Monday, May 31, 2010

Parade time

My family watched the annual Memorial Day Parade from the grounds of Ste. Marguerite's Parish today. There weren't a lot of politicos in it. I saw:

Rep. Colleen Garry
Selectmen George Malliaros and Cathy Richardson
School Committee Members Matt Sheehan, Mike McNamara, and Bonnie Ellie
Greater Lowell SC Members Victor Olson and Paul Morin

The parade itself seemed a little lacking this year with few creative floats or exciting things. The kids liked it though, that's important. Thanks to all the planners and marchers!

Library cuts?

One of my favorite places in town is the library. However, lately they've been cutting their hours. Last fall they started closing at 4:30pm on Thursdays and now for the summer they're closing at 4:30 every day except for Tuesdays (they're closed on Saturdays). What is this, Tyngsboro??

Has their budget been cut? Town Meeting isn't until next week, why the changes?

Scott and taxes

Yesterday I got an anonymous comment about an article from January of this year regarding the new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Stacy Scott. The article is from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It seems that Scott applied for the Superintendent of Milwaukee position earlier this year and was one of three finalists. The headline of the article says, "MPS finalists have checkered pasts."

The article states that Scott had two federal tax liens in 2008 which he says was because of an audit that required him to "recalculate" his "liability." He had to pay over $63,000 in additional taxes.

The article also highlights a report Scott's office published on improving Maryland's schools compliance with federal education standards.

Not a smoking gun really as this stuff happens to people a lot I am sure. You can see the whole article here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's Scott...

New superintendent

Look like it may be Dr. Stacy Scott, the Associate Superintendent of the Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools...stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mercier charged

Today's Lowell Sun is reporting that School Committee member Ron Mercier has been charged with stealing gas from the City of Lowell AND stealing the video camera that was recording the thefts.

From the sound of the article, Mercier is videoed filling up a 5 gallon container for his co-worker and fellow alleged accomplish Keith Murphy and left it for him to pick up later.

DA Gerry Leone said:

These two defendants are alleged to have violated the public's trust by stealing gasoline and motor oil from a city-funded department, then pilfering the video camera that depicted their crimes," Leone said. "We are in a time where city budgets are tight and departments are forced to make cuts. This is a violation of the honest services due to the taxpayers in Lowell and a complete disregard for their employer.

Mike Miles and Matt Sheehan both said again that if the charges are true that Mercier should resign, as did Bonnie Elie. Mike McNamara continues to sit on the fence saying "it's an unfortunate situation." Has the wise old owl gotten his wings clipped?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time to go

I haven't been able to watch the School Committee lately but by my count, last night was the third meeting of the full board since we found out that Member Ron Mercier allegedly stole gas from the City of Lowell. Last night was the first meeting since his termination. As the Lowell Sun said last week, Mercier must resign. To quote:

His continued presence on the committee is a distraction and embarrassment to the town and the School Department. If he wants the spotlight on students, and not on his alleged criminal activity, he would step down...

The Dracut School Committee needs leaders who can serve as strong role models for students. Mercier's alleged ethical lapses and poor judgment show he is not such a leader.


I think the other members of the School Committee need to put pressure on Mercier. Granted, there is nothing they can legally do to remove him but they can certainly strip him of responsibilities. He should not be on the site visit for one of the superintendent finalists nor should he be allowed to chair any sub-committee (if he does, I'm not sure). It's time for leadership and accountability from the other four members. The more silent they are, the more they are a part of the problem.

Score one for the good guys

School Committee Attorney Ed Morris has ruled that the three teachers who were granted professional status at the 11th hour by former Superintendent of Schools Spencer Mullin were improperly granted that status and therefore never got it.

The law states, according to Morris, that a teacher can be granted early (less than 3 years) professional status by the superintendent but "upon the recommendation of the principal." Dracut High School principal James Generoso has said he never gave Mullin recommendations.

People were concerned about two of the three teachers as one is the sister of Mr. Grande and the other is the son of politico Mike McLaughlin. Grande's sister, Linda Monroe, served on the screening committee that recommended Mullin and McLaughlin's son, also named Mike, is connected to DJ Deeb et al, the group that brought Mullin to town.

Mullin has stated that there was no quid pro quo at all but rather these three were invaluable and he wanted to retain them. I'll buy that about the third teacher, Noreen Burns, but if anyone believes that about McLaughlin and Monroe then, well, look up naive in the dictionary.

See the Sun article here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back to the good old days?

In yesterday's Column, they speculated that the new chair of the Tyngsboro Board of Selectman may be someone who doesn't own a home in town (i.e. doesn't pay property taxes). So, to use their logic can you only be on the School Committee if you have children in the schools? Can a renter not hold power? What about college students?

The requirement to serve in office, I am guessing, is to be a resident of the town and be 18 years of age. No property ownership is required. I don't think that's been the case since Andrew Jackson.

What the heck??

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sad times

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Dracut. First the Ron Mercier incident. Then the report that two Dracut police officers had a role in the 2003 drug theft. And now we find out that Matt Grimand was arrested once again.

Obviously this too shall pass but these events, especially the police, are such a black eye on all the good that is happening in town. Shawn has a copy of the report on the drugs and will be breaking it down overtime as it's so lengthy and detailed. He says it will be "ugly" and "damning." Erin Smith did an amazing job in the paper last week unpacking the story. The Sun has the full (redacted) copy of the report on its website which you can see here.

Mercier continues to hang on to his School Committee job. I am guessing that he's not resigning because if he did, it may be an admission of guilt on his part which may impact any potential criminal charges.

Grimard has proven Mr. Generoso right once again. Just last month, he allegedly kicked down a house door in Dunstable to look for a bottle of Xanax that he heard was there. He allegedly stole liquor when he could not find the pills. He was arrested for breaking and entering and malicious destruction of property. The latter charge is a felony according to the Sun.

This is a sad story and this guy needs a lot of help to turn his life around. I think some jail time may be the best thing for him. He may has a sense of entitlement since he got away with his other alleged crime and perhaps he needs a lesson.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mercier fired

Shawn is reporting that School Committee Member Ron Mercier has been fired from his job with the City of Lowell and that "any formal charges will be a result of the formal police report that should be coming soon."

Since this now makes it clear that Mercier did indeed steal gas, he should resign from the School Committee. We should not have to wait for him to be charged and convicted before he does so. Ron has served the town well but he made a major error here and his role on the School Committee has been compromised. He must go.

Mullin defends himself

Former Superintendent of Schools Spencer Mullin penned a letter to the editor in which he defended his decision to grant professional status to three teachers despite them not having worked for the requisite three years.

In each instance, he insists that the teachers were qualified and he did it to "retain the services of valued teachers with impressive credentials..."

Perhaps...but he never mentions the three by name. The fact that 2 of the 3 are buddies of Mullin just doesn't sit right with folks. Furthermore, he never addresses the fact that the Dracut High School principal has said he did not recommend professional status for these teachers despite Mullin saying he did. Given Mullin's shaky tenure here, people are more willing to give the principal the benefit of the doubt over Mullin.

You can read the whole letter here.

Sheehan in - Cox out

Tonight at 6:30, Matthew Sheehan will formally announce his candidacy for state representative at Veterans Park. On the flip side, Selectman Bob Cox announced that he will NOT be running for the seat saying the timing isn't right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

3 Finalists

The Superintendent search committee has narrowed down the superintendent search to three finalists:

James Gaylord, Dolores Gribouski and Stacy Scott

Gaylord is currently the superintendent in Hampton, NH; Gribouski is manager of student support services and alternative programs in Worcester; and Scott is associate superintendent for Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools.

See the Sun story here and Shawn's report here.

Glad to see they're looking outside the district - will nice to get some outside eyes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Did Mullin lie?

At tonight's School Committee meeting, Attorney Kevin Murphy stated that there was no recommendation from the principal of Dracut High School, Mr. Generoso, to grant professional status to three teachers prior to Dr. Spencer Mullin retiring.

This differs from Mullin's prior assertion to the Lowell Sun. The paper said last week:

Mullin said he had two conversations with Dracut High School Principal James Generoso, who recommended early tenure for McLaughlin and Monroe.

Murphy also said that it took sending a constable to Mullin's house to actually get him to respond to their letters.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

More Thuggery

You have to read today's Column to find out more about the thugs over at Greater Lowell Technical High School. First, they report that the school's spokesman (what school has a spokesman, how many hacks work at this place?) blocked Michael Ready, who was addressing the committee, and escorted him out of the meeting place. Then, when Ready got home someone had ordered him a pizza from Santoro's Sub Shop - a la Mary Jo Santoro, the newly hired superintendent. The delivery guy had the cell phone number of the School Committee chair, George O'Hare. O'Hare denies sending the pizza. Suuurreeee.

Then, they criticized Erin Smith, the Sun reported, for having the audacity to ask a question. The spokesman said "it was not fair to question the family ties of school administrators."

Are these people out of their minds? They have gotten away with so much for so long and refuse to change. Well, we'll do it for them.

Mullin all alone

Today's Sun discusses former Superintendent of Schools Spencer Mullin's decision to grant professional status to three teachers ahead of schedule. Erin Smith, the reporter, interviewed other area superintendents and hardly any of them had ever granted early professional status to teachers. Mullin granted it to Mike McLaughlin's son and Leon Grande's sister (as well as a non-connected Math teacher). McLaughlin, Sr. of course is head of the DJ Deeb crew that hired Mullin and Grande replaced Mullin as Drama Director when Mullin went to Waltham some years ago.

The article states that the School Committee will release a report on this matter at tomorrow's meeting. Should be interesting! See the article here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chicago style thugery

Check out a comment at Left in Lowell and read about the actions of some members of the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee.

These people must go. I saw on Dracut Forum that they're having the authors of this posting on "Saturday Morning Live" tomorrow at 8am - don't miss it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mercier standing firm

At last night's School Committee organizational meeting, embattled member Ron Mercier announced that he is staying on to "conduct" the business of the schools. Newly named Vice Chair Bonnie Elie said that Mercier hasn't been charged with a crime and we shouldn't "put the cart before the horse" (see the Sun article here which, for some reason, is a link to the Salt Lake Tribune).

So...you should only resign if you are charged with a crime?? Chair Matthew Sheehan essentially said the same thing:

"It's Mr. Mercier's prerogative. Mr. Mercier is an elected official in this town. It is his choice," said Sheehan. "As chairman of the School Committee, we are going to move forward with school business." He said further, "That is Mr. Mercier's situation." He went on to say that they will consult legal advise if Mercier is "charged and convicted."

So what if he's not charged with any crime but still did it and gets fired from his job? Does this mean Mercier gets a pass? He gets to stay even if he stole gas from his employer and then used a sick day to go on his boat that was filled with said gas?

This is not good. Sheehan has been very good at holding people to a higher standard and he is essentially moving on from Mercier unless he gets convicted? I think Bob Cox, Colleen Garry, et al have a campaign issue in the state representative race now.

I will say it again - if Mercier did steal gas from the City of Lowell, he must resign. That is exactly what Sheehan and Member Mike Miles said last week. To now back track is poor leadership and a stain on an otherwise impressive political career so far for Sheehan.

Another nationwide search

As expected, last night the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee hired insider and handpicked successor Jo Ann Santoro to replace retiring Superintendent James Cassin. Santoro has worked at the school for a number of years and was anointed by folks like Michael Hayden and Mike Lenzi.

This is a complete hack hire and shows, as Shawn points out, that the school is completely and utterly out of touch with reality. Despite the fact that schools are facing dire budget cuts, GLTHS raised its annual assessment to its member towns! Shawn wrote:

Anyone surprised? anyone?

Nobody’s happy with whats happening at that school, with respect to the political and budget situations.

This predetermined selection is just another example of a school that is out of touch. Board members asked for her up front. Word got out, so candidates did not apply. The deal was done.

I thought our new representatives were going to try to change things.


I agree...Paul Morin and Victor Olson are more of the same old, same old. Instead of fighting for Dracut, they argue in favor of the school's assessment. Instead of trying to increase the application pool, they settle for an insider. Very disappointing and, as Lynne points out at Left In Lowell, people must remember this vote the next time these guys are up for re-election. She of course focuses on the Lowell representatives in her piece but just replace the names Lenzi and Laferriere with Morin and Olson:

Remember in November (2011) folks. This was a disgusting display of insiderism, and made all the more ugly because of the two other highly qualified who, in many people’s opinions, interviewed much better than Santoro. I have a report from Paul@01852, a frequent commenter and a fellow member of Move Lowell Forward, who was at the meeting. Which, by the way, was not televised. Perhaps, as Erin Smith reminds about in her article, they should have done what defeated incumbent Michael Hayden wanted, and scrapped the whole search to begin with, if they were so in the bag for a candidate (who, so far as I can tell, has no real ambition, thinks everything is peachy and plans no new initiatives to improve the school, and who is so tight with the cronies that we basically have a Cassin all over again).

Smith writes a pretty good article, by the way. Check that out too (no idea why the Sun’s site sends you to that weird link).

I am thoroughly disgusted and I want these incumbents out. Lenzi and Laferriere are up in 2011, folks, we need people willing to run and kick their crony butts out of there.


Of course, the meeting wasn't televised nor were cameras present to tape it for future broadcast. The game is over, boys. The curtain has been pulled back. We are watching.

Olson is quoted in the Sun article as wanting to make a statement to explain his vote but never did. Please do, Mr. Olson. We want to know. We want to know why the meeting wasn't televised. We want to know why more people applied at Greater Lawrence. We want to know why a person, who admitted to not being strong on collective bargaining, and who said she would need "support learning about the school's finances" was hired. We want to know why a guy with 11 state licenses, two advanced degrees and a law degree didn't get a single vote. We want to know why you didn't even visit the outsider's school or speak to his boss. We want to know why an applicant who drew up with a blueprint for the school's future and who has been a school administrator for 25 years was treated like a nobody.

Feel free to comment here, at Dracut Forum, wherever. We demand accountability.

Monday, May 3, 2010

O'Loughlin and Zimini lose

A huge upset in the world of Dracut politics as 18 year incumbent Selectman Jim O'Loughlin came in third place tonight losing to newcomer Cathy Richardson and fellow incumbent George Malliaros. All three candidates backed by Selectman John Zimini - Brian Bond, Phil Thibault, and May Paquette, went down in defeat.

On the School Committee side, incumbents Mike McNamara and Mike Miles won and Russ Taylor crushed Thibault in the race for Housing Authority.

As many were saying tonight at Town Hall, people seemed sick of the infighting on the board and wanted to give someone else a chance. Perhaps they felt that because Richardson is a woman, she will bring a different perspective and demeanor to the board. I think Bond's silver lining is that he knocked off his enemy O'Loughlin. His attacks on O'Loughlin may has resonated with voters...but not enough to vote for Bond.

On the school side, I think people are happy with the way things are going and like the two Mikes. Paquette is a good person but would be a throw back to the old ways.

It will be interesting to see who gets to be chairman of both boards. My money is on Bob Cox for the selectmen and McNamara for the School Committee.

The biggest loser tonight has got to be John Zimini. He campaigned hard for Bond, Thibault, and, in the end, Paquette. He put all his effort behind them and got wholeheartedly rejected. I think his political career will come to an end next year when he runs for re-election.

Thibault ran hard on his opposition to Louisburg Square and in the end got beat 2,320-1,571 by Taylor. Perhaps the Zimini/Cunha/Martin crowd misread the voter's feelings about that project?

A very, very interesting night. The people at Town Hall were clearly shell shocked that O'Loughlin lost. He was there getting the results and had a good face on but you can help but think he felt horrible. Richardson had people there too and they were elated. She came out of no where and I had predicted that she would come in third with O'Loughlin topping the ticket. Boy was I wrong! I was correct on every other prediction though.

The Board of Selectmen is now made up of almost all new members. Cox and Zimini are now the veterans having been elected in 2005 (see below for correction).

CORRECTION: Joe DiRocco is actually now the board's veteran now as he was elected in a special election in 2004. My error.

Plan B

Gerry Nutter, who I had the pleasure of meeting this weekend at WCAP, speculates that Ron Mercier may not have to resign from the School Committee. You can read his thoughts on that here. It got me thinking that if he didn't resign and is guilty of stealing gas from the City of Lowell, is there a process of removing an elected official in Dracut?

According to the Town Charter, Section 7, Article 13 there is a procedure by which the voters can recall an elected official if there are more than six months left in his or her term. The text of the section is below. In addition, the School Committee policies state that a School Committee member must "Remember that he/she represents the entire community at all times."

Ron is a good guy but like so many others have said, if these allegations are true, he cannot remain on the School Committee.

Section 13 Recall Procedures
(a) Application - Any holder of an elective office enumerated in Article
3, Section 1, with more than six months remaining in the term for which he
was elected, may be recalled therefrom by the voters in the manner provided
in this section.

(b) Recall Petition - Two hundred or more voters may file with the
town clerk an affidavit containing the name of the officer whose recall is
sought and a statement of the grounds upon which the petition is based. At
least twenty-five names of voters shall be from each precinct. The town clerk
shall thereupon deliver to said voters petition blanks demanding such recall,
printed forms of which he shall keep available. The blanks shall be issued by
the town clerk with his signature and official seal attached thereto. They shall
be dated; shall be addressed to the board of selectmen; shall contain the names
of all persons to whom they are issued, the name of the person whose recall is
sought, the grounds for recall as stated in the affidavit; and shall demand the
election of a successor to the said office. A copy of the affidavit shall be
entered in a record book to be kept in the office of the town clerk. The recall
petitions shall be returned and filed with the town clerk within twenty days
following the date of the filing of the affidavit, signed by at least ten percent
of the voters and containing their names and addresses; provided, however,
that not more than twenty-five percent of the total number shall be from any
precinct.

The town clerk shall, within twenty-four hours of receipt, submit the
petitions to the registrars of voters who shall forthwith certify thereon the
number of signatures that are names of voters.

(c) Recall Election - If the petition shall be certified by the town clerk
to be sufficient, he shall forthwith submit the same with his certificate to the
board of selectmen. Upon its receipt of the certificate, the board of selectmen
shall forthwith give written notice of such petition and certificate to the officer
whose recall is sought. If said officer does not resign his office within five
days after delivery of such notice, the board of selectmen shall order an
election to be held not less than thirty-five nor more than forty days after the
date of the town clerk's certificate of the sufficient petition. If, however, any
other town election is to occur within sixty days after the date of the
certificate, the board of selectmen shall hold the recall election on the date of
such other election. If a vacancy occurs in said office after a recall election
has been ordered, the election shall nevertheless proceed as provided in this
section, and the ballots for candidates shall, notwithstanding a recall provision
to the contrary, be counted.

Here we go

One of the best days of the year is upon us...election day. The polls are open until 8pm so get to your local voting place and cast your ballot. This will be a good one, be sure to have your voice heard.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mercier out?

Today's Column predicts that Dracut School Committee member Ron Mercier will "likely be fired in the coming days and weeks and possibly face criminal charges." They also speculate that he will resign on Tuesday, the day after town elections.

They also said that Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch hired Mercier to curry favor with then City Councilor Armand Mercier, Ron's grandfather. Prior to his 2008 hire, they said Mercier worked for the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department but left in a "sudden, mysterious and as-yet-to-be-explained" way.

Lots of moving parts here. Stay tuned.

Garry kick-off

Don't forget that State Rep. Colleen Garry is having her campaign kick-off party today from 1pm-4pm at the Lo Kai on Lakeview Ave.

Postive?

The newest game in town is "Positively Dracut", a weekly talk show hosted by John Zimini and Ken Cunha on DATV. In today's Column, Zimini said that anyone who wanted to be on the show could come on and that no one had been invited. However, they recently interviewed Cathy Richardson, a candidate for selectman and they invited her the night of the Candidate's Night! I guess they went running after her after the event and asked her to be on. They realized she had a good night and wanted to try and get her in their column - a sort of quid pro quo, her people would vote for her and Brian Bond and Bond's people would do the same.

That is why Bond and Phil Thibault attended Richardson's Pizza Night last week...they're trying to get her to be a spoiler. I think she has seen right through it and has not agreed to any "deal."

So a bigger issue here is why would Zimini tell the Sun that no one has been invited on the show when Richardson said she was?