Author Archives: Nutter for Lowell School Committee

About Nutter for Lowell School Committee

I've been interested in Schools since I worked at the Greater Lowell Tech and substitute taught in Dracut. I've followed the finances and issues with the Lowell School for the past 8 years while blogging and contributing to Saturday Morning Live!

Fiscal Irregularities, Lack of Accurate Information, Open Meeting Law Issue, time for a School Committee member who will hold Administration Accountable

The Lowell School Dept. has lost another great employee with the resignation of Asst. Business Manager (former HR Director) Michael Cassidy. The current School Administration has lost many valuable members with a long history of knowledge and it doesn’t help the fiscal accountability of this School Administration with Mr. Cassidy’s departure.

I am no Fiscal expert, don’t pretend to be, don’t play one on the blog or radio and am no self proclaimed “fiscal watchdog, I’m someone who has an interest in protecting our educational money and making sure it is accounted for honestly and clearly. To do that I need your help in getting elected to the Lowell School Committee.

I’m a Class of 1980 Lowell High School Graduate who attended St. John’s Seminary and Northern Essex Community College, who understands budgeting because of my career and the position of General Manager I have grown into over the past 27 years in printing.

I’m no Horace Mann who has all the educational answers. I’ll let the qualified experts we hire do that job and support them the best I can in providing our students with the best education available.

I’m someone who understand the basic concept of municipal budgets, state funding, taxes, Chapt. 70 and things like the Circuit Breaker account because people like Tom Moses, Warren Shaw, Connor Baldwin, Jay Lang, and many others have taken the time to sit down with me when I’ve requested it and painstakingly in some cases explained how all of this is suppose to work.

I’m an involved parent who long before announcing a run for School Committee advocated for Lowell to join the C.E.P. program. 61% of families in Lowell School’s receive some type of Federal / State assistance allowing Lowell since Sept. 2015 to give EVERY student a free breakfast and lunch under the C.E.P. Federal Program. I saw it as a way to assist not only the poorer families but the struggling working class families that didn’t qualify for any type of assistance. The City and I owe a large Thank You to former School Committee member Kim Scott who asked the then new Supt. to look into the CEP program after a I ran a month of Blog post lobbying for Lowell to take part in it.

Kim wanted to either show me why we couldn’t or shouldn’t yet sign up for it or wanted to make sure if we could in fact participate then to do it for that school year. We were able too and thanks to her requesting that this be a priority right before the start of the 2015 School year, the new Superintendent enrolled Lowell into the program.

I’m proud I drove her to get that program started and Thankful the current Supt. jumped in whole heartedly.

What bothers me about this current School Committee is that even with a former teacher and a current School Business Manager on board, they receive very little answers or requested information and accept at face value whatever answer is given and they do little follow up.

I pointed out we allow a small selected group of students to receive 90 Educational Hours a year less than other 5th and 6th grade students and NO CURRENT School Committee member files a motion to address it? Then again no other challenger has made any statements about it either. Do we really need more of the same?

Another example to show the lack of questioning and follow-up can be found in the June 21st School Committee meeting. Included in that meeting , they had an end of the year “Forecast” that stated they expected to have zero money left over.

Included in that Financial Report it clearly shows a remaining available balance on the Health Insurance Line (53600)

Then at the August 16th School Committee meeting the following Information was distributed.

Yet there has never been a clear answer to how you go from having in June expenditures of $14,971,856 with a remaining balance of $73,742 to a deficit in August of $661,795.68 with expenditures of $15,707,123.68 when the Fiscal year ends June 30th! Connie Martin is the only School Committee member to ask for better clarification after finding out from many individual in the accounting field that the policy used by this Administration is definitely not best practise.

I also can’t understand why you would not know you would have funds available, we have a Munis System that the School Dept. is charged for by the City yet we use it sparingly if at all and there is little to no communication under this Superintendent on the amount of available “Free Cash” for the School Committee to vote to use.

Under the previous Administration, the Deputy Supt. used to let the School Committee know about that before the fiscal year closed so they could decide how to use it. This Supt. has been allowed to do whatever he wants without getting their input.

Another Example of incorrect information that this School Committee probably chose to ignore and this one is clearly 100% NON Factual is this letter in the August presentation concerning a budget shortfall.

The “District” NEVER decided to fund that, in fact they brought forward a request for more city funding.

When it was clear in July after the Superintendent’s Administration had screwed up the Circuit Breaker account by trying to carry over to much and had at one time in June charged $80,000 of his salary to the revolving Food service Account that items needed to be fixed and adjusted to close out the previous year they were. It took until September of 2016

It was also clear that the Para Grant funded by the State had been cut so the Supt. brought in a recommendation that the School Committee acted on and approved 6-0 with Mayor Kennedy abstaining, to ask the City Council for the money to make up for the funds cut in the Para grants.

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Yet the Mayor, the maker of the motion or the Superintendent of Schools NEVER followed up on that vote to request the funds.

The narrative that this School Dept. decided to maintain the program from the operating budget is false. The Administration asked for more money, the School Committee approved the motion and then they all sat back and did NOTHING!

What is also going on is we have an outstanding UNFAIR Labor Practise Complaint with a Court date of April 2018 hanging over this Administration / School Committee supposedly due to the Superintendent NOT informing the School Committee of the issue.

THE COLUMN
Lowell School Committee blasts union over longer work to work
Posted by sunthecolumn on December 30th, 2016

“Ridiculous” is how Mayor Edward Kennedy and School Committee members are describing a demand by unionized School Department employees to be compensated for having to walk a slightly longer route to work.

Committee members also expressed dismay that the issue wasn’t flagged to their attention or resolved before it ended up before the state Department of Labor in the form of a grievance filed Dec. 23.

“It concerns me this was never brought to our attention and there wasn’t a meeting of the minds to resolve it,” said committee member Gignac.

Gignac, a member of the committee’s negotiating subcommittee, said the panel has had several sessions with the union over the last several months, but the parking issue was never discussed.

This Committee also had to be “reminded” by the State Attorney General of their OPEN MEETING LAW Requirements and Posting Complete and Accurate Agenda’s.

Aug 15 2016 from AG

While not raised in the initial complaint, we take this opportunity to remind the Committee of its obligations for posting meeting notices. We note that the Committee failed to post on the notice for its May 4 meeting a topic related to discussion of this Open Meeting Law complaint. The Open Meeting Law requires that public bodies post notice of each meeting “at least 48 hours prior to such meeting, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays” and that every notice must include “the date, time and place of such meeting and listings of topics that the chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting.” G.L. c. 30A, § 20(b). Public bodies must list topics for discussion with “sufficient specificity to reasonably advise the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting.”

940 CMR 29.03(1 )(b). Here, the members of the Committee anticipated discussing the Open Meeting Law complaint at its May 4 meeting, and thus the discussion should have been included on the agenda. See OML 2016-

This is why I want to be elected to the Lowell School Committee, to ask questions, point out the inconsistencies and hold the Supt. and Asst. Supt. of Finance accountable for our Educational dollars.

Generous with the Taxpayers Money

The one thing you can say about this School Committee,they have NOT been fiscal conservatives when it is time for salary increases.

On the Contrary, they have been very good in delivering taxpayers money to those who work for the School Dept. especially the Administration!

In the 2 years they have been in Office they have “settled” two UTL contracts – That’s a 12.75% – 13% Payroll increase during their term.

Look at what they have done for the Superintendent’s Office – When they took office the Supt. was receiving $185,000 under a MOU but they chose to grant him a 4 year term defined contract that increased that to $189,625 retroactive to July 1st 2016 then granted him a 2.5% increase for each of the remaining 3 years so in the 2019/2020 School year he receives a salary of $204,206

The Assistant Superintendent For Curriculum position was budgeted in 2016/2017 for $139,584 and in the 2017/2018 budget it is $150,000 that’s a 7.5% 1 year salary increase of $10,416.00

The Asst. Supt. of Student Support Services budgeted salary was $130,244 when this Committee took office, in 2016 during the school year this School Committee approved a raise and title change to Deputy Supt.(which had been eliminated by the last committee) adjusting the salary to $145,000 and in the 2017/2018 budget it is now $150,000 roughly a 15% increase of $19,756 since they took office.

Plus just after this 2018 budget was approved with $600,000 worth of cost that had no available funding the following occurred.

The School Dept Budget had 1 position doing 2 jobs at an approved Salary of $96,638.00 broken out by the Supt. as 2 part time items. A New Family Resource Center Coordinator was hired at a salary higher than the $96,638.00 the previous person was receiving for doing 2 jobs. I’ve heard it is somewhere between $100,000 – $106,000 and the Transportation Director’s job was reposted at a $65,000 Salary that is minimally $78,362.00 more in administrative cost than what the positions were budgeted for in the 2018 budget.

We shouldn’t keep adding administrative cost while allowing the Superintendent to recommend cutting guidance positions.

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