Daily Archives: November 19, 2018

Sun Editorial incorrectly places blame – Manager/Council control $$ and Legal responsibility for School Buildings.

Sadly the Sun may not be 100% wrong when speaking of the ineptitude of School Committee’s in today’s editorial, but to place ALL the blame on THIS COMMITTEE solely for past actions of previous committees is not factual and ignores the responsibility of the City Manager and City Council who are legally responsible to set funding and for maintaining buildings and shows the Sun’s bias, many years of protecting their “Sunflowers” (many long serving city councilors and the last and current City Managers) who for many many years neglected to fund maintenance in ALL City buildings.

The Sun routinely ignores the deplorable conditions our firefighters and police have to endure because the SUN supported and showcased at every opportunity a phony fiscal watchdog who along with many other long serving Councilors allowed these buildings to crumble because they didn’t fund the maintenance and to this day still haven’t shown a maintenance plan.

The Sun never mentions that by law the School dept. receives funding the same way every dept. receives funding, from the Manager’s Budget and by charter has to be approved by the City Council (budget includes Chapt. 70 State funding that can ONLY be used for Education and by State Law the City HAS to meet a certain funding level) The difference is the School Dept. has more fiscal autonomy than any other city department.

Over the past few years the City’s fiscal reserves have been drained and this year again reserves had to be used to fund the city operational budget without the SUN ever criticizing this practice. The fact that hiring and budget freezes were put in place on the City side in the first quarter of a new fiscal year, a clear financial warning, has been largely ignored by the SUN Editors.

The School Dept, gets the majority of its funding from State Chapt. 70 and NOT from City Property Tax , the FACT the City provides property tax revenue of only 6.5% in cash for the School Dept to run its operations is ignored and not reported by the SUN and the lopsided charges for “Maintenance of Effort” cost is regularly ignored by the SUN. Maybe once Campy retires in a couple weeks a “new” editor will provide truthful, factual coverage instead of a slanted biased view.

The SUN can’t bully the UTL President who ignores this failing entity and its biased coverage, that has always bothered the Editors and publishers of the Sun. The Sun however is correct when they note that the UTL Leadership is money driven over students needs and to me that has shown clear in their support for 1 man over 14,000 students and staff, but they are not the only problem.

Another example of inaccuracy in this Editorial – despite City Hall’s repeated warnings of fiscal concern, the board approved a 9-percent pay raise for the teachers union, as well as an unprecedented life insurance increase.

FACT: 2 of us were not on the Board that approved the UTL contract but I quietly have tried to address the so called unprecedented life insurance increase – it hasn’t yet been applied or given and is being reviewed to see if it ever should have been granted and can be enforced.

FACT: In the 10 Months that I have been on the School Committee there has NEVER BEEN ANY COMMUNICATION FROM THE MANAGER’S OFFICE TO THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE ABOUT ANY FISCAL MATTER!

Talk about misrepresenting the truth to protect their Sunflowers, the Paper ran a story this May 19th with the HeadlineCity frees up $500k for schools’ shortfall and stated in the story:

In a Monday meeting about the financial situation, City Manager Eileen Donoghue said Lowell’s municipal side did not have any flexibility to help address the district’s gaps. But in the days since then, Donoghue located close to $500,000 that could be put toward the schools, according to Mayor Bill Samaras.

As a result, one citywide social worker, two clerk schedulers, two department heads and one foreign language teacher no longer face cuts, Samaras said. “It’s a difficult time, a tight financial time, but (Donoghue) did her due diligence and listened to the School Committee and City Council,” Samaras said.

It goes onto say – Following Monday’s meeting, Donoghue identified additional money in the budget to help mitigate the impact. Samaras said about $250,000 will come from the city not charging the district for the year’s water and sewage bill, an amount the district anticipated paying but can now put toward other needs. The remaining $250,000 comes from money designated for education programs in Lowell as part of a contract with Comcast, Samaras said.

The TRUTH and Real Facts are that the City took the $185,000 that was in the School Budget for Water and Sewage that the previous School Administration had charged to the revolving food service account and agreed it would be charged to Maintenance of Effort, NOT $250,000

The Manager then reneged on funding the $250,000 from Comcast (claiming she had never promised such a thing) instead funding only the same $108,000 they did the previous year. Yet despite that being mentioned at several School Committee meetings the SUN continues to ignore those facts, never reporting the correct information that the City funded only an additional $185,000 not $500,000!

Sadly the Sun isn’t 100% incorrect either, past Committees have neglected to do their job, not voting on a budget, not challenging the Maintenance of Effort Agreement, Not following up on the Powers and Sullivan comments regarding the Food Service account, Not demanding the City maintain their buildings and not seeking state funding to assist in that maintenance. Many have instead focused on getting jobs for people, getting the Superintendent a contract to rub it in the face of their political opponents, trying to run out a Principal they didn’t like, playing politics by running out superintendent’s Chris Scott- Jean Franco and Deputy Supt. Jay Lang and trying to eliminate good people from advancing because family also works in the district.

Some of the existing School Committee members show they know nothing about financial matters and care more about one man than 14,000 students. One member repeatedly says ‘I don’t understand “ more than he says anything else except to show a blind loyalty to the person who put us in this fiscal mess.

I can take criticism, the Sun and I have a long history of whacking each other but in this case, don’t lump me into this particular mix. I have repeatedly challenged the financial information supplied by the last administration even before I was elected and have submitted motions to address financial reporting, maintenance and inspection of school buildings and reducing transportation cost by going to neighborhood schools. Transportation which the city doesn’t properly fund and the SUN protecting their “Sunflowers” in the Managers Office and on the Council continues to ignore is a growing cost that needs to be curbed.

I’m proud that I ran on fiscal responsibility and have followed through on it,so probably to the SUN and others disappointment, no resignation coming from me, only a promise to run for re-election and continue submitting the following type motions until the City lawfully addresses and funds them!

II.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request; Mayor to request the City Manager to break out the Transportation Cost and add as a separate Line Item under Schools, so Budget clearly reflects what the City pays for transportation and the amount of cash City is contributing to School Department

7.I.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request the Superintendent update committee on status of Capital Budget, how much is there and what are we using it on?

7.II.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request the Superintendent share the results of the recent Food Service Audit as soon as it becomes available.

7.I.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request the Superintendent to update the Committee on the status of New Maintenance of Effort Agreement with City and set March 1st to finalize and present to the Committee for approval at the March 7th meeting or Per Chap 603 CMR 10.00 we contact the Education Commissioner’s Office and request designee to conduct hearing.

6.I.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request Police Superintendent and SRO Sargent attend next SC meeting to present current safety measures in place at ALL Lowell Schools and make any recommendations to add or improve.

[By Gerard Nutter]:
School Committee look into creating a mandatory citywide recess policy for all elementary and middle school students.

IX.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request Superintendent supply explanation why according to Outside Auditors Powers & Sullivan during the 2016/ 2017 school year, approximately $807,000 of grant proceeds were turned back unused. Report should include copies of each grant, what the total grant received was, what portion of the grant was spent and why the remainder wasn’t use along with total dollars of each grant returned.

8.VI.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Lowell School Committee work with Asst Superintendent of Curriculum to explore creating remote learning programs or blizzard bags to be used after 5 snow days.

7.I.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request the Administration to provide current school committee copies of the end of year fiscal closing process and request a meeting of the Finance Subcommittee to review or develop written policy by May 15th 2018.

I.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
School Committee vote to place a purchasing freeze on PO for items over $5,000.00 until they can be reviewed by entire committee or until School Committee receives and approves a report on budget expenditures for the remaining school year.

V.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request Administration to present by the first School Committee in January 2019 a plan to rezone the district to “neighborhood” schools – presentation should include est. transportation cost saving along with number of students and schools affected and what the new start and dismissal times will look like.
7.VI.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request the Superintendent send the City Manager a letter (email) by June 29th Requesting on behalf of the School Committee, that the City conduct a complete Code Inspections (Building, Electrical, Plumbing- including heating/cooling systems, Water, Fire, Safety and Sanitary) of EVERY City School building and present the finding to the City Council and School Committee before the beginning of the 2018/2019 School Year.

7.VII.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request Update on Student Activities Fund Audit – Food Service Audit and request a joint Finance / Personal subcommittee meeting to review findings and review / update policies on these accounts.
7.VIII.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request the Superintendent supply School Committee with a copy of Budget submitted to Auditor on day it is submitted and schedule a Finance Subcommittee meeting to review how information regarding the budget will be reported to the School Committee going forward.

7.IX.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request an Executive Session regarding the DAY School Lease be held in the next 7 days and request a joint Finance / Personal subcommittee meeting with the City’s Purchasing and Law dept’s to review/ ensure that proper policies and procedures are being followed in the RFP/Purchasing process by the School Administration.

By Gerard Nutter]:
Superintendent report on the submission on June 20th then disappearance on June 25th of a $478,460.00 transfer request for Regular Ed Transportation when the Munis Account showed that there was $100,088.65 encumbered and $853.49 available on June 15th 2018. Supt also provide each School Committee member a copy of NRT Transportation contracts by July 27th.

VII.
[By Gerry Nutter]:
Per recently completed Citywide Facilities study – School Department, City Building Department, and Fire Department perform a comprehensive assessment of all interior and exterior doors and associated locking mechanisms at all schools and provide cost to repair/replace based on these findings

7.I.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Mayor convene “Special Meeting” between School And City Council Finance subcommittee with the Supt. and CITY MANGER the week of Sept. 10th to finalize the Maintenance of Effort Agreement for the 2018/2019 School Year and to discuss the need for the City of Lowell to properly fully fund transportation per MA. State Law and cease decreasing the city’s total Cash contribution it provides the schools.

7.II.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request a Joint meeting of the Finance and Facility subcommittee’s to review existing job descriptions for “custodians” and consider the need to privatize school building maintenance (painting, minor plumbing, ceiling tile replacements etc.) and look at potential cost versus adequately maintaining these buildings for our students.

7.III.
[By Gerard Nutter]:
Request Superintendent and Mayor ask the City Manager to fully staff each fire station located near city schools to insure our students safety until proper repairs have been made especially in light of Collins Center Report to the City which states “Given nationwide concerns about school safety at the present time, it is unacceptable to have doors that do not lock property and/or emergency exit doors that do not open or are otherwise nonfunctional.”

7.IV.
[By Andy Descoteaux And Gerry Nutter]:
Request that the Facilities, School Buildings and Transportation Subcommittee meet to come up with a priority list of school repairs and improvements that are currently needed in our schools. Richard Underwood should be in attendance for this meeting.

7.V.
[By Andy Descoteaux And Gerry Nutter]:
Request that the Superintendent arrange a joint meeting of the Facilities Subcommittees of the City Council and School Committees to discuss these priorities and to set in motion, the paperwork that will seek assistance for these repairs and improvements from the MSBA.

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