DISCLAIMER:The following is my personal opinion and may not be agreed with or supported by a majority of the School Committee.
In case you missed my rant on WCAP Saturday Morning Live yesterday, this was more or less the gist!
I’ve had it with the gamesmanship, political BS and fake/false news being spread by uninformed and biased people, specifically fed up with supposedly informed and educated people who ignore simple math for political reasons or political aspirations and fed up with those that are more concerned with 1 man over 14,000 plus students.
There has NEVER been I “Always wanted a Public Hearing” scenario! the City made multiple requests over a period of weeks as to whether the Superintendent wanted to exercise his right, per his contract, to have the meeting in public. Throughout those weeks we were informed by his attorney that the Superintendent was undecided. When we had a meeting date set and he still hadn’t stated he wanted a public hearing per HIS contract it was posted for Executive Session!
The open meeting law is clear 48 hours notice is required for all agenda items including an executive session. If a court found a violation of the open meeting law, the remedy is that all action taken at the meeting would be null and void. In this case that could mean that all action taken by the school committee be stricken, and the city would be potential he facing back pay for that entire period. That was not a risk worth taking and the City contacted the AG‘s office and concluded that canceling the meeting and selecting the next available date was the way to go.
This issue was entirely avoidable and unnecessary had superintendent through his counsel timely informed the city as to his intention of having a public hearing. Instead he waited until the day before the scheduled hearing and until he finished his radio tour with sympathetic hosts.
There have been several attempts to have a hearing, dates rejected, the first scheduled hearing canceled due to a medical procedure, the second was postponed due to the posting issue and others because either the person or lawyer were “unavailable” . Dates were offered for night meetings but again we were told one or the other couldn’t make it but they could attend a DAY one !
It’s not the School Committee that has caused delays despite what an extremely small self-interest group of his supporters try to claim !
The night we voted to place the Superintendent on Administrative leave, I explained in details my reasons and showed evidence supporting my stance here on this blog. In my opinion what had happened in Winchendon was happening here in Lowell and my vote was to stop that.
The School Dept has a $2,400,000 budget deficit and we owe a revolving food account another $2,000,000..What is so hard to follow or Understand?
In 2016 according to the City Outside Auditors Powers and Sullivan:
“The School Department transferred approximately $1.0 million from the Milk and Lunch revolving fund to account for indirect charges originally charged to the general fund budget. Normally any indirect charge transfers anticipated are incorporated as part of the formal budget process. This gives the City Council all necessary information to make an informed decision regarding the approval of appropriations. In this case, the $1.0 million transfer was not approved in the formal budget “
In the 2017/2018 Budget the Supt. showed approx. $1,826,804 in Indirect cost charge to the revolving Food Service account. Yet the warning was ignored by the last School Committee! They never questioned the transfers or how much was being charged in the 2017/2018 budget.
Sadly at these joint Finance subcommittee meetings, things turned from hearing about the deficit and offering help to some Councilors more concerned with protecting themselves (those who hired him, those who gave him a contract) more interested in protecting a friends business venture or busy making a deal to get a principal job for a friend. Some seem more interested in political grandstanding by blaming the UTL contract, to detract from their own role in causing or contributing to this issue.
There’s plenty of blame to go around if that’s what people want to do..
from the people who hired him after what had occurred in Winchendon – Dave Conway – Kim Scott – Rodney Elliot and Kristin Ross-Sitcawich too Ed Kennedy – Bob Hoey – Andy Decouteaux – Bob Gignac and Steve Gendron who not only gave him a contract but who didn’t do their jobs by voting on a budget and didn’t follow up Powers and Sullivan’s warning about a million dollars in questionable transfers and allowed the Food Service issue to get to where it is.
Why do Bob Hoey – Andy Decouteaux – Dominic Lay – Dave Conway – the UTL $$$ Union Leadership (Not the MAJORITY of rank and file members) and a few people continue to support one person over the 14,000 plus students and staff who are and will be negatively affected?
Why does anyone continue to support that type of financial mismanagement?
Ironic that two supporters who hired him and seem to approve the financial mismanagement style that has caused these issues contributed to run Jean Franco and Jay Lang out of the district!
The city’s stance that they have invested millions and exceeded net school spending the past two or three years ignores the fact that for 20 plus years the city and many of these same long serving Councilors neglected maintenance of not only the schools but our public safety buildings. (Firehouses are deplorable – police station is outdated and falling apart).
Look at the violations from the fire department to the schools and the Collins report to see the sad shape these buildings are in due to lack of preventive maintenance and repairs.
Don’t blame LPS Custodians or City land and buildings personal who have little resources or manpower to properly address all of the issues. In August I filed a similar motion as Councilor Millanazzo to look at the possibility of privatization because of the lack of proper funding by these past Councils and Managers.
These “supposedly” joint meetings were focusing on the School financial issues while totally ignoring the city’s own financial issues which rival or exceed the School issues and it was clear by her response when I mentioned a tax increase for this year that the City Manager is also frustrated.
She walked into a financial mess on the City side, much like we did on the school side but she is solely responsible to correct it and has to deal with ego driven self-interested Councilors and try to fix it without bruising ego’s!
It doesn’t appear the so-called fiscal watchdog was on duty the past few years!
For Councilors to beat your chest to say look what we are doing with NET School the past couple of years, while trying to hide your own contribution to years of neglect due to not funding maintenance is deliberately trying to mislead the public. The City’s contribution in cash to the School Department is approximately 6.5% of tax dollars (around $6,000,000) with around another $9,700,000 provided for transportation and adult education which doesn’t count towards their net school spending requirements. The bal.of approximately $40,000,000 is charged to maintenance of effort.
Years of NOT funding transportation properly and then presenting a report at Tuesday night’s meeting with the justification that “It’s always been done that way” here in Lowell was the weakest saddest thing I’ve seen.
You’ve always done maintenance the same way and where has that got us?
Jeannie Durkin is working 80 plus hours a week trying to get this district straightened out along with the CFO Billy Jo Turner who ironically was the last person recommended for hire by Superintendent K. Had he hired someone with MA. experience from the beginning, we may not be where we are today!
We need to close this Supt issue and move on and if an agreement isn’t completed by noon tomorrow the School Committee should schedule a public hearing ASAP and bring closure to this issue.
The School Committee needs to address the deficit and put procedures in place so it never happens again then work with the City to look into fixing the transportation and maintenance issues.
We can start by voting to end the current Maintenance of Effort Agreement and negotiate a new one or per the law bring in a State Official to mediate an agreement. Then look at my proposal to go back to neighborhood schools to see if we can do so and comply with the desegregation agreement while reducing transportation cost.