Archive | Schools RSS feed for this section

Cleaning out my mind: Cole on (blog) message, signing off, and don’t mess with a mom

15 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cleaning out the notepad of the mind today while while contemplating where I can buy a hazmat suit to protect myself from Ebola …

It’s always rewarding, and also entertaining, when this space is able to force a candidate off message to respond to what’s written here, by me, a guy who’s just some snarky know-it-all from the neighborhood.

Leah Cole  loves this blog!

Leah Cole loves this blog!

You see, that’s exactly what happened last night to Republican State Rep Leah Cole, who spent much of her debate against Democratic challenger Beverley Griffin Dunne not talking about her accomplishments as a state legislator, but defending herself against what’s been written here in The Eye.

Although Cole didn’t mention this blog directly during a forum for 12th Essex District candidates at the Peabody Access Telecommunications studios, she might as well have.

After all, instead of talking mainly about her humble accomplishments the past 18 months as as Peabody’s freshman solon on Beacon Hill, there was a lot of “beep, beep, beep.”

She attempted to defend herself against me writing how she is less experienced and qualified to be State Rep than Dunne, and how Cole’s right wing tendencies make her an even less effective elected official when it comes to bringing home the bacon to Peabody.

“This time I’m the candidate with the most experience,” the 25-year-old said of her long 18 months as an elected official, a contention that I’m sure drew more than few snickers from the control room.

But the best moment in my mind came when Leah huffed that it was a “false attack” to say that she was in with the highly conservative wing of the GOP on Beacon Hill.

Come on Leah, be proud of who you are. America’s a great country, where you can be anything you want, including an angry, intolerant, sky-is-always-falling right winger. Those are you heroes, embrace them openly. After all, even some of my best friends are Neanderthals . . .

Sign of our times is going, going …

Pole dance:  This sign is going, going ...

Pole dance: This sign is going, going ….

I haven’t been past it myself yet, but a few of my “moles” today have told me that the obnoxious, giant billboard hard by Lowell Street and next to the Subway sandwich shop is finally coming down.

But while I’m sure you’ll be seeing victory dances by credit-grabbing elected officials, I’ll remind you again that the only reason it’s coming down is because the city struck a deal with Outdoor Media Corp to give them two new locations for their dirty signs.

And while we bid adieu to the Subway billboard monstrosity, we’re still dealing with other billboards, including the obnoxious digital one that somehow got approval behind the Hess gas station. That sign is just a few hundred yards away from the one that’s coming down, so enjoy your hollow victory, folks. …

This makes us all very Epi!

Kristie DeLoreto for School Committee?

Kristie DeLoreto for School Committee?

Never, ever mess with a determined mom on a mission! That’s the message I’m taking from the Peabody School Committee’s decision last night to approve the installation of Epi-cabinets in all of our schools.

These cabinets will contain Epinephrine, a drug used to save the lives of people having severe allergic reactions.

Getting the Epi-cabinets approved, and making our schools safer for children with severe allergies, was the culmination of a crusade by Kristie DeLoreto, a mom who has personal experience with the dangers faced by children who can become severely ill because of allergic reactions.

Although she had help from several moms during their campaign, DeLoreto is the driving force behind the Allergy and Asthma Awareness Initiative of Peabody.

The group fist brought this to the attention of the school committee back in January, and kept on our elected officials to get it done.

“Peabody is going to be a pioneer in the raising awareness around asthma and allergies,” DeLoreto wrote on her Facebook page this morning. “The support we have received from the Superintendent, the Mayor, the school committee, the school principals, the school nurses, the teachers, staff and parents and students is nothing short of remarkable, and I’m so proud of all that we’ve been able to do!”

Now, here’s hoping that Ms. DeLoreto, who’s involved in several Peabody activities when it comes to improving quality of life for young families pulls papers next spring to run for school committee herself.

Great job, Kristie and company!

New live ‘You Make The Call’ show tonight

Got nothing to do tonight betweem 8 and 9 p.m.? Then tune into PAT Channel 99 for a new, live “You Make The Call” show. I plan to take that curmudgeon Dick Jarvis to task on several issues. :)

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

New voke school is the ‘gift’ that keeps on giving for Peabody taxpayers

17 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s the “gift” that keeps on giving, and now there’s reason to believe that Peabody taxpayers might be further fleeced because of an oversight when it comes to the new, totally ostentatious North Shore Technical School.

taxesYou see, the genius political movers and shakers, who built this Palace of Versailles of voke schools, forgot about a “little” obligation owed to the retirees of Essex Aggie, which was merged with the new voke.

Turns out that no one figured into the already over-inflated cost of the new school an additional $375,000 owed annually to pensioners. What that means is that Peabody, which wasn’t even part of the old district that included Essex Aggie, might be on the hook for a big chunk this oversight.

Oops! Maybe State Rep Ted Speliotis, a champion of this over-priced  educational edifice should simply throw up his arms and say … “sorry, the dog ate my homework.”

The new school, which will serve fewer than 200 of Peabody’s 6,000 students, is already taking a $3 million bite out of Peabody’s budget. This year, it was the primary reason for Peabody being forced, for the 13 straight year, to raise taxes on homeowners.

The problem now is that no one wants to own this mistake when it comes to the pension obligation, and no one seems to know how or why the oversight happened in the first place. Of course, the answer is simple as to who will “own” it. It belongs to us, and the taxpayers of all of the other communities who joined in here.

It’s too bad, since I’m sure the movers and shakers behind this over-the-top luxurious school building could have easily swept it under the rug when it came to the overall budget. Heck, no one would have even noticed. Right?

But now, we likely own it, and the question is, how much of it will be the obligation of Peabody taxpayers, whose kids never milked one cow at the old Essex Aggie?

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Pulling voting from Peabody’s schools continues to be a silly, waste-of-time issue

14 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

As far back as anyone can remember, residents of Peabody have been voting in schools. And as far back as anyone can recall, student safety on Election Day has never been an issue.

VoteBut that can’t stop Brandi Carpenter from wasting more valuable Peabody School Committee time on an issue that just isn’t an issue at all. The School Committee member, after all, is on a quest, a crusade, a hunt for justice and enlightenment.

Since 2008, it has been her primary and defining issue as an elected official:  She wants to move some of the city’s polling places, currently and conveniently located in school gyms, to alternative locations. 

How about supermarkets?

Or the North Shore Mall?

Hey, I have an idea, maybe we can have people walk barefoot, five miles uphill in the snow just to vote. I mean, we have such wonderful voter turnout these days, so inconveniencing people on Election Day couldn’t possibly be a problem. Right?

This “Carpenter Crusade” surfaced again today in a Salem News article by John Castelluccio, who set out to write about the city’s need to temporarily move the Higgins Middle School’s Ward 4 polling place while the new middle school was constructed. But John ended up poking Ms. Carpenter again on one of the silliest issues in recent school committee memory.

“It’s a long uphill battle,” Carpenter told The News of her quest to take voting out of schools, again making us all wonder … when, exactly is another member of the school committee going to ask Ms. Carpenter to move on so they can focus on REAL issues concerning our schools?

Well, the fact is, according to Ms. Carpenter, she and her esteemed school committee colleagues are giving the city’s election commission a little time to work out the current Higgins polling issue, but then … watch out! We’re coming right back at you Peabody election officials on this bigger, more cataclysmic issue.  That’s right, Carpenter says the school committee – with member Beverley Dunne being the only responsible dissenter of the six —  will waste more time next year on trying to force the city to move polling locations to places such as Hannaford Supermarket.

I can just see the wording on the ballot now: Vote for three for school committee, and while you’re at it, make sure you pick up some apples. They’re on sale four for a dollar.

Of course, I am being a little silly about the apples, but then again, a silly issue deserves some silly commentary. And how ironic and silly is it that Ms. Carpenter has suggested that voting be moved from some public schools and into at least two churches and temples that have children onsite for their own preschool programs?

Look, in all seriousness, no one is against safe schools.  If there is a real safety issue in Peabody’s schools, then we should be addressing fixing that problem first and foremost. But if we’re going to say that voting in schools causes a danger, why don’t we just totally give up right now, and lock the little darlings in a bubble in their bedrooms? That’ll keep ‘em safe.

There has never been a safety issue with people voting in Peabody schools, and the odds against there being one in the future are slim and none. And slim just left the building. You could actually argue that Election Day is the safest day of the year in Peabody’s public schools. After all, it’s the only day of the school year where there is at least one police officer onsite, on duty from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you have any common sense at all, you come to the quick, frightening  conclusion that those sick vermin who seek to hurt children are not going to wait until Election Day to do so. Early in this debate over taking voting out of Peabody’s schools, the tragedy of Sandy Hook was inappropriately evoked during one debate. Was it a scare tactic? Perhaps. More likely, though, it was an over-reaction by school committee members who need to focus on real issues.

Aren’t maniacs  less likely to strike on a day when there are police officers and lots of law-abiding adults around to potentially stop them?

Is there a true safety issue in our schools that we don’t know about? And if so, why don’t we address that instead of finding bad people amongst Peabody best citizens, who are only trying to conveniently exercise their ultimate right as Americans?

In these days when voter turnout continues to drop at an alarming rate, moving voting from our schools will only further confuse and inconvenience voters. The city’s election commission, including Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos, is against uprooting voters, and so too are most of the city’s election officials.

It’s time for Ms. Carpenter to drop this silly crusade and move onto more important issues. Maybe the voters will even thank her come her own re-Election Day when they’re not inconvenienced by traffic trying to get to the mall to vote . 

Peabody tax and water bills on rise as city tries to pay for new voke school boondoggle

19 Jun

Mayor calls for $5.4M budget increase; $3M assessed to pay for new voke school

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you supported those wasteful, big-spending elected officials – especially State Rep Ted Speliotis — who pushed for Peabody to join in the taxpayer screw job called the new North Shore Technical school, then please, bend over right now and scream out “thank you, sir! May I have another?!”

Call this horror show The MEGA VOKE that ate the Peabody Taxpayers!

Artists rendering of MEGA VOKE!

Artist rendering of MEGA VOKE!

Because of this opulent and overly ostentatious new voke school in Danvers – which will only serve around 150 of Peabody’s roughly 6,000 students – not only are your property taxes going up in 2015, but get ready for an increase in water and sewer rates too.

 

Mayor Ted Bettencourt submitted his FY2015 city budget to the City Council, and it’s calling for a $5.4 million increase, of which roughly $3 million will go to offset our share of next year’s piece of the North Shore Voke pork pie.

The mayor, in a letter to the city council obtained by The Eye, says that roughly means an average tax increase of $189 per homeowner, and a likely, yet to be determined increase in Peabody’s traditionally reasonable water and sewer rates. For those keeping score, that’s 13 straight years of property tax increases in Peabody.

And … this is just Year 1 of this Disaster in Danvers. This state of the art, $133 million school in Speliotis’ hometown, is the “gift” that will keep on giving for Peabody taxpayers now and forever.

Speliotis, who faces an election year challenge from Peabody Republican Tom Lyons, not only got this Taj Mahal of a school for his hometown of Danvers, but I’m sure he made big labor happy with the building’s bloated construction costs, which are already over budget.

Then there’s the hacks-at-the-trough process they’re using in hiring administrators. The new school’s superintendent, a guy named Daniel O’Connell, will make $197,000/year. That’s about $50K more a year than what we thought was a big contract for Peabody Schools Super Joe Mastrocola. Looks now  like Joe was a huge bargain when you consider that he manages a system with roughly 5,550 more students than will attend O’Connell’s school.

And, it gets ever worse. Not only will Peabody need to pony up millions more to send a handful of students to this new school, but because we’re transferring students from our system to this regional voke system, Peabody is set to lose $504K additional when it comes to state aid.

Next time you complain about the conditions in Peabody’s public schools, think about this: It’s only going to get worse while we as a city figure out a way to pay for a school that will service less than 3% of Peabody’s total student population. And we haven’t even talked about the costs associated with our own much-needed new Higgins Middle School, where huge construction bills are in the mail.

At this point, I should add a disclaimer for those screaming that I’m anti-vocational education. This space supports vocational education as much as the next blog, but we’re just not seeing the practicality or fairness of bilking the taxpayers in this particular situation.

Here are the facts, ladies and gentlemen: An estimated 200 Peabody kids, who we could have given a valuable vocational education had we only – for a lot less cost – re-vamped our on Peabody Vocational High School – are now going to watch helplessly as 150 of their classmates hit the lottery and are allowed to attend this educational palace on the hill in Danvers.

So, please bend over today, and thank Ted Speliotis, and those Peabody City Councilors who voted for this disastrous “gift” that will keep on giving for us the taxpayers.

The case against replacing MCAS with Common Core in Massachusetts

19 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

On our recent “You Make the Call” live show, we interviewed Peabody School Committee member David McGeney about the perils of Common Core, a new set of national educational standards that could end up replacing what we already have in Massachusetts for standards testing (MCAS).

Since being adopted following Ed Reform in the early 1990s, MCAS has helped the Commonwealth become No. 1 in public education nationally, and now the Federal government wants to replace it with what many educators feel is an inferior set of Common Core standards.

The following video explains Common Core, and its testing component. If you care about the quality of our public education system, it’s very important viewing.

Poll: How do you feel about taking voting out of the schools

14 Nov

Some members of the Peabody School Committee, citing student safety and disruption of the educational process, would like ban the city from using schools as polling locations on Election Day.

How do you feel about the issue?

Pay increases approved for Mayor, City Councilors and School Commitee

15 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

I’ll weigh in during the discussion, but for now I just wanted to get our readership’s  reaction to the Peabody City Council last night voting pay raises for the Mayor,  School Committee members,  and City Councilors.

Here are the basic details.  (You can read more in this article from the Peabody Patch.)

The City Council voted 8-2 to hike the Mayor’s pay from $94,933 per year to $105,000 per year (10% increase). It’s the first mayoral raise in 12 years.

Councilors also voted 7-3 to increase their salaries to 9 percent of the mayor’s salary, starting in 2014, and give School Committee members an $1,100 raise. School Committee members will now earn $5,100, while councilors will earn about $9,450 (up from $7,466).

Please give me your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll try to weigh in with my opinion during the discussion.

West School honored for its patriotism, support of troops

5 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The flag flies high at the West

The flag flies high and proud at the West School

Although we like to get into the meaty side of the issues here on The Eye, we also like to take time out to celebrate nice accomplishments in our community.

So, today we’re pleased to inform you of a noteworthy honor bestowed upon my Alma mater, the West Memorial School.

This morning, US Department of Defense representatives will be at the Bow Street School to honor those at the West with the  prestigious Seven Seals Award, an acknowledgement the DoD created to recognize American employers for patriotic support for soldiers serving in the National Guard and Reserves, and their families.

Massachusetts National Guard Staff Sgt. David Nicholson, a West parent, started the ball rolling on having the West receive this award when he wrote a letter to the DoD. In the letter, Sgt. Nicholson praised Principal Tom Cornacchio “for his patriotic assemblies, for his attention to the condition of the flag outside of the school, and for his daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance over the sound system,”

The students at the West also learn about the Gettysburg Address, have school ceremonies for Patriots Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and are sending care packages to U.S. soldiers overseas.

Sgt. Nicholson, a West School alum, is a former member of the 18th Army Airborne.  He is about to depart on another tour in Afghanistan with the Mass. National Guard.

In these days when some public schools in other communities are cautious about celebrating patriotism for fear it might offend someone, it’s nice to see that Peabody still knows how to celebrate love of country, and appreciate those who protect our freedom.

Congrats to Principal Cornacchio and the entire West Memorial School community. Way to go, Wildcats!

And to Sgt. David Nicholson:  Thank you, sir, for your service.

Right approach to school safety by Peabody superintendent

9 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

schoolsHis approach makes sense without playing into the hysteria. The recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, have caused Peabody Schools Superintendent Joe Mastrocola to do what commonsense, and not hysteria, dictates.

He’s received approval from the school committee for obtaining an expert to do a safety/security assessment of Peabody’s schools.

There’s no talk here of putting armed guards at all of the doors. No one is panicking people by insisting it could happen here. No knee-jerk reactions.

Just a well-conducted assessment, and action plan to ensure that we’re doing all of the right things to protect the safety of out kids, and school department staff.

“I want to let the community know, and the school committee know, we continue always to make safety our first priority in the school district,” said Mastrocola at Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting, as reported by the Peabody Patch.

Like all school systems,  Peabody currently has comprehensive procedures and protocols designed to protect its students and teachers.  But what this expert will help us learn is where gaps might exist,  and where we can do better.  It might mean replacing locks or altering some protocols, but it won’t be extreme,  and it won’t turn our schools into unwelcoming, intimidating, armed fortresses.

Mastrocola says safety within the city’s schools is a “primary goal” for the district,  along with teaching and learning, and I think that’s right.

It’s a commonsense approach amid national hysteria and suggestions that we should arm our teachers.

So far, so good on a number of fronts for Peabody’s new super.

Tune in tonight to first ‘You Make The Call’ show of 2013

9 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

You Make The Call co-host Dick Jarvis returns tonight for our first live show of 2013

Happy returns
You Make The Call co-host Dick Jarvis returns tonight for our first live show of 2013

Join us tonight, 8-9 p.m.,  on  Channel 99  as we welcome legendary co-host Dick Jarvis for our first live “You Make The Call” show of 2013.

There’s a lot to talk about tonight, including the special election for State Rep.  Dick and I will also discuss our impressions of Monday night’s State of the City address by Mayor Bettencourt.

Please tune in, and give us a call! Or send us a question through our Facebook page.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers