That huge $ucking sound is coming from our schools

15 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

A financial crisis the likes of which Peabody probably hasn’t seen since the Great Depression may be looming, and much of it is the result of the mismanagement and shoddy leadership that has gone on in the department that eats up almost half of our municipal budget.

pvmhsHad to marvel the other day over reading how the Chairman of the School Committee, our Fearless Leader, our Mayor Ted Bettencourt asked that the proposed 2018 school budget be whacked by $2.7m. Interim Superintendent for Life Herbie Levine and the school committee had asked for a whopping $4m budget increase over FY2017, but the mayor said nyet, and instead said he would only allow for a $1.5m increase.

One wonders now if the Fiscally Conservative Teflon Ted is going to show up, and slash the friends and family plan he’s created with unnecessary salaries at City Hall. But, I digress . . .

Here it is Peabody, the major reason why your tax bill continues to go up, year after year for the past 14 years is because the school budget continues to go up year after year at an alarming rate.

Some of the recent annual increases can certainly be tied to the construction of the much-needed new Higgins Middle School. There’s also no avoiding the collectively bargained raises and increases in benefits due our teachers.

But a lot of the blame for these annual school budget increases fall on poor planning, poor decision making by our elected officials, and poor leadership.

Specifically, the biggest boondoggle Peabody has ever signed up for, also known as the Mega Voke, or more formally, Essex Tech, is a “gift” that keeps on giving for the Peabody Taxpayers.

Our assessment there is up a whopping $600,000 and closing in on $4m, and who’s to blame? Well, the Peabody City Councilors, of course, who created a large sucking sound in our city’s budget six years ago when they voted for this disaster with zero financial information or projections in front of them. All but three councilors at the time just said “yes,” because Rep Ted Speliotis came before them and started waving his arms and screaming how Peabody kids would be left behind, and how the school wouldn’t get done without the state being able to fleece Peabody’s taxpayers.

Now, and after thousands of construction lobbyist dollars have been poured into Slick Teddy S’s campaign coffers — rather than having our kids reap the benefits from what could have been a nifty and economical $10m renovation of our existing vocational facilities — we are choking on the Mega Voke annual bill. Meanwhile, we can’t service even half the number of Peabody kids who seek a vocational education.

We’ve also already had a major scandal involving a lying, cheating first superintendent at the voke, and who knows what future scandals are on the way following the possible payola that went on there in Middleton.

Put it this way, the school committee’s request for the $4m budget increase to 74.5m in 2018 roughly equals what our total assessment is for the Mega Voke.  And while some of the councilors who voted for this disaster have moved on, some are still there, which is why I remind you that this is an election year.

But the school budget bloat doesn’t stop there. Herbie is proposing two new administrative positions in the 2018 budget at $100K apiece. One of those jobs, Herbie says, is so they can trim the workload of Assistant Super Cara Murtagh. That’s right, let’s potentially cut teachers so the Superintendent in Waiting doesn’t have to work a few extra hours each week.

“Most of you know that I’d rather chew my arm off than lay off a teacher, but I had to give you something,” said Herbie, the crocodile tears no doubt rolling down his cheeks as he proposed the slashing of no fewer than five teacher jobs to help trim the school budget.

Yeah, how about giving back some of your bloated salary, which already pads your hefty pension? Instead of worrying that your sidekick is working too hard, how about paying attention to and solving the teacher morale crisis at our Level 3 status high school?

“We’re going to have to make some very difficult decisions,” Bettencourt told school committee members.

But what the Mayor should have said was: “It’s time to give until it hurts once again, Peabody taxpayers.”

14 Responses to “That huge $ucking sound is coming from our schools”

  1. Can't Afford to live here Anymore. May 15, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    Can’t remember when (Not too long ago)… but I remember when our city councilors all praised the assistant superintendent and voted to give her a big raise with Bettencourt bobbling his head in approval.
    Everyone’s worth more in LALA land.

  2. Pattyfootball May 16, 2017 at 7:36 am #

    Bob, great reporting…. keep up the great work exposing our fraud school committee and school administration.

    So, we have a superintendent with 40 (yes 40!) years of experience and he can’t create a suitable budget!!!

    We have an Assistant Superintendent that needs help because the district is level 3! How about replacing her, its not working!!! The district has slipped since she has been managing!

    We have school committee members that have been around for years and this is happening! where is the accountability!!!

    We have a mayor continually being DUPED by all above!!!

    Our city… were below average is acceptable!!!!!!

    • Anonymous May 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

      This is what happens when you do not have consistent leadership at the top. While I recognize the shortage in superintendent talent in the state, I’m less than impressed that we cannot fine a good one over the prior 5+ years.

      Why did the recruiting process stop? Why are we not reaching out to contacts to identify high-potential candidates and fostering relationships? Why is this search any different than hiring a top executive at a mid-level firm – you search continually until you find the right candidate.

      This is the most important thing the School Committee should be focused on. Because right now we are all just paying for a direction-less ship focused on maintaining the status quo. And that status quo nothing to be proud of.

      • Anonymous May 16, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

        It’s rigged! Herb has told them every year to wait till early beginning of new year. He is the executive director for the NE board for Superintendents. He could have found someone to take over long ago if he didn’t want to be paid. He has brought in someone as a principal from Salem that use to work for him and also some other cronies too…so he really wants us to believe he has no one? Waltham didn’t want him as a fill in Superintendent bc they saw what we we know….now he wants two 100k positions to help Gina bf Kara? I am sure he has two buddies already for those positions….laughable

  3. Ryan Morrison May 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

    Peabody needs to beef up its school system, not underfund it.

  4. hamiltonRD May 18, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    Another black eye for our city here :

    The story tells it all, 4 superintendents in 10 years…… can’t be a because of our dysfuntional school committee… oh no!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe no one wants to come to work in our city? Oh no… that can’t be!!!!

    And Amico falling in line just like the rest of them….

    Our City… where below average is accepted!!!!

    Time to move!!!!

    • Anonymous May 18, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks for the share. I find it comical on two points, one they changed the pension laws which made more retire and that they had to persuade him to stay another year…Really? He is getting close to 200k and padding his pension. Hiring all his old friends on top of it…The reason why he is able to do this was the first point. Come in for a couple of years grab the cash and run…The reason they don’t stay that long is that their results only start to show after the 5 years. Doesn’t everyone remember the first year pass on the official reviews for the superintendents previously? The whole school committee is a joke and Amico loves this type of attention. Its a puff piece and how funny that is is also a um…Revere teacher….? Cant say anything negative under those circumstances…Granted Revere schools are probably better than Peabody at this point.

  5. bun22 May 19, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    When I voted , I thought that Amico and Olympio were going to change the dysfunctional school committee and stand up to Dunne, Rossignol and Carpenter and assist the pushover Mayor.

    While Olympio appears to be an independent mind ( although he says nothing) Amico has assumed the role of one of the gang!

    When is someone going to have the guts to stand up to these incompetent members that continue to be driven by self promotion and self agenda.

    They could care less about us teachers and the kids in our city!!!!

  6. Anonymous May 19, 2017 at 11:34 am #

    As for Olimpio; he does comment. Just doesn’t play up to the cameras. As a special needs parent myself; I know for a fact he does ALOT behind the scenes and isn’t a pushover.

    • Anonymous May 22, 2017 at 10:04 am #

      I would agree that John is actually more of a thinker and will not get emotional publically in a meeting. He has a ton of commonsense based on the times I have had the time to talk to him. Never package candidates that come in at the same time. These two are far different. You have a private business owner who has a legal and tax background vs a Revere teacher. You are surprised Amico has fallen in line with the people that are currently on the board? Did you think that Rossignal and Hochman were going to be the same? Cant wait to have another SC member help try to run the city when they have failed the school district.

  7. anonymous May 22, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    I have to agree. Amico is the most disappointing. I thought he would be different but he’s doing nothing but go along with Levine. Blah blah blah and says nothing. Olimpio seems to really care but he’s got no support from the other members. It’s been like this for years. Excepting mediocrity in our schools is becoming the norm here in Peabody

  8. Nad55 May 22, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    You are right about Amico – he gets a D minus

    The rest of the School Committee report card:

    Olimpio= incomplete until he stands up to the existing School Committee he gets no grade!

    Carpenter= a Big F!!! How did that School Safety online program work out? How about that election day closing schools ? Has done nothing positive for the Schools!!!

    Hochman= A- Only one that stands up to the cast of fools. Always in the schools! But he needs to call Levine out!

    Dunne- D- Been a SC member for over 20 years? Big question? what has she done in those 20 Years? You just need an index card to write the two things down!!

    Rossingnoll- D Just following the long list of political hacks moving from the SC to city council. A follower not a leader!!!

    Mayor- C Poor guy can’t do much with the cast of fools above. Good job with Higgins but hiring Levine is making him look bad! Until he takes control of the SC he will continue to be average.

  9. the beat goes on May 29, 2017 at 8:33 pm #

    Anyone watch the City Council meeting the other night? Looks like the city will be spending an additional $60-70K to rent office space for the school administration to be across the street from City Hall. Can you believe they (the Mayor included) complained about how long it took to drive down Lowell St. to get to City Hall? Welcome to Peabody! We have been complaining for years! More deals are being made every day at Peabody taxpayers’ expense.
    Instead of paying rent, the city should refurbish the old PMLP building on Endicott St. It was a School Dept building before the city surplused it.
    No, the city wants to give up that property, our property, Make way for waterfront condos instead. Meanwhile the beat goes on. After the city runs out of land it owns, it will be buying land back from the insiders at the expense of the taxpayers, of course.

    • Anonymous May 29, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

      It was good to see the city council grill Bettencourt a bit. He just gets very defensive and angry but doesn’t really have any real answers. The luster is wearing off and this would be the year that you could actually challenge him in the race. May not win this go around but his achilles heal is starting to show and as all Peabody races go…sometimes it takes to attempts to get a win. Somebody hurry before they try and change the elections cycle to a 4 year for the Mayors race…

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