Saturday, December 29, 2012

Massachusetts DESE: Can you hear us now?


A number of us in Southbridge came under some measure of criticism when we petitioned the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to put the Southbridge Public Schools into receivership.  The critics suggested that such involvement by the State would not cure what ails Southbridge Schools.  As of this date, however, the petition has garnered 122 signatures, with two of them coming within the last few days.


A spokesperson from the State suggested that the State rarely would get involved in a local political squabble unless there was a direct effect on the education of the students.  That qualifier may be open to interpretation, of course, but it would be hard to comprehend how the students could not be affected in a school system that seems to be growing more and more dysfunctional.

Southbridge has a Superintendent of Schools on forced administrative leave.

Southbridge has a Director of Mathematics on forced administrative leave.

Southbridge has a Middle/High School Principal on forced administrative leave.

The Middle/High School even prior to its Principal being placed on forced administrative leave was being investigated to determine the efficacy of a damning exit letter penned by an assistant principal who left the system after a few short weeks.

Some members of the Southbridge School Committee have made derogatory statements publicly criticizing and evaluating the competence of school personnel.

Some people within the school system and without have engaged in a concerted effort to undermine some administrators in the Southbridge system.

A temporary Acting Superintendent placed the Middle/High School Principal on administrative leave one day before the start of a vacation and named as Acting Principal someone who was a reference for the former Southbridge High School Principal who was not appointed to that position when the new Middle/High School opened.

Even before the newly appointed Acting Superintendent has started his position on January 2nd, some have engaged in a whispering campaign charging that because he was the Superintendent in Chicopee and the suspended Southbridge Middle/High School Principal once taught in Chicopee, it must be a conspiracy. That whispering campaign has been engaged in by some within the school system itself.  (For the record, the newly appointed Acting Superintendent, Basan Nembirkow, has stated that he does not know the Principal).

Though an article in today's Telegram and Gazette states that the new Southbridge Middle/High School is already over-capacity and finger-pointing as to the cause is being engaged in, several parents are now trying very hard to find a way to get their children into other systems through school choice.  Not surprisingly towns contiguous to Southbridge have reached their school choice quotas.  Some are considering placing their homes up for sale because of the negatives in "making Southbridge home."

So, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, is this enough to show a school system in trouble?  If not, what will it take?

Perhaps it is not possible to place the Southbridge School District into receivership, but that is no excuse for ignoring what is happening in Southbridge.  Perhaps there is a middle road.

On January 2, 2013, Basan Nembirkow will become the Acting Superintendent of the Southbridge Schools.  What the DESE can do is to work very closely with him.  As someone who has agreed to try to set things straight in Southbridge at a time when no one is beating down the door to come here, he is owed something from the Commonwealth.

Mr. Nembirkow may have a lack of support from some School Committee members, some school personnel, and some disgruntled in the community at large.  The monumental task he has assumed surely demands that he receives unqualified support from the State.

Please pay attention, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and the DESE. Southbridge needs help untainted by political considerations. This is something only you can provide.  If you will only hear us and respond.