Tag Archives: Peabody School Committee

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.”

murtagh.jpg

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.

Another fumble: SC drops ball on superintendent finalists

24 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The Peabody School Committee has selected three finalists as contenders to be our next superintendent, which begs this question:

stooges

Why didn’t the Peabody School Committee pick these guys instead?

What? Where Larry, Moe and Curly not available?

OK, so no intended disrespect to the three fine school administrators who our “brilliant” school committee members chose here following a “Nation Wide Search.” The finalists have excellent public education credentials, and congrats to them on devoting their careers to teaching kids in Somerville, Lynn and Gloucester.

And let’s face it, I wouldn’t complain if someone made me a finalist for a job which — with all benefits included — paid me more than $200K a year of taxpayer money.

But let’s be real here. The majority of this School Committee continues to be the gang that can’t think straight. I mean, considering the importance of this position, considering what it pays, and considering our dire need to finally retire a free-loading, mediocre “Interim Superintendent for Life,” we couldn’t come up with a more noteworthy Final 3?

None of the three has ever been a superintendent before, and with the challenges we face in our schools, the last thing we can afford to do is take a chance on someone who might become rookie-of-the-year.

“They all had good qualities and good potential, but my reservation is that … I want an experienced superintendent, and none of the people before us have ever been a superintendent of schools, not even in a small district,” said SC member Beverley Dunne, who did the right thing by objecting to advancing the three candidates. “I believe that’s a necessity to deal with all the moving parts of a district of this size. I just don’t feel confident that the people we’re moving forward have the necessary experience.”

And she’s 100% correct when you consider the size of our district, and it’s $70M budget. Also correct is member Jarrod Hochman, who joined Dunne in dissenting. As for most of the others on this elected board?

Well, I’ll start with the dumbest statements made the night the vote was taken to advance these finalists. Members Tom Rossignoll (who’s now seeking to bring his scary great public service talents to the city council as an at-large candidate), and Brandi Carpenter tried to tell us how it’s actually a good thing that the three finalists selected lack experience when it comes to running a large, very complex school district.

“The benefit is you get someone new and hungry for the job. They can grow into the position and hopefully stay for a long period of time,” said Rossignoll, talking as if we we’re hiring a college intern instead of a high-level school department chief executive.

A $190K base salary for having no experience? Excellent gig if you can get it!

The fact here is that this school committee fumbled again. There were just six interview candidates overall, and none of them have ever been a superintendent. Not ever. Not anywhere. This is the group of candidates we got, too, after investing $10,000 of taxpayer money in a search consultant. Maybe we should have gone with Indeed.com instead?

No need for primary after Wojcik drops out of race for Peabody School Committee

28 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Travis Wojcik

Travis Wojcik

The only Republican in the Peabody School Committee race — who made fiscal responsibility one of his themes during the recent televised “You Make The Call” candidate forum — has saved the city money by dropping out of the scheduled Sept. 29th primary.

Travis Wojcik, 19, announced yesterday that he was ending his campaign for school committee.

That eliminates the need for a primary, which would have trimmed the field of candidates from seven to six. The primary would have cost the city roughly $25,000, according Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos. Per city charter, it’s required that the final school committee ballot only have six candidates.

Candidates Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, Andrew Arnotis, Michel Bonbon, Brandi Carpenter and John Olimpio each automatically advance to the final election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

School Committee candidate forum on ‘You Make The Call’

17 Aug

election-2015

The seven candidates for Peabody School Committee have been invited to appear Wednesday, 8-9 p.m., in a forum on the “You Make The Call” show on Peabody Access Telecommunications Channel 99.

The format will include each candidate briefly introducing themselves, followed by a Q&A from co-hosts Dick Jarvis and Bob Croce, and ending with each candidate presenting a closing statement.

The seven candidates, Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, Andrew Arnotis, Michel Bonbon, Brandi Carpenter, John Olimpio, and Travis Wojcik, will square off in a primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 29th.

The top six vote getters in the primary will meet in November’s final election, where they will vie for three seats on the board.

Update: So far, the only candidate to not reach out to say if he could make it on Wednesday is Mr. Bonbon. Meanwhile, Ms. Carpenter — the only incumbent in the race — has officially declined the invitation to come on the show to talk to the Peabody voters.

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?