Archive | November, 2017

Schools stuck in the web of typical Peabody politics

16 Nov

peabody

By Bob Croce. EOP Publisher

Since the Peabody School Committee coronated Cara Murtagh as our next superintendent of schools earlier this week, I’ve heard some people say how she’s worthy of the position because she’s an awesomely nice person, and a tremendously hard worker.

It appears that our next super is likeable and popular with the Carroll School crowd, and respected for her “niceness” from the Burke School to the Brown School. And . . . who am I to disagree?

I give. I believe you. I trust that you are correct that Cara Murtagh, who for the past five years has served the district as an assistant super, and before that as principal at the Carroll, is an educational version of Mary Poppins and Mother Teresa, and each day straps on her hard hat and gets to work!

Although those are all admirable traits, it still doesn’t make her qualified to lead a struggling 6,000-student district, where a high school is on the verge of being taken over by the state, and where teacher morale, in the words of JD Clampett, “is lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. Weeeee doggie!”

Since it’s sort of irrelevant at this point, I won’t go into specifics about the CVs of the other four candidates, but I will say that at least two had track records that were far more noteworthy. As we reported in this space back in April after the school committee botched the first search designed to replace the current Interim Superintendent for Life, any future search was going to be a total sham. Murtagh only needed to get a couple more certifications, leap over a few more state education department bureaucratic hurdles, and she was going to be your new superintendent of schools.

This most-recent search was sham, conducted at taxpayer expense. The old joke in politics is that, “after a nationwide search, we found this great candidate right here in our own backyard. Wink, wink.”

murtaghAnd indeed, the hiring of Ms. Murtagh is a living example of that old one-liner: She was born to the Peabody royal blue; daughter of a politically connected long-time (and somewhat legendary) Peabody educator; came up through the system, and along the way always showed her deference to the powers that be. A true, old-school, loyalist “Peeb,” whose family knew how to make the right campaign contributions. Blah, blah, blah, but good for her!

This, BTW, tends to always be the case in Peabody, where we have an insular aversion toward going outside of our fair little burg to find the best and the brightest. We see this behavior continuously across city departments: If you’re not on the “friends and family plan,” and they can’t trace your family’s roots back to your grandpa working the tack room at AC Lawrence, Peabody’s powerful don’t care that you have the right stuff.

Murtagh had the Peabody pedigree, and she played the game. So, “tell her what she’s won, Johnny” How about a taxpayer-funded salary of more than $200k a year after figuring in benefits?

Meanwhile, meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

The fact is that, even if a candidate with Maria Montessori’s resume applied, Cara Murtagh was still going to get the gig as grand poohbah of our $75M district.

And so, we interrupt this blog post at to evoke a statement that is an oldie but still a goodie. What was it that Einstein said was the definition of insanity?

Well, Peabody’s school committee is indeed doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Why? Because they wanted to replace their bosom buddy, Herbie Levine, with someone they can continue to control. However, Peabody we have a problem:

There are so many challenges for our school system right now that we can’t afford another “go along to get along” superintendent. We need someone to come in and make the administrators — instead of the teachers — uncomfortable for a change. We need a leader with vision, and not chip off the old Levine “yes man” block. It’s nice to be nice, but this is a time for some Belichickian discipline. After all, the problems in Peabody’s schools “are what they are,” and it might be time to start trading some administrators to Cleveland.

Look, at the end of the day, and even though I view this as a purely political hire, I truly do hope that Ms. Murtagh succeeds, and after years of mediocrity, Peabody’s schools are finally put back on track.

Selfishly, and although my kids are grown, and I have no direct rooting interest, I know that great schools are a tremendous boost to the value of my home. But I also agree with old George, the original Peeb, who said that education is “a debt due from present to future generations.

It’s only too bad that, in Peabody, our motto has become “the current people in power are more important than the fate of future generations.”

As expected, fix was in for Peabody schools super job

14 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Let me begin by saying that I don’t know Cara Murtagh, and she could very end up being such a great superintendent of schools that our fair burg will someday name new schools after her and erect a statue of her in the Square.

Then again, and in the immortal words of Wayne Campbell . . . “yeah, that might happen, and maybe monkeys might fly out of my butt.”

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Meet the new boss … same as the old boss?

In case you missed it, our “illustrious” school committee tonight voted unanimously to enter into contract negotiations with Ms. Murtagh to have her replace Interim Superintendent for Life, the double-dipper himself, Herbie Levine. After yet another bogus search process, the gang that can’t see straight on anything — who for years have done nothing while their buddy Herbie allowed our schools to fall into the same territory as Lawrence and Chelsea – are hiring the interim super’s protégé.

That’s right, and even though the recent search produced several noteworthy candidates, the assistant super — who has learned at the knee of a man responsible for the overall mediocrity of our schools, and for Peabody High being put on Level 3 status by the state (one level above the state coming in and taking over) — will get the more-than $200K a year gig.

All of this just happened, so I’m sure we’ll have more to come.

But as we predicted several months ago in this space, the “fix” was in.

And along with the “fix,” guess what?

We’re likely not totally done with Herbie. Rumor on the street is that the double-dipper could soon become a triple-dipper. Adding to two lucrative public sector pensions, the Herbster might be retained for one year at $80K to continue to teach Ms. Murtagh everything he knows. Wonder if she’ll learn the fine art of chewing gum like a madman, and telling hacky jokes at the St. Patrick’s Day hackfest at city hall. After all, that’s really all the Herbster was good at.

Well, this is what we get when we invite people to a city election and nobody comes. The elected officials don’t fear you, Peabody citizens. And why should they when less than 30% show up at the polls?

For a salary and benefits package of well over $200K, you get someone who has been part of the same gang that put our high school on the verge of state receivership, and has done nothing about a workplace bullying epidemic at that school.

Two years from now, maybe we’ll finally learn our lesson, and vote the bums out, including  the worst member of the school committee,  who tonight said she was “highly impressed with the resumes of all the candidates, they blew me away. But that said, Cara does have a little something extra.” Really? What would that something extra be? That she learned everything she knows from your pal, Herbie the Hack?

All I can say is . . . Level 4 status here we come.

Full Peabody Election results

7 Nov

resultsI’ll do some analysis, and some juicy election day tidbits later this week. But for now, here is a link to the full results from yesterday’s Peabody City Election.

Click here to view the complete results

Election results tonight after 8 on Eye Facebook page

7 Nov

resultsWe’ll do our best of post results tonight as we get them from various sources.

Bob will post those results on the Eye On Peabody Facebook page only tonight, and then offer his analysis later here on the blog.

To get the results, click here and like the page. Then check it out tonight after the polls close. We’ll post results piecemeal as they come in.

 

It’s all up to the voters now

7 Nov

voteBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When you are a candidate, who has spent several months burning shoe leather knocking on doors, standing on street corners waving at cars, and spending the kids’ college fund on palm cards and mail pieces, today is the most-humbling day of your life.

Suddenly, you are no longer controlling your own environment. I know that’s always  been a somewhat horrifying feeling for a control freak like me. But candidates always need to just accept that this is one of those wonderful reasons why America is still, and always has been great:

Today, the voters of Peabody get to decide.

And while come 8 p.m. tonight many of us will not like some of the results, it’s just too damn bad. 🙂

Polls are now open and will be until 8. Please be a good American and go out and vote for the candidates you feel will do the best job for you and your family the next two years. It’s not about a trite, meaningless phrase like “Pride in Peabody,” it’s about ensuring your quality of life.

For a rundown on who is on the ballot, click here for this handy guide.

 

 

Thank you: 4700 individual visitors in just 3 days!

6 Nov

Just wanted to thank everyone for visiting the past three days. If you feel that a blog like this can’t have much of an impact, think again! The user stats below represent just the last three days, where we rolled up 4,700 individual, unique visitors. Putting that into perspective, that’s three times more subscribers than the Salem News has in Peabody, and last time I checked their writers and editors actually got paid for their work. 🙂

It also represents more than half the likely voter turnout in tomorrow’s city election.

With numbers like these, we can have great impact with this blog going forward while holding the powers that be accountable! And we’re only just beginning again after having been dormant since the end of May. Please keep the great information coming.

Best, Bob Croce

bukia

 

It’s official: Gov. Baker wants Chalvire to win in Ward 4

6 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP publisher

There are some interesting races citywide for city council and school committee, but the spotlight in tomorrow’s Peabody City Election is brightly shining on the Ward 4 Councilor race.

There it’s been a hotly contested race between first-term incumbent Ed Charest and promising newcomer Bukia Chalvire.  And while the incumbent is still considered a slight favorite, you have to wonder if Charest has a sick, sinking feeling tonight after the state’s most-powerful and best-known politico gave a ringing endorsement of the challenger.

That’s right, Governor Charlie Baker officially endorsed Chalvire today, following some mud-slinging by the Charest and his associates.

Coming so late in the game, it’s hard to figure what impact such an endorsement might have on tomorrow’s results, so I won’t even try to predict the outcome. But there’s no denying that Baker’s praise for any candidate can carry some major weight.

After all, a recent poll rated him the most-popular governor in the country with a 70% approval rating. Closer to home, Baker carried Peabody by 2,600 votes when he ran against Martha Coakley in 2014. And even closer to this race: Baker beat Coakley by almost a whopping 300 votes in Ward 4 three years ago.

In a very smart move the Chalvire campaign made sure everyone knew of the Baker endorsement by dropping the campaign flier below today at homes all across the ward.

Should be very interesting on Tuesday! Polls are open until 8 p.m. Here’s a rundown on all of the races.

Get out and vote.

bukia

 

 

Gov. Baker supports Chalvire in Ward 4 Councilor race

5 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

An already wild final weekend before Peabody’s city election on Tuesday just got even more interesting when it comes to the race for Ward 4 Councilor.

bakerFollowing a controversial Facebook comment by Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s campaign chairperson in support of incumbent Ward 4 Councilor Ed Charest, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker felt compelled this evening to put his support behind challenger Bukia Chalvire.

In her Facebook comment, the Mayor’s campaign chair began with criticism of a Chalvire campaign flier, but then wrapped up by saying that the Ward 4 challenger “has no place here.”

Since then, there’s been a heated Facebook debate over what she meant exactly by the comment. Was is racial since Chalvire is black and was born in Haiti before moving to the US and becoming a citizen? Or, was it more likely just another example of how those in power in Peabody treat new candidates like dirt?

In any event, the governor — who knows Chalvire well from her work on his campaign –came to her aid tonight, saying “Bukia is a wonderful person. She belongs anywhere and everywhere.” See the screen shot below. Could be the first time ever that the most-powerful politician in our state endorsed a candidate for a Peabody ward councilor seat:

bukia

Letter claims workplace bullying at Peabody High

5 Nov

We often get tips and info from our readership, and I’d like to continue to encourage people to do that as we keep our elected officials accountable with this blog. The following letter was mailed to me right before schools opened this year.

It involves a serious problem with workplace bullying of teachers and others at Peabody High, which has become a hostile workplace. This handwritten, very thoughtful letter below was written about a serious situation at the high school that is being ignored right now by those who make policy for our schools.

BTW, Peabody High has been put on Level 3 probationary status by the state, which is just one level above the status where the state is forced to take over and run a school or school system.

I hope it helps you make a decision on who to give your school committee votes to in Tuesday’s election.

Thanks for reading,

Bob

letter

letter2

A craving for public service rather than self-service

3 Nov

Here everybody has a neighbor. Everybody has a friend. Everybody has a reason to begin again. My father said “Son, we’re lucky in this town. It’s a beautiful place to be born. It just wraps its arms around you, nobody crowds you and nobody goes it alone .  — Long Walk Home, Bruce Springsteen

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Been thinking tonight about the struggle. Not when it comes to my life, which is pretty damn good these days, but when it comes to wanting to serve my neighbors, serve the community in which I grew up.  For me, that goal is likely over, but while I sit here, thinking about the scars of political battles past, which tend to stay with you for a lifetime, I’m also thinking about a woman named Bukia Chalvire.

fistYou see, these past two days she has become representative of that struggle. A struggle to serve in a city where good ole boy politics rule, and those who truly want to be public servants for all the right reasons, are ridiculed. In Peabody, if you don’t fall in line and kiss the posterior of those currently in power,  the ruling class, the “cool kids” clique, you’re stuffed into a locker after homeroom and forgotten,

If you’re not willing to “go along to get along,” and don’t quite get the wink and nod of developers who grease palms with “envelopes” stuffed with Benjamins,  then there’s no way you’re getting elected, and your family members can forget about that city job.

For our fair berg can indeed be a corrupt place, where people are afraid to speak up, and where the aggravation of running for office just isn’t worth it. Take it from me and my wonderful family and friends, who have waged hard-fought campaigns, only to many times face the wrath of political goons, who are connected to a corrupt power base.

This brings me back to Ms. Chalvire, a wife, a mom, a businesswoman who – after emigrating from Haiti in her 20s — has worked hard to support her family and realize the American Dream. All she wanted was to settle down in a nice all-American community, in a nice little home, on a nice little street with friendly neighbors and kids and dogs. And once doing so, she wanted to give back to this place by running for Ward 4 city councilor.

What she got instead the past 24 hours was a smack in the face from the establishment, which thinks elective office is all about self-service rather than public service. Maybe it was political inexperience, but she left herself open to a smear, an attack, a gross display of political sleaziness by the powers that be. She dared do what every other candidate and elected official has done for years on political literature and on Facebook campaign pages: She posted a picture of herself and her family with the city’s most-powerful elected official, who willingly smiled in the direction of an iPhone. Big hairy deal.

But the sleazy establishment insiders used it against her, smeared her in the local newspaper, and with self-righteous indignation, made this very good woman, who only wanted to serve our community, look like a scoundrel.

It’s a common tale here in our fair berg, a storyline of which I’m very familiar.

The hope at this point is that enough very good people will go to the polls on Tuesday in Ward 4, understand all of this, know what really happened, and make the bad guys pay for the horrible way they treated someone who only wanted to do the right thing. It’s called public service. Not self-service, Mr. Mayor.

Here’s hoping that Ward 4 comes out to vote in record numbers for Bukia Chalvire.