Monday, November 19, 2012
Mr. Ely comes to Southbridge: Recalling the 2010 Search for a new Southbridge Superintendent of Schools: Part 1
First in a Series.
As we await the fate of Southbridge Superintendent of Schools, Eric Ely, whose forced administrative leave will be the subject of an Executive Session of the School Committee on Tuesday, it may be time to look back at the process that brought Mr. Ely to town.
I certainly have no knowledge about any allegations that have been asserted regarding Mr. Ely, and as I said before, I intend to withhold judgment until the word is official, choosing in the meantime to ignore the innuendo and claims of anonymous sources who state they are "in the know."
What we do know, however, is what happened in the past. Fortunately, the propensity of some to rewrite history is refuted by contemporaneous reports as chronicled by our hometown newspaper, The Southbridge Evening News.
Memory does not have to serve us. We know from direct reporting that upon the announced retirement of former Superintendent Dr. Dale Hanley, a Search Committee was formed to find and hire a new superintendent. We also know that a controversy arose when some on the Southbridge School Committee were not satisfied with the results obtained by the Search Committee. The Search Committee was charged with bringing before the Southbridge School Committee three to five candidates to be interviewed.
The Search Committee, amid charges that comments made by at least one school committee member of the Search Committee caused good candidates to drop out, refused to re-open the search and insisted on bringing before the School Committee its top candidate. The School Committee then dismissed the Search Committee and appointed itself the Search Committee.
The obvious manipulation of this search for the Superintendent was not lost on the citizens who were outraged that the way was being cleared to naming then Southbridge High School Principal, William Bishop, as the next Superintendent of Southbridge Schools.
On Tuesday, June 1, 2010, a Soundoff appeared in the Southbridge Evening News. It clearly outlined the outrage that many members of the community were feeling. Soundoffs, as you may be aware, are anonymous. I have found recently that anonymity does not seem to bother those who comment on various venues. So here is that Soundoff from the Southbridge Evening News, June 1, 2010, page 4.
Tuesday June 1, 2010, Southbridge Evening News Page 4
Community needs legitimate process
Southbridge local politics is rearing its ugly head again in the form of turning the superintendent search into a fiasco.
Who is to blame for this fiasco? Usually it is the one creating it, driving it and later pontificating a message on camera of anything but that. Naturally, I am referring to our local politician and defunct School Committee Chairman Mr. Lazo.
At last Monday's public meeting Mr. Lazo played the part of Dr. Jekyll and verbally attacked and said enough to drive away the Massachusetts School Committee Associations consultant, Ms. Patricia Correira. This paper has yet to detail those comments other than cutting them off in print as being called (tempestu-). For any representative of this community to drive away a paid professional consultant by mistreating and insulting their integrity is inexcusable and it is high time that Mr. Lazo be held accountable for his seemingly on going boorish behavior.
At Last Tuesday's School committee meeting with the cameras rolling Mr. Lazo played the part of Mr. Hyde and publicly praised the work of the search committee and their integrity and the process. A process that they fulfilled by presenting exactly what was asked of them, providing "no less than three names and no more than five.” The search committee should stand their ground on their decision especially since Mr. Lazo apparently agrees with their work and publicly said so. To do otherwise is creating an unnecessary fiasco and only muddy the waters. The possible end game speculation of course in being clearing the way for a political appointment of a self described personal friend of Mr. Lazo's. This proposed action, his conflict of interest with an internal candidate, and the verbal mistreatment of the consultant by Mr. Lazo is enough to call for his removal on the superintendent search process allowing restoration of some dignity and balance back to the process.
However, Mr. Lazo is not alone on the school committee in holding a conflict of interest with the internal candidate. The other School committee members voting to extend the finalists to five should be closely examined as well. When a group of three or four closely "BAND" together the final decision will always reek of impropriety. Especially, given that this important issue has become a selfmade, School Committee controversy, and has apparently driven away highly qualified candidates.
If certain School Committee members are upset about their motives being questioned, I counter that they should stop feeding the fire by trying so hard to get their way, step aside and let a legitimate process work where the cream can rise to the top naturally.
While true that the process may not be over, the future of this community depends upon a legitimate process and the level of scrutiny of this school committee should be at an all time high during this critical superintendent selection.
Link to Part 2 in the series.
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