final 2 options
I would say that the final 2 options that need full vetting including traffic studies, options for students displacement and how a temporary cafe and/or classrooms will be addressed are the Cawley site shown above and the new school in the downtown shown here.

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A new School is what this process is all about and I don’t see the Councilor’s taking the dentist office by Eminent Domain.

IF there is the desire to keep it downtown then this option in my view is the one that needs to be fully addressed. For three years where or what method will be used for housing students? Can the Cafe in the Freshman Academy be used to make lunches for the entire school and can rooms be set up in the basement for a temporary cafe? What processes will be in place to minimize disruption and noise?

The biggest question is besides history or tradition that needs answering is Why leave it downtown? Yes it is centrally located so students don’t have to be bused but busing can we addressed as can traffic.

Is the bottom line really Economic health for the downtown?

Is the belief real or imagined?
There is still a group of people in the city that believes LHS will stay right where it is. Not because the cost and studies will prove that but because the process was rigged from the start. Cawley was never suppose to gain this much momentum.

They claim the Building Committee was stacked with pro-downtown people. There’s talk that Manager Murphy has already “assured” people it’s not moving. That teachers and staff at LHS have been given a gag order to not publicly endorse anything but the downtown. There are those who say the newspaper coverage is biased for the downtown (To be fair WCAP is certainly pro get it out of the downtown).

Maybe I’m naive but I don’t buy it.

I’m convinced that there are at least 5 councilor’s (Mercier-Rourke-Leary-Leahy and Belanger) who are open to listening to the public and reviewing the numbers with an open mind. I’m still a believer in Jim Milinazzo. I don’t believe he’s Jim Cook and Brian Martins guaranteed vote for the downtown. I think he will listen and be respectful of everyone’s views and look at the numbers and pros and cons based on the value of each location and vote for the future wherever he thinks would be best.

Only time will tell if the worry was real or imagined!

Concerned Citizens supporting Cawley
I had the chance to meet Marty Tighe, Eric Nelson, Dan Finn, Tim Blake and other concerned Belvidere residents most who are parents who are actively collecting signatures in support of the Cawley Site. Yesterday they were going to the streets around the stadium to collect signatures knowing they would meet some resistance but more than willing to discuss the issue with their neighbors. They already have 700-800 signatures including 200-300 fellow Belvidere residents with a goal of collecting 1,000 or more to show the support the Cawley location has citywide.

Traffic can be addressed
We bus elementary and middle school students from Belvidere to pawtucketville, we bus Tech High School students from Centralville to Tyngsboro. We can figure a way to get students to Cawley and work out the traffic. We have dealt with the University Bridge, the Aiken St. Bridge, The Bridge St. bridge, the School St bridge and the Hunts Fall bridge all being closed at one time or another and dealt with that traffic.

Here again are some traffic numbers that will get looked at again when deciding on a location.
clarkrt-38-nesmith
screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-10-38-29-am

Maybe they think you should already know from reading my Blog

8.3.C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. / City Auditor Provide A Report On The Status Of “Free Cash” For FY 2017.

I posted this a few weeks ago: The City of Lowell has had its “Free Cash” Certified by the State at $1,333,385 slightly up over the $942,033 of last year. It is still a very low number and shows how tight the City Budget is run. If you look at the surrounding Communities you note that Lowell with a much higher budget, has a lot less Free Cash, an effect of purposely keeping the taxes under the allowed 2.5% increase a year.

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SCHOOL BUDGET – Finance Concerns

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The school budget is a public document!

Interesting to note that the Superintendent submitted a schedule that would have had the budget presented to the School Committee during School Vacation Week!!

Between scheduling so many meetings out of the view of the cameras and then trying to release it during a vacation week, you should no longer wonder why I keep talking about my concern on the way the fiscal functions of the schools are being handled.

Jackie Doherty pointed out that the schedule coincided with vacation week and Bob Gignac when the item came up, submitted new dates. Bob Gignac also pushed for the final meeting to approve the budget be done at the Council Chamber in a televised meeting.

So the budget will now be presented at the April 12th meeting and approved in May and BOTH will be televised.

I was a little disappointed in Jackie when she then asked at the end of voting for the Supt. to submit the budget to the School Committee by Friday April 7th the weekend before he presents it to the public because they would like to look it over before it is released to the public.

Jackie should realize that once the budget is released it is a public document that must be available to the public. While it’s a nice notion that the School Committee get an advanced copy, the budget is a public document and should be posted on-line for all to see and it should be included in the packet the school committee receives on Friday the 7th.

Everything old is new again for Supt.

We learned in Thursday’s Lowell Sun that The Sun recently submitted a public-records request to Lowell Public Schools requesting a list of minority hires since June 2015.

An attorney for the school district, Jane Mosher-Canty, said the schools did not keep such records. Any information on employees’ minority status would be exempted by personnel confidentiality, she said.

This despite the fact that the Lowell School Committee at their budget meeting in May voted to spend $30,000 to be used to recruit minority staff members.

A Committee member should ask why we can spend money for recruitment when according to the lawyer, the School Dept. cannot tell anyone if the money is being used successfully? and for the purpose it was assigned for? If we can’t then we should stop throwing money away that can’t be justified to the taxpayers.

This isn’t the first time the Supt. has clashed with the press over public record request. When the Supt. was in Winchendon he also battled with the Press over a public-records request, attempting to charge them thousands of dollars to get the information they requested.

The Gardner News Online
Saturday, February 21, 2015

‘Excessive’ Charge For Public Info
Massachusetts’ Open record orders often hard to enforce

Damien Fisher
News Staff Writer

Saturday, February 21, 2015

WINCHENDON After its estimated $5,000 fee to fulfill a public records request was deemed “unreasonable and excessive” by the secretary of state’s office, the Winchendon School District has yet to comply with the state’s laws.

Short of a lawsuit against the district, or action from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, there is little that can be done to force the district to obey the state’s open records laws.

“Massachusetts has one of the weakest public records laws in the country,” said Justin Silver-man, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition.

If a citizen is denied a public records request, or cannot get satisfaction after appealing a request through the secretary of state’s office, there is little that can be done, according to people interviewed who are familiar with the process.

This leaves the burden of getting information that is supposed to be public on taxpayers willing to go to court.

In October 2014, The Gardner News requested copies of emails, cellphone bills and employee contracts from the district after questions arose about Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui’s actions concerning his school-funded cellphone, as well as a police report in which he is accused of directing former School Business Manager Melissa Dunnet to tamper with the taxes on his paychecks.

Dr. Khelfaoui was investigated in April for alleged fraud over the tax withholding for his cellphone stipend.

Then in September, state investigators decided the amount of money in question was not worth a prosecution.

Ms. Dunnet, who reportedly said in a police report that Dr. Khelfaoui directed her to tamper with his paychecks, left the district in June.

About a month later, the district paid her more than $25,000.

The district has yet to explain that payment.

Dr. Khelfaoui’s response to the October public records request was to demand $4,667 just to see paper copies of the emails.

He has yet to respond to the request for the contracts or the cellphone bills.

Such requests must be answered within 10 days.

During the School Committee meeting Wednesday Night Mayor Ed Kennedy had the following motion approved by the entire committee – Request the Superintendent provide a report and update on the school department’s efforts towards recruitment designed to bring diversity to the Lowell High School faculty.

Let’s see if the Mayor and School Committee have better luck than the press!

I wonder what he expected?
After the School Committee voted to adjourn, Bob Hoey forgot to shut off his mic and can be heard saying “Well that went better than I thought tonight”.

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