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GGarrison - Thu, Dec 3, 2009, 1:10 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
Jeff replied:

"Secondly, you seem to be essentially saying that one particular view of Charter Schools is the only one allowed on the school committee because that is the only view that serves the children of Montague.To me this precisely the mentality I ran against when I ran for school committee - waving the flag of "the children" to justify a particular policy."


"I support choices for children and parents of Montague and I strongly feel that the Charter Schools are and will be agents of change in public education that will benefit all "the children."

You'll get no disagreement from me on that. I school choiced one of my children. I wanted them to have the best education available. (That I could afford).

My concerns are not about "the children" (which is of course very important), it is about fiscal and resource management assigned to the school committee. Their focus should be on responsible management of the assets to which they have over-site.

Jeff, I applaud your outspoken stance on this subject. If you don't think there is an issue here then I'll concede to your position. But if the charter school is successful it will not make the SC job any easier.

Forget the Sisyphus comparison, this is more appropriate.

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junkman - Thu, Dec 3, 2009, 12:30 P
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Thanks for the info Jeff. I am though, still on the fence. Your points seem very clear. The charter school thing is a whole different animal and seems it may take alot of selling for the townspeople to listen.
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Laura - Thu, Dec 3, 2009, 8:47 A
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Thanks for not backing down, Jeff .... we need you now.
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JeffSingleton - Thu, Dec 3, 2009, 7:36 A
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Just to let people know, I wrote a letter in support of the Charter School, spoke in favor of the school at the hearing the other day and occasionally talk to the "founders" of the school. I am not involved in the administration of that school in any capacity.

Also I am not now and never have been a member of the communist party nor am I part of any terrorist organization.

If you get the impression I am getting pretty sick of the witch hunt atmosphere around this charter school issue you are right. There is a legitimate debate about the pros and cons of charter schools but to suggest that those of us on the school committee who take a particular position on it are doing something terrible and have no rights is outrageous. We have at least one school committee member, for example, who appears to think those of us who support the charter school do not have the rightt to speak in the discussion of it. The basis of this whole argument is that taking a position on the issue creates a conflict of interest and therefore we muct give up our democratic rights.

Greg - think about what you are saying please. First you seem to be saying that because the school committee does not vote on the appropriation to the charter school therefore we have a conflict of interest in voicing our support for it? It seems to me, the logic of conflict of interest is precisely the opposite. It we WERE voting on the appropriation AND serving on, say, the charter school board then there MIGHT be a conflict. Also I have been very public about my opposition to the way Charter Schools are funded, as vocal as I have been in support of the Discovery School.

Secondly, you seem to be essentially saying that one particular view of Charter Schools is the only one allowed on the school committee because that is the only view that serves the children of Montague.To me this precisely the mentality I ran against when I ran for school committee - waving the flag of "the children" to justify a particular policy.

I support choices for children and parents of Montague and I strongly feel that the Charter Schools are and will be agents of change in public education that will benefit all "the children." Disagree if you want and I respect that. Please respect my opinion.

Junkman - that Charter School in Springfield will probably go out of business.That is one of the good things about charter schools. If they are not financially or educationally viable they go out of business. Traditional public schools, on the other hand, can essentially fail fiscally and educationally but they stay in business. This creates great resistance to change, innovation and reform because the people within the system can continue to just plod along with the status quo.
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tallsuzyd - Wed, Dec 2, 2009, 11:21 P
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Thank you for your very clear outline.

I think the main questions we need to ask ourselves are:

Do you believe that parents should have the freedom to select a public school that best meets the needs of their child?

Do you believe that districts in light of this, are somewhat responsible for their enrollment increase/decline?

Do you believe that state funding should relate to enrollment?

One area DESE has not spent much time on is advising districts on down-sizing. Perhaps this is an area needing investment going forward.

There are interesting things (bold things) happening in Greenfield as a result of their choice situation and the threat of a charter. They have already re-opened an Elementary school focusing on Environmental education...and they are looking at Innovation schools and many other things....Kudos to them.

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MikeNaughton - Wed, Dec 2, 2009, 10:01 P
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"You can't serve on two competing boards. It just doesn't work."

Is anyone on the School Committee also on the board of this Discovery School? I didn't think that was the case ...
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junkman - Wed, Dec 2, 2009, 9:09 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
WOW!!! What if the cat was already out of the bag??? Just something to think about.

Robert M.Hughes Academy Charter School at the corner of School and Union streets in Springfield.

Fred Allen Swan Sr.SPRINGFIELD – With its future jeopardized by management disarray and a possible MCAS cheating scandal, the Robert M. Hughes Academy has turned to an unlikely troubleshooter: convicted felon Fred Allen Swan.

Despite pleading guilty to fraud and other charges in a federal public corruption case in 2006, Swan was hired as a $79,000-a-year development officer at the taxpayer-financed charter school in March.

He took over as the school’s top administrator last week, after principal Janet J. Henry was placed on leave during a state investigation into the school’s scoring on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests.

Even at a school accustomed to management upheaval, the latest shift seems especially abrupt.

Amy Hughes “It’s hard to say what’s going on right now,” said board member Amy Hughes, widow of the late Robert Hughes, in whose name the school was dedicated. “It’s very confusing.”

The shakeup is the latest sign of turmoil at Hughes, where investigators from the state Department of Early and Secondary Education are scrutinizing a spike in MCAS test scores in the spring, as well as new allegations of mismanagement and lax leadership.

Neither Swan, 67, the brother of state Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, and former director of the publicly-financed Caring Health Center, nor board president W. Calvin Walls Jr. would comment this week.

Swan referred all questions to the school’s lawyer, Mark D. Smith, of Boston, who also would not discuss details of the investigation.

“The state is conducting an inquiry; at this point, we’re going to let them do their job, and not respond to what other people are saying,” Smith said.

Janet J. Henry But in a five-page letter sent to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and The Republican, Henry said she was pressured to hire Swan, despite his pleading guilty in a $900,000 bid-rigging case in 2007.

“I was very much against this,” said Henry, adding that Swan had friends and relatives, including his wife Lorraine, on the 11-member governing board for the charter school.

“Bidding and dealing with contractors would definitely be something that the development officer would have a hand in,” she added.

Adding to the principal’s misgivings, Swan rarely appeared at the school once he was put on the payroll, and threatened or intimidated other staff members when he was there, Henry claims in the letter.

“He acted like it was his school,” Henry said.

In the letter to the state and The Republican, she also claims Swan told her to authorize and backdate a bonus check for him last month because the state Department of Revenue had begun seizing his regular paychecks to satisfy back taxes. After discussing the matter with the board president, who was also a friend of Swan’s, Henry refused, she said.

“When I refused to comply, they both started giving me the cold shoulder,” the principal said. “Fred Swan then reminded me that he decides who stays and who goes.”

The board voted to put Henry on leave Nov. 23, pending the outcome of the state investigation. Besides selecting Swan to take over the school’s administrative duties, academy staffer Brian Calandruccio was put in charge of academics.

Swan is perhaps best known for founding the Southwest Community Health Center, now called the Caring Health Center. Starting with a $350,000 state grant, he developed it into a $10 million-a-year operation, serving 20,000 people across Springfield.

He retired from his $141,000-a-year job in 2005, just weeks before an audit showed the clinic had spent lavishly on consultants, dinners and trips while accumulating a $700,000 budget deficit.

Six months later, Swan was charged with steering $900,000 in construction contracts for the clinic to Springfield builder who also owned the home Swan was renting. He eventually pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements to a federal investigator.

Coincidentally or not, Swan’s federal sentence – 24 months probation, including 12 months house arrest – ended just as he was placed on the academy’s payroll in March.

By then, Hughes – a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school with 180 students – was struggling to stay open.

In 2005, state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci found rampant financial mismanagement – a budget deficit, no-bid contracts, inflated lease payments, poor attendance at board meetings and structural problems so severe that 91 School St. site could not be given an occupancy permit.


Since opening in 1999, the school has struggled academically, as well.

In 2008, state education officials threatened to revoke the academy’s charter unless test scores improved.

Teacher turnover has ranged between 30 and 50 percent, and Henry is the fourth principal in five years.

Last year, just 18 percent of core classes at Hughes were taught by highly-qualified teachers; by contrast, 81 percent of classes at Sabis International Charter School were taught by top teachers, according to the state.

For all its turmoil, the school had reason to celebrate when its MCAS results for the spring of this year were tallied. After years of lower-than-average rankings, the academy found itself in the 99th percentile for improvement in math, and in the 83rd percentile for English.

To state education officials, the test scores looked almost too good.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester confirmed this week that the results are under investigation, making the academy one of only four schools statewide to be subject to such scrutiny.

The scores could be invalidated if cheating or other irregularities are found, and disciplinary action could be taken against anyone deliberately falsifying results, state officials said.

Former Hughes board member Mary-Ann Lane, a lawyer in Springfield, said the school’s small enrollment would make sudden improvements in test scores possible.

“As far as I know, there has only been an allegation – nobody has presented proof that anything is wrong,” Lane said. “The state should tread very carefully here; they could be treading on the psyche of a lot of students.”

For her part, Henry says she did nothing wrong.

She met with state officials on Nov. 23, the same day she was placed on leave by the academy’s board of directors.

“My only guilt is stressing to the teachers ... how important it was for us to do well on the MCAS or the school could lose its charter,” she said.

Henry said the board of directors, not the staff or students, should be blamed for the school’s unsteady state.

Norma Baker Last fall, for example, Henry said she discovered that former board treasurer Norma Baker, of Springfield, is also a partner in School Street Properties Inc., which leases the building to the academy.

The school pays $8,638 a month rent, as much as $3,000 more than School Street Properties pays for its mortgage, Henry said.

With the school paying for utilities, water and trash removal and other expenses on a 50-year lease, the landlord is getting a good deal at the expense of the school, Henry said.

Baker, director of Northern Educational Services, was one of several veteran members who resigned earlier this year. A new board member, Rance A. O’Quinn, of Springfield, is also listed as an partner on School Street Properties.

When she approached the board president with the information, he told her to keep it to herself, Henry said.

She also questioned why the academy plans to renovate the building even while considering moving to another site.

Despite reporting her concerns to state education officials, Henry said she is unsure if anything will be done. “I have been under severe stress since being made principal,” she said. “Someone, anyone, needs to put a stop to this.”

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Comments (84 total) RSSPost a commentOldest comments are shown first. Show newest comments first Next comments » 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 Posted by bagpipDecember 01, 2009, 7:08PMLMAO! Good one.And they'll hire Holyjokes Baryoumb as security guard. Asselin family as tresurers, Dawson in personel, Lavigne as sex ed teacher.
What a great place to send your kids eh? I bet they were HOPING the press wouldn't find out about this.
But it is clearly illegal to hire a convicted felon in a school that gets federal or state money, high power relatives or not.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by bagpipDecember 01, 2009, 11:40PMWhy did my post about notifying the DA about a convicted felon working in a school that gets federal and/or state grants. Well Republican I'll do your job for you. Tomorow I'll call the Mass Atty General and find out who should investigate this school. I wonder if the rest of them are felons too?

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by rgtwingnutsDecember 01, 2009, 6:28PMNow if they could just get Frank Keogh for treasurer

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by whoknows1December 01, 2009, 6:33PMAbsolutely illegal!! Convicted federal felons cannot work for any entity that recieves federal funds! Talk about political BS - Another reason for people to be apathetic!! A convicted felon- is that the best we can do?? SAD SAD SAD day for the city of Springfield!

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by annienicDecember 01, 2009, 6:43PMThis guy is something else. He makes the state, the lottery and the mob look good.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by whoknows1December 01, 2009, 6:50PMEven more disgusting is NOT ONE elected officilal, from congress to the city council/school comittee, says one word!! Is it because he is black and the brother of a black state rep - therefore america's double standard and PC takes over - DISGUSTING!!!

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by daylillyDecember 01, 2009, 6:52PMMaybe along with Frankie there are jobs for the Asslin family the other kings of slobs

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by labby5December 01, 2009, 6:54PMHow can this person & the "committee" so openly do something like this. I hope that the school committee or the Mayor can do something to remove this person from being a principal.
I hope Ms. Henry gets an apology from everyone that tried to intimidate her. Isn't this a form of BULLYING!????
Where is the example here for the children of the schools???

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by statewereinDecember 01, 2009, 7:01PMAll that corruption in one school? 50 year lease? Well the good news is the FBI is hiring. Hopefully they have different standards. Maybe some of the 50 percent of the teachers will apply. This mess stinks worse than Bondi's island.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by fmuDecember 01, 2009, 7:10PMNo one cares about the children. It's just the money that can be made by running this place as is.

The only way is if the state revokes the charter. Granted the leeches may move on elsewhere, but it'll at least end this chapter.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by deer357December 01, 2009, 7:26PMWe the people need to vote ben swan out of office, because you know he had something to do with this, when someone finally stood up to these bullies she was put on leave.... BS give her back her job. We need the state audit board back in this city to fix our schools.. We the voters need to change evrybody that comes up for relection

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by foulmenowDecember 01, 2009, 7:35PMThis is sick, sick, sick..all these people have been in on scheming and scamming for YEARS and they've done it to their own people. Carol and Norma Baker have the NERVE to try and run a radio show on STCC that focuses on 'self-determination' and both of these witches are scheming and stealing. Swan and his family think they all are politicians or 'connected' because of Ben who, let's be honest here, needs to get out of politics and let someone else have a shot. Ms. Henry has been blessed by being asked to resign from that hell hole and if any parent there ought to pull their kid out NOW. These people walk around with their nose stuck up in the air as if they are helping their 'community' when they are nothing but incompetent leeches..

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by ron01118December 01, 2009, 7:40PMperhaps we should look at his track record he did take 350,000 dollars and turn it into a 10 million dollar a year business he probobaly did give out contracts without seeking bids sometimes someone that is the founder of an institution acts as if it is his own personal empire the problems mentioned are from a lack of written policy
given his track record he certainly appears to be the man for the job and by the tone of this article his enemies are many i am sure that every move he makes will be watched and they will be waiting to atack him at every oppertunity
as far as giveing him an advance on his pay is a problem that stems out of the lack of written policy
swan is like a fish in the fish tank his every move is watched and the sharks are circleing waiting to atack at the first oppertunity

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by robm324December 01, 2009, 11:04PMWell Ron, another brilliant comment by you. Did you not see the part in the article about how his wonderful "Business" was running a $700,000 deficit when he left? Yeah, sounds like the guy for the job to me....he is a hack and benefitting from the type of scumbag people that ran this city into the ground under Albano. Each of these people should be thrown out into the street and be working minimum wage. Awful Awful people.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by iowacowboyDecember 01, 2009, 7:58PMI hope they shut the school down. Charter schools should be ABOLISHED, period. They take so much AWAY from the public schools for the very FEW students that benefit from them. Real education reform is dismantling the teacher's unions and setting quotas for student achievement or the problem teacher should be fired. Teachers should be made terminable at will so they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. They should make it so the MCAS should be administered by state auditors and not the school being tested as a set of checks and balances. Just like amusement rides are tested by the Dept. of Public Safety and not the amusement park to avoid a "conflict of interest". Having the school administer the MCAS is a conflict of interest. They should make it so the state auditors run the school during MCAS week and the regular staff are shut out so that a teacher doesn't tamper with the tests to meet their quotas for student achievement.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by notindahoodDecember 01, 2009, 8:01PMThe Republican and Mr. Flynn deserve hearty thanks from the citizenry for this article. The quality of the investigative reporting lately has taken a huge jump. Stephanie Barry has always been good, but getting the goods on "Thunderbolt" Keough, etc has been impressive. I recently resubscribed to the print edition, which is something I never thought I'd do. But I feel that you should support good journalism and lately this newspaper has done some.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by mchak1968December 01, 2009, 8:29PMSo thats what it takes to get ahead and get a good paying job. Commit Fraud, embezzle and become a convicted felon

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by annienicDecember 01, 2009, 8:46PMThis story makes me laugh so hard. With all the money Freddy and Benjy have it seems like they don't know they have to pay taxes. Talk about corruption the FBI WOULDN'T KNOW WHERE TO START. It must be a family thing. Good luck to the swan's they are going to need it.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by 52hancockDecember 01, 2009, 9:08PMTen million people out of work and the best they can do is hire a convicted felon!!!!!!!! This is so sad it is funny.

Inappropriate comment? Alert us.Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Posted by countrygirlDecember 01, 2009, 9:37PMPlease keep in mind of the high turnover of teachers at this school. Ms. Henry was the principal and she was the cause.

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GGarrison - Wed, Dec 2, 2009, 7:54 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
After reading the paper and realizing that this new charter school would not be required to submit annual funding requests to the school committee, I do see a bit of a conflict. You can't serve on two competing boards. It just doesn't work. And yes this charter school would "compete" with the the GMRSD for state funds.

I like the idea of charter schools but I don't think that a school committee member can be supportive of both or fairly represent the electorate. The committee's responsibilities to the town are quite clear and stipulated in the GMRSD Policy Manual.

"The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee is responsible to the children and families of those children who attend our schools, ..."

"The Committee's current decisions will influence the course of education in our schools for years to come."

"The Committee is charged with accomplishing this while also being responsible for wise management of resources available to the school system. "

If I'm mistaken please correct me.
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MikeNaughton - Mon, Nov 30, 2009, 11:26 P
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junkman -

I agree that funding is a problem, but I also agree with PaulK that "this should be part of a larger debate about how to best finance public education in general". It's not as if public school funding was great until charter schools came along and ruined it all -- public school funding started having serious problems when a) the state suddenly realized that the boom times of the '90's weren't going to go on forever and started cutting back on Chapter 70 and other funding, and b) local school districts reacted by browbeating local taxpayers into trying to make up the difference, instead of facing up to the new fiscal reality and figuring out how to make adjustments. IMHO. Charter schools and their funding formula have added a new element to the mix, but they haven't fundamentally changed anything.

Because, let's face it -- why do charter schools take money from local districts? The answer is because they take students from local districts, and the money follows the students. Now, the way that happens may well be unfair -- I'm not going to try to defend the current formula -- but I think the underlying principle is basically sound: schools with more students should get more money; schools with fewer students should get less money. Obviously, there are complexities -- if you remove 20 students from a 1000-student district, you lose $100,000 which it may be difficult for that district to absorb. But it seems to me that arguing (as some people seem to be doing) that a district should lose NO money no matter how many students it loses is ridiculous.

If a district goes from 10,000 students to 1,000, it's gotta lose some money, right? And it should have started losing that money long before it got to 1,000. So the question is not "should it lose money?"; the question is when, and how, and what are the factors that determine how much it loses. I think reasonable people can disagree about what the answers to those questions are, but that's the discussion that has to happen.

And I think there are "deaf ears" on both sides. People whose knee-jerk reaction is, "charter schools are bad because they take money from the public school districts" seem no more willing to discuss the money issue seriously than people who say "charter schools are good, and where their money comes from doesn't matter". (And, quite honestly, I really don't know anyone who says the latter -- instead, I see people who choose to ignore the "you're taking our tax money for your charter school, you jerk!" crowd because they don't see the possibility of a serous discussion. Perhaps that will change -- I hope so.)

I'm a fan of charter schools generally, on the theory that choice is good, but I'm an agnostic on this Discovery School. Your questions -- "What is being sold here? What are the benefits other than change ...?" -- are good ones, and I would like to see a discussion of them. But I think the "you're taking money from our schools" charge is a red herring. Not everyone wants to go to GMRSD, and that's not a bad thing -- it's not a knock on GMRSD, it's just a recognition that people are different. The only reason GMRSD "loses" from a charter school student is that that student was counted for GMRSD and the state gave money to GMRSD for them, and then they went somewhere else the money followed them and was therefore deducted from GMRSD. Net result: GMRSD did not get money for a student who wasn't there. If that student had gone to a private school, or was home-schooled, or dropped out, the net result would have been the same -- the only difference would have been that GMRSD would never have seen the money in the first place, so there would have been no need to deduct it, so there would have been no "loss".

At least, that's the way I see it. If I'm off base on all this, I hope someone will set me straight.
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GGarrison - Mon, Nov 30, 2009, 8:51 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry

I agree with what you have posted. But I recognize why there is some concern among residence regarding applying best efforts to an elected position and avoiding potential conflict while serving in that role.

Although if a charter school is approved won't it also fall under the schools committees jurisdiction when it comes to annual funding request? And any funding must be consistent with the allocations for the other schools under the committees responsibility?
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stash - Mon, Nov 30, 2009, 10:53 A
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Thanx Mr. S.....................
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JeffSingleton - Mon, Nov 30, 2009, 9:51 A
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Edwina and Stash:

Edwina writes:

First. Will the Charter School be for the entire population of school children in Montague?

Yes, although it depends what you mean by "entire population." Anyone can apply and they must be accepted according to a lottery. But of course a charter school is created with a certain size, which limits how many will be accepted. Furthermore, each sending school district has a "cap" on the number of students it can send to charter schools (even critics of charter schools want the cap). So that limits the number of slots available.

Second: Will the Charter School address the education of students with special needs and learning differences?

Charter schools are public schools and must serve students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans for special needs students). I am not sure how students with severe disabilities who need more elaborate services and perhaps even services provided out of district are dealt with. I suspect most of these students, who generally are served by existing school districts, would hesitate to apply to a charter school unless it created special programs to attract them.


I made my position on charter Schools quite clear when I ran for school committee. I support charter schools as innovatve efforts to reform education but am opposed to the current funding mechanism. It is a tough call but on balance I support the current charter school proposal even though the funding mechanism is flawed. I respect and will listen to opposing views.This was not a major issue during the election and may have gone under the radar for a lot of people but I do not think it is fair to say I am not serving the voters who elected me. Also I suspect those voters are divided on the issue.

I also believe that some (not all!) of the most vocal critics of Charter Schools on the school committee oppose innovation and reform, including a major change in the financing of education. They not only oppose charter school innovations but they have supported a system that passes unaffordable assessments on to the member towns. I feel there is a connection.

To make matters worse, several school committee members appear to believe that those of us who support the local charter proposal have no right to take that position, are heretics who do not support public education, and perhaps even should not be allowed to speak on the topic at meetings. This is outrageous and as PaulK points out sets a rather bad example for our students. This is also consistent with the mentality that has produced unaffordable assessments to the towns.
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Edwina - Mon, Nov 30, 2009, 5:48 A
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My second question was worded wrong and had a typo. Here it is again.

First. Will the Charter School be for the entire population of school children in Montague?

Second: Will the Charter School address the education of students with special needs and learning differences?
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Edwina - Mon, Nov 30, 2009, 5:46 A
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I have two questions.

First. Will the Charter School be for the entire population of school children in Montague?

Second: Will it address the education of special education?
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PaulK - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 11:40 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
And, by the way, it is no longer even a matter for discussion whether or not charter schools added to the mix of educational choices are an improvement. Time has proven charter schools a valuable addition to any community. One has only to visit the Pioneer Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts in S. Hadley to see this in action. So many of your young people have attended and thrived in this alternative school environment. And in my opinion it is a most excellent use of our tax dollars. Traditional K-12 public schools fill an important roll, but they fail a lot of our students. One only need look at our drop-out rates to see the truth of this.

as jeff says, the only matter for debate is how to best finance our charter schools, and this should be part of a larger debate about how to best finance public education in general. clearly, local property taxes are overburdened at this point, especially since the DESE has continued to add more and more mandates about services the schools must provide. local property taxes are clearly not up to the task, not alone.

it's unfortunate that some members of the GMRSD school committee continue to view charter schools as the problem. i think it just goes to show the limits of their vision.
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PaulK - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 11:33 P
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JeffS, keep on keepin' on! I love the part where Ms. Phillips asks the SC for a "legal/ethical clarification regarding participation in the discussion (of the charter school 'issue') by those SC members who are supporting the charter school." WOW, indeed! Way to teach our schoolchildren about Democracy in action and freedom of speech! Yes, let's have a 'discussion' where only my side is allowed to participate. Brilliant!
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junkman - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 10:38 P
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Mike N,

The question I think is about tax money. People can only be squeezed so much before the money stops. It seems as though some of the discussion when it comes to money is landed on deaf ears and the subject is then changed.

What is being sold here? What are the benefits other than change here?
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stash - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 10:12 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
maybe the state should take over 100 %.. You folks are NOT looking out for the citizens of our town.
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MikeNaughton - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 9:49 P
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stash -

I think you're being very short-sighted with this (along with pugnacious, but what else is new?). Most of the people involved with trying to set up the Discovery School are NOT school committee members, and they are going to keep on doing what they are doing whether SC members participate in the discussion or not.

That's the reality. SC members (and the rest of us) have a choice: we can either recognize that reality and try to work within it to improve education for ALL the kids in Montague, or they can refuse to recognize it and wish that it would just go away (that seems to be your position).

Well, the way I see it, it's not going away, because an increasing number of parents in Montague and across the county and state want more choices and opportunities for their kids, and they're not going to stop wanting those things. Choices and opportunities -- that's what America is all about, isn't it?
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stash - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 7:21 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
Thanx for the info Jeff.... Just a question for you.. Why is the Sch. Comm. looking at MORE ways to loose the town money??????? Are you not elected to serve the folks that put you in office?? It's bad enough you folks can't seem to care about the folks that pay the bills, you try to bleed more ......Try saying no.... It's any easy word to say. You should try it sometime.
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JeffSingleton - Sun, Nov 29, 2009, 5:00 P
Holiday Charter School Laundry
I have been urged not to air dirty laundry on this corkboard but this particular laundry was on television so what the heck.

To the Chair and Vice Chair of the GMRSD School Committee:

Last [Tuesday] night’s “discussion” of Charter Schools at the school committee meeting was so brief and odd that I hesitate to comment on it. I thought the meeting as a whole was very productive. In retrospect, however, I would like to protest the manner in which the charter school issue was raised. It was very unprofessional and in violation of the norms any committee must maintain to function effectively.

Rather than putting the subject of charter schools on the agenda so we might discuss it in a collegial manner, one school committee member dragged it into a discussion of the vision statement of the recently formed Franklin County Regional group. Nothing in that statement (or in the discussions which led it ) implied that school committee members must take a particular position on Charter Schools. The whole issue appeared "out of the blue.”, to say the least.

During the “discussion,” if one could call it that, people on the School Committee who support a potential local charter school, the “Discovery School”, were implicitly condemned as if they were heretics who did not support public education. There was much innuendo about “conflict of interest.” Since the whole issue was off-topic, raised “on the fly” there was no real opportunity for those of us who support the Discovery School to defend ourselves or, heaven forbid, rationally explain our position.

The school committee obviously has some rather sharp divisions about charter schools. Some of us (myself included) have supported the recently proposed “Discovery School” and some us appear to oppose it. There is nothing wrong with this. Disagreement is not a bad thing. The charter school issue is controversial and complex. A real discussion might in fact reveal some common ground. Most of us probably support the kind of innovation charter schools represent but oppose the current funding mechanism.

To undermine rational conversation by suggesting that one side does not support public education is very divisive. To slide those accusations into another agenda topic so we cannot have a fair, coherent discussion is unprofessional and undermines the work of the committee. Unfortunately it appears we need yet another discussion of school committee norms.

Jeff Singleton

Since this protest letter was written School Committee member Joyce Phillips has requested that the charter school issue be placed on the agenda. I agree but the request also asks for "legal/ethical clarification regarding participation in the discussion by those SC members who are supporting the charter school."

This request is in keeping with the theory that school committee members have no right to support a charter school in their region but goes even further to suggest that we have no right to participate in a school committee discussion of ithe issue. WOW!!!

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JeffSingleton - Tue, Nov 10, 2009, 11:53 A
Health Care Politics: The 85%
There have been a number of interesting posts on this corkboard about the health care issue, particularly the role of the market as opposed to government in providing health care for all at a cost that is affordable. But the fact of the matter is, the U.S. has had a mixed public-private system of health care provision since the late 1940s. It is not perfect but it does cover about 85% of the population. The trick now is to cover the other 15% and to try to get costs under control. I'm not convinced that requires resolving all theoretical problems, interesting as they may be (although it will probably involve some sort of rationing without admitting it).

I feel that the problem is mainly political and a certain irony is often ignored. We cover 85% of the population so why is going the extra mile such a monumental task? Part of the answer is that everyone on all sides has decided it IS a monumental task and that all questions re public v private health care must be resolved before we help the last 15%.

The other big problem is that 85% already have health care. Thus what hat should be a small problem creates a big problem.

The fact is, opponents of so-called "big government" have been very effective in scaring Americans with the idea that any significant change will undermine their own health care. This works because in fact most people have it (health insurance or a "public option" like Medicare. Meanwhile, the supporters of universal coverage have not been able to mobilize their constituency because.... well most of their constituency belongs to groups that already have health insurance or are in public options too. While they theoretically support universal coverage, they descend into rather narrow, interest group politics at the drop of a hat, ignoring the big picture.

The result is that the opponents of "government controlled health care" (a typical Fox News fantasy) mobilize their supporters (see Tea Party activists) while the liberals on the left stay at home complaining about abortion (see Martha Coakley's outrageous stance which is mainly appealing because she and her supporters..... are part of the 85%!) or that American reform is not the Canadian health care system. The political center in Congress is intimidated and will not vote for change. 1994 redux.
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JeffSingleton - Fri, Nov 6, 2009, 3:44 P
Biomass Docs
Recent reports from the "City" of Greenfield on the proposed biomass plant. I'll post others that are sent to me as long as they are sane.
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JeffSingleton - Wed, Oct 28, 2009, 11:00 A
A Dozen Dead Oceans
Sittin' down here at the Lady K listneing to Hard Rain, when Bob Dylan was the darling of the folkies, ex-communists and writers from Sing Out Magazine (that is, before "get sick get well hang around the ink well.")

I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,I hear Mike Naughton's footsteps coming up on the corkboard

But as Jonathan Richman would say.... 1963, it won't come again....

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin',
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Copyright ©1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

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JeffSingleton - Mon, Oct 26, 2009, 11:52 A
H1N1 Articles: Lots of "Gaps"
Sort of like JFK's "missile gap" or George C Scott's "mine shaft Gap" in Dr Strangelove? We also seem to have a "Vitamin D gap."

US has vaccine credibility gap
New York Times / October 26, 2009

Earlier this month, the US government was forced to announce that only about 28 million doses of H1N1 vaccine would be available by the end of this month, about 30 percent below the 40 million it had previously predicted. That is not enough to satisfy people who are lining up for vaccinations around the country or desperately phoning their doctors and public health departments.

Since the outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu occurred in April, federal projections have been consistently and wildly overoptimistic and have had to be ratcheted down several times. As recently as late July, the government was predicting having 160 million doses by this month.

The reasons for the receding estimates start with the fact that the H1N1 virus is not growing as fast as expected in the eggs used to produce vaccine. Moreover, some manufacturers did not even know how little they were producing until a vaccine potency test became available around August, federal officials say.

Federal officials argue, and some experts agree, that the government did a good job in rapidly marshaling suppliers of vaccine for the flu pandemic.

But, these experts say, the government’s accomplishments and its credibility are being undermined by overly rosy projections that did not take account of the vagaries of vaccine production, making it look as if the vaccine effort is failing.

“To my mind, it was overpromising what there would be based on our historic experience with flu vaccines,’’ said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Does vitamin D prevent the swine (H1N1) and seasonal flu, or the common cold?
By Judy Foreman
October 26, 2009

A. It’s not clear whether vitamin D specifically protects against H1N1, a novel virus, but there’s growing evidence that it does protect against a number of respiratory infections - and that many Americans do not get enough of the vitamin.

One study showed that people taking supplements containing 2,000 international units of vitamin D a day suffered fewer respiratory infections than those not taking supplements. Another study showed the obverse - that people with low blood levels of vitamin D were somewhat more likely to have had a recent upper respiratory tract infection than people with higher levels (24 percent vs. 17 percent). Vitamin D boosts the activity of a gene that makes cathelicidin, a natural antimicrobial compound that is part of the body’s defenses against infections, says Dr. Carlos A. Camargo, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School.

When there’s lots of sunshine, people make vitamin D naturally. But in New England, most people have low levels of vitamin D, especially in winter. The problem is a national one as well: A study being published today in Pediatrics shows that about 20 percent of children ages 1 to 11 have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.

You can get a blood test to determine your vitamin D level. People with darker skin are at extra risk because highly pigmented skin requires more sun exposure to obtain a healthy level.

The vitamin has so many benefits - including lowering the risk of osteoporosis, heart attacks, and colon cancer - that “I am encouraging everyone to increase their vitamin D intake, especially children,’’ says Dr. Michael F. Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University. He suggests that children take a minimum of 400 IUs a day and preferably 1,000. “Adults should take at least 1,000 IUs and preferably 2,000 IUs a day,’’ he says.

Daniel Perlman, a senior scientist at Brandeis University, says 2,000 IUs a day is safe: “In the summer sun, the body itself is known to produce far higher levels.’’

E-mail health questions to

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