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This $53 million dollar new high school sent students home on February 12 because there was no heat.
What is Reading Memorial High School!
Classes had to be cancelled because of heating problems in the brand new school. Reading never had problems like this with the old building.
Reading Advocate 1/09/07 - Couple Asks Ban on Book .pdf - According to Reading School Superintendent Patrick Schettini, "Taken as a whole, the book is life-affirming."
The Reading School Committee unanimously supported the superintendent's recommendation that "Where the Heart is" by Billie Letts remain on the RMHS English Department's recommended Summer Reading list. The book, a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection, was written for an adult audience. The PG 13 movie made in 2000, loosely based on the book, contains little of the extremely graphic, patently offensive sexual content that pervades the original text.
Concerned parents Linda and Gary Phillips requested that the School Committee revisit how books are placed on recommended reading lists, the age appropriateness and the compatibility of the Reading list with the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks reading lists. They did NOT ask for the book to be banned but objected to its contents being forced upon high school students.
"By the end of the first week, Willy Jack had been in the infirmary four times. The doctor, Dr. Strangelove to the inmates, found Willy Jack to be wildly attractive, a situation that would not work to Willy Jack's advantage. Dr. Strangelove's response to sexual attraction was physical pain and his craving for Willy Jack was strong. When he packed Willy Jack's broken nose, he stuffed it with so much cotton that the soft tissue of the septum was perforated. When he treated the wound on Willy Jack's buttocks, he added a pinch of Drano to the salve he slathered across the teeth marks around the soft, torn flesh. And when he stitched up Willy's Jack's rectum, he signed, with a flourish and fine suture, his name."
"Taken as a whole" who wants to explain to their kids why, in a summer reading book, there's a sexually depraved surgeon creatively stitching up raped prisoners? Or the other scenes in the book describing sexual violence and abuse.
And the end of the story? The bad guys go unpunished. That's real "life-affirming." But it is like the real world where bullies and criminals, white and blue-collar, often get away with their crimes.
Long Time No Write - Informed Residents of Reading isn't gone, just resting. Former Superintendent Harutunian is, however, gone, enjoying a new Salisbury beach house paid for in part by the children and taxpayers of North Andover.
And do we also hear wedding bells??
A few of the enablers who assisted Harry during his reign in Reading remain, revising history whenever they get the chance, often claiming they never really liked Harutunian, "went along to get along" and generally making excuses for their own actions.
Reading has a New High School. The architects and contractors and anybody else who was "in the know" got what they wanted. It's a smaller school, rife with problems but some parts are nice, it has that new car smell. And everyone knows new is better, right?
It's not worth what Reading paid, though, and this building won't last half as long as the old Reading Memorial High School. It's not a quality building designed with the needs of a school in mind. The citizens and children of Reading will now have to make the best of what they have... and forget about what might have been.
For a new building, the Reading High School has an astonishing number of problems: from the heating, ventilation and cooling problems, leaking roof, inadequate cafeteria space, press box obstructing views and sinking athletic fields to out of control power consumption. Anyone who remembers what citizens of Reading were promised by Harutunian and his special interest friends knows the school has utterly failed to live up to what was promised.
There's a new crop of parents in town. To them, the horrors of the Harutunian administration and Reading's school building projects are just history.
Informed Residents hope these parents will not be as clueless or as blindly trusting as their predecessors. Understand that you need to take an active role in your school system. You need to pay attention. School administrators are employed to serve YOU and not the other way around. Don't be afraid the ask questions. Don't be afraid to dig deeper to find out where your hard-earned money is being spent. You may not like the answers you find but at least you'll know the truth and a better idea of how to protect yourself and your children.
Reading Advocate, 11/29/07, Letter from Citizen Bill Brown - Is School Beauty or Beast? - Bill Brown wrote a great letter about the New High School's energy consumption problems. After all the talk during the proposal stages of the project about energy efficiency, Reading's New High School is an "energy hog."
"Reading - To the editor:
Approximately 60 percent of the 192 elected Town Meeting members convened the week of Nov. 13, 2007, in Reading Memorial High School on stage at props used by the drama club's production of "The Beauty and the Beast."
On June 9, 2007, Reading citizens and others gathered to rededicate the new building. Many of those in attendance expressed how beautiful the new building was compared to the 1954 building.
In the Boston Globe Magazine of Nov. 18, 2007, an article was titled "It's a Green Green World." - PDF. An article by Reading resident David Talbot (It Takes A Town) quoted Marie De Lie, director of human resources and finance for the Reading School Department that the new building is "an electricity hog." Perhaps the word beast should be used instead of hog, thus The Beauty and The Beast. While Mr. Talbot pointed out that the school was smaller, taxpayers of Reading should know that the building has a capacity of 1,400 students compared to the old building of a 2,000 capacity, thus the 30 percent increased cost of electricity is not a true figure.
In the same magazine section, in yet another article by James Hadley, "A Flawed Foundation." Mr. Hadley points out not only the environmental costs of demolition of old building in disposal costs but the costs to the environment of new materials.
During the debate on the renovation of the 1954 building versus demolition and a new building, many residents felt that if the old building were renovated, it could not only house high school students but could serve as a central kindergarten and not require the building of the Wood End School.
It would seem that the article points out that perhaps while the new building may look like the Beauty, we now find out it is an electricity Beast and the taxpayers of this town will have to pay for the next 20 years and contribute to the global warming that we are teaching our students about in "The Beauty and The Beast."
William C. Brown
Reading Advocate 3/07/07 - The Insatiable Appetite - "The most recent school building projects were substantially over budget with very poor oversight from the school committee/school building committee. Contractor profits could only be maximized with quality downgrades and size and scope reductions approved by the School Committee:"
"The superintendent and school committee does not tell you that in
Fiscal Year 2001 they provided the same education for the same number of
students that we have today for $5 million less. Since the 2001 budget,
the school dept. has increased staff positions by 41, mostly to staff
the new Wood End School - even though they claimed
"The four school renovations and building of a new elementary school since 1997 has negatively affected the town's bond rating. No other community has pursued school building projects with such frenzy, adding more debt before earlier debt is paid off and in such a short time period."
Weary taxpaying parents, working yourselves ragged trying to pay for your middle-class lifestyles and big houses, the schools are not going to stop taking from you. Unless you start asking questions, demanding answers and start paying attention, every year, the price you pay for less will rise higher and higher (much like your water bills). School administrators have a good thing going and a steady supply of public consumers (YOU) who gladly hand them money hand over fist to improve nothing.
They have no incentive to change.
No amount of money thrown at the schools will ever guarantee your children a comprehensive, competitive education. Accountability and consequences for financial misconduct, waste and incompetence are the only solution.
Eagle Tribune - Former North Andover school official arraigned on charge she stole more than $27K in cash from schools - "Catherine Entsminger, 60, of North Andover, the former director of community programs in charge of administering and overseeing the School Department's summer school and after-school programs, was arraigned in Lawrence District Court on a charge of larceny over $250. Entsminger is accused of not depositing cash receipts, including some from parents paying for the pricey all-day kindergarten program, with the town treasurer from June 24, 2004, to June 5, 2006."
Nobody noticed that this money was disappearing for two years? Her boss, Harry Harutunian, didn't notice she was stealing from one of his "pet" programs?
"School systems like (ours) who are having financial troubles can't
tolerate white-collar crime," School
NO school systems should have to tolerate white-collar crime.
"Jill Ramano, a parent who had a child in full-day kindergarten last
year at the Annie L. Sargent School, said
All-day Kindergarten was an easy way to overcharge parents and raise extra cash that could be diverted for other purposes. Harutunian implemented costly, all-day kindergarten programs in Reading too.
Valley Patriot - Audit Shows School Committee Incompetence - "An education audit shows that Al Perry and his puppets on the N. Andover School Committee gave raises and bonuses to superintendent Harry Harutunian with no written evaluations... no goals or education plans district wide... no evaluations of administrators (who were also given hefty raises)..."
"Evaluators said contracts and state laws were broken."
Who will be punished for breaking these laws and contracts? The only people being punished right now are the citizens and children of North Andover.
Harutunian poisoned and corrupted the North Andover school system, just like he did in Reading. He showed others in positions of authority how to game and manipulate the system, compromising them and minimizing the risk that they would "squeal" and report his own activities to law enforcement.
The ideal school system for a corrupt school superintendent is one in which every high-level administrator and employee is also corrupt and no one in a position to stop the corruption is able to "blow the whistle" without incriminating themselves. Although Harutunian is gone, he still has "puppets" in Reading and in North Andover obligated (by self-interest) to protect his secrets.
Sadly, Charles Ormsby may be the only member of the North Andover school committee who has not been "compromised" by Harutunian and the scandals. As demonstrated by the laughable and unnecessary 186k payout Harutunian received to resign (they could have and should have just fired him) and the suppression of the disturbing and potentially incriminating (publicly-funded) private investigators report on Harutunian, North Andover School Committee members still aren't being honest with the public. Why? What motivated committee members to illegally give Harutunian raises (and other perks)?
True change and reform will only happen when the full extent of the corruption is revealed and the guilty are removed from power.
Yahoo News 12/02/06 - Corruption Hits Cities in L.A.'s Shadows - "A string of gritty suburbs in the shadow of Los Angeles has produced a growing parade of public officials jailed for corruption and prosecutors say illegal schemes on a scale more commonly associated with big Eastern cities have devoured tens of millions of taxpayer dollars."
"The former mayor of Lynwood was sentenced in March to nearly 16 years in prison for funneling millions of dollars in city contracts to a sham consulting company he secretly controlled. Paul Richards, 50, was found guilty of multiple counts of mailfraud, money laundering, extortion and making false statements to investigators."
"Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose office created a special unit to concentrate on public corruption, says the recent run of cases can be easily explained. 'I think it was going on all the time,' he said. 'No one was investigating it.'"
Boston Globe, 10/11/06 - Everett schools chief placed on probation - "'Mr. Foresteire abused his position of power and the public trust. We are pleased he acknowledged the evidence against him was sufficient for a guilty finding in this case,' Stone said in a statement. 'We disagree with the judge's decision to not follow our recommendation for a guilty finding and repayment to the City of Everett for the air conditioners that investigators found in Mr. Foresteire's home."
So he gets to keep the air conditioners?
Until "one of their own" takes a serious fall and gets jail time, school administrators are only going to become more bold and corrupt. There is simply no one in law enforcement able (or willing) to hold superintendents accountable for their actions and even fewer to prosecute "white collar" financial crimes. It's open season on children and taxpayers.
Eagle Tribune, 09/24/06 - Guess who's teaching: Embattled ex-superintendent gets teaching job - "Former School Superintendent Harry Harutunian has landed a job as a long-term substitute teacher at Lynn Classical High School, earning a full-time teacher's salary at $61,961-a-year plus benefits."
"Kostan said he has known Harutunian for six years. In 2004, Harutunian hired Kostan's wife, Kathleen, to be principal of North Andover's Thomson School. She retired at the end of the school year."
Two years? She had hoped to be there for at least five. But then, so did Harutunian. She left when he left.
"The job was not offered to other candidates. 'This was a last-minute thing. It happened a week before school started,' Kostan said."
Yeah, right. What a coincidence. Harry hires Kostan's wife in 2004 but now Harutunian is the one who needs a little "shelter from the storm." Isn't that what this really is all about?
The question is, how will the children of Lynn benefit from Harutunian's presence? What lessons will Harry "deplorable violation of trust" Harutunian teach the children? How to game the system, manipulate people who trust you and abuse power?
And what message does this hiring sham send honorable, ethical teachers who have actually worked hard and deserve the opportunity Harutunian has just been handed?
Allowing Harutunian to circumvent the hiring process speaks volumes about Superintendent Nick Kostan and his priorities. Harutunian was the best "teacher" Kostan could find on short notice? It just doesn't make any sense.
With Superintendent Kostan's retirement pending, continuing structural / design problems at new Lynn Classical High and school construction "connoisseur" Harutunian hanging around "teaching," citizens of Lynn should be very, very concerned. This arrangment does not pass the $61,961 "smell test."
Necn News, 09/24/06 - According to NECN news, the Harutunian has a new job working as a "teacher" somewhere in Lynn, Massachusetts.
WCHS6(Portland, ME).com -
Former School Chief Fined For Creating Job For Girlfriend's Son
- "Harutunian signed a settlement agreement admitting he improperly used
his influence to create a part-time custodial job for his girlfriend's
son, who was a student at the high school."
News at 11 (see below).
Tommy Duggan / Valley Patriot.com -
"State Ethics Comission Fines former Superintendent Harry Harutunian
$6000 for Hiring his Girfriend's son as a custodian. Channel 5 will have
an exclusive story at 11pm."
Boston Globe 06/29/06 - Is town cheating special ed kids? - "Davarich is one of about a half-dozen Reading parents rankled by what he characterizes as an ailing and corrupt special education system in the town of 23,000. The parents, said Davarich, are now gearing up to take action on the controversy that has simmered for years, mostly behind closed doors."
Reading's Special Ed Director, Steve Gannon, has faithfully served as "foot soldier" for both the Harutunian and Schettini Administrations, playing parents off each other, ignoring ed plans, misrepresenting programs and denying continued services to students thriving in programs outside the Reading schools. The SPED horror stories have continued for years in Reading, mostly unseen by the publc thanks to various gag orders imposed upon parents and children.
Finally, some parents are waking up and communicating with each other.
Reading Advocate 06/08/06 -
It should not be necessary - Why are parents collecting an
additional $100K now when the school department already received the
$100K from (November 2004) Town Meeting for that very purpose? -
"Five months before the Wood End project was completed,
the school committee asked Town Meeting in May 2004 (.mp3 audio) to
transfer $634,000 from the incomplete Wood End project funds into the
Barrows construction project. In reality, there was more than enough
money in the Wood End project budget to fund the $100K playground. The
school committee and school administrators count on the 'forgetfulness'
of Town Meeting, and the ignorance of well meaning parents."
Download audio from 11/08/04 Town Meeting (.mp3, 1.44 MB) in which Superintendent Schettini attempts to justify the (first) transfer of SPED money to the School Building Projects and references $100,000 originally set aside to build a new playground at Wood End.
Deliberate Falsehood? - Examining Reading's Use of SPED "Circuit Breaker" Money to Fund School Building Projects - Contrary to the objections of Superintendent Schettini and others at the April 27, 2006 Town Meeting, the school department's pattern of transferring funds from the Special Needs areas of the School Department budget to finance construction projects is extremely relevant to the '07 budget.
Download an audio clip from this 04/27/06 Town Meeting (.mp3, 1.3MB) in which Schettini claims "a spouse of a town meeting member" accused him of lying.
Download an audio clip from this 04/31/06 Town Meeting (.mp3, 1.4MB) - Superintendent Schettini: "Please let it be clear, I have too much respect for this body, our town and our schoole to lie to you. Unfounded, unsubstantiated allegations do not just hurt me personally, they hurt our town, our schools, and the important position I am blessed to hold as your superintendent."
Unfounded? Unsubstantiated? No.
Cloaking himself in righteous indignation does not negate the facts or prior votes of Town Meeting. Although Superintendent Schettini pretends to clarify details of the Circuit Breaker funding mechanism for Town Meeting, he stops short of explaining himself or the schools' practice of moving SPED money into other accounts.
Documentation suggests that Circuit Breaker reimbursement money has not been spent as the Legislature intended -- on the needs of Special Education children.
Webster's Random House College Dictionary defines a lie as "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive."
Carl McFadden, Reading School Committee Meeting, 02/27/06 (.mp3, 1.3 MB) - "We have, unfortunately, in the past couple years and I don't know if it's going to come up, if we, we're gonna do it again but we've taken money out of educating our children, money has been taken out of the operating budget that the taxpayers have given us to educate chldren. Whether or not we feel as though we met that and this is what was left over, the fact is we have taken money out of our operating account to educate our children to supplement this high school project."
Reading Advocate 11/10/04 - Transfer of $650,000- "Under Article 3, Town Meeting was also asked to approve a transfer of $650,000 from the school department's special education budget to the capital budget in order to help with school improvement costs at Reading Memorial High School, Barrows Elementary School and Wood End Elementary School. Schettini explained that the schools received more special education money than anticipated."
Reading Advocate 10/11/04 -
Discrepancy Over Special Ed Funds - "Jeff Wulfson, associate
commissioner of the Department of Education, wrote a letter to Selectmen
Chairman Richard Schubert and School Committee Chairman Carl McFadden,
stating that the special education money shouldn't, in fact, have been
switched to the school building projects."
Good business practice?
Reading Town Meeting - November 2004 Warrant, Article 3 - "The School Department had a surplus of over $650,000 in the FY 2004 Budget due to better than anticipated reimbursement of SPED costs under the circuit Breaker program. The School Committee voted to transfer those one-time revenues to capital projects -- the three school projects under construction.The State Department of Revenue rules that transfer to be inappropriate indicating that for transfers of this magnitude and for projects of this type, Town Meeting approval is needed.
Therefore, there will be a requested transfer from Free Cash to fund these additions to previously approved capital projects, and the moneys from the FY 2004 Budget that the School Committee had previously transferred will revert to Free Cash. Funding of these projects would be accomplished under Article 5 of this Warrant."
Reading Town Meeting - April 2005 Warrant, Article 4 - "The School Department had a surplus of $850,000 in the FYI 2005 Budget due to better than anticipated reimbursement of SPED costs under the "Circuit Breaker" Program. The School Committee voted to transfer those one-time revenues to capital projects - the school projects under construction. $350,000 will go to the Barrows project and $500,000 to the RMHS project. Funding of these projects would be accomplished under article 6 of this Warrant."
School Committee Minutes, June, 2004 - "Mr. Dahl made a motion that
the sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) be transferred
from the School Department's Special Needs Budget to the Reading
Memorial High School Construction and Renovation Project. Ms. Webb
seconded the motion. The vote was 4-0. Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Dahl, Mr.
McFadden and Ms. Webb"
Massachusetts Department of Revenue - Letter from James R. Johnson, Director of Accounts to Chairs Schubert, McFadden - "I therefore conclude that the three votes of June 15, 2004 transferring a total of $550,000 are defective; such funds should have been closed from the FY04 school budget to fund balance as of June 30, 2004. ...I would suggest consultation with the DOE or the newly created School Building Authority relative to amendment of the existing applications for the three school construction projects."
Boston Globe, April 2005 - School Budget Transfer Questioned - "The decision allows school administrators to use the money received from a state grant to increase the contingency funds on two school construction jobs. School Committee member Carl McFadden said the schools had $850,000 in surplus funds, after lower-than-expected special education costs."
Lower -than-expected? Surplus or Inflated SPED budgeting?
Sped Budget History (.pdf, 96 KB) - Information regarding Reading's padded SPED budgets. Enrollment of special needs kids has not increased (and has, in fact, often decreased) but the SPED budgets have consistently increased. Reading officials talk about the unanticipated costs that might arise for SPED children's needs. They claim that there is a need for a buffer ($200,000, currently), to deal with these potential costs. But examine the numbers. Only in 2003 has buffer money actually been needed for its intended purpose. What has happened the rest of the years? They keep adding to this unanticipated costs buffer regardless of whether there are kids who need it or not. How much money has accumulated? How has this extra money been used?
20, 2005 Letter from Town Accountant Richard Foley to Pat Schettini(.pdf,
48 KB) - "To book this transfer, I need the School Committee to vote to
transfer the $850,000 from a specific segment of the School Department's
At the April 2005 Town Meeting, TM members voted to transfer $850,000 from school department Regular Day account after they were assured that the source of this $850,000 was Special Ed surplus, originating from state Circuit Breaker reimbursement. Circuit Breaker money has special requirements as to how it may be used, as outlined in a March 5th, 2004 Department of Revenue (DOR) letter (.pdf).
One month after the April 2005 Town Meeting vote, Town Accountant Foley reframed the source of the $850,000 surplus. Suddenly, the surplus was no longer listed in Special Ed but in Regular Day. In his May 20th letter to School Committee, Foley advised School Committee to vote to transfer the surplus from Regular Day to the Capital School projects; he insisted there was no surplus in the Special Ed accounts and there now was funding in Regular Day.
Where did the $850,000 come from? Did the School Department
overbudget Regular Day by $850,000, or did they improperly use state
Circuit Breaker revenue for building projects?"
Eagle Tribune 03/21/06 - Disciplinary hearing set for Harutunian - "The School Committee will confront Superintendent Harry K. Harutunian about an alleged improper relationship with a female school employee at a closed-door disciplinary meeting tomorrow, The Eagle-Tribune has learned."
This news should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Superintendent Harutunian. Bad behavior and rumors of "extracurricular" or improper activities have dogged him throughout his career. The only surprise here is that this particular "rumor" has surfaced in the pages of the Eagle Tribune and someone may actually hold Harutunian accountable for his actions.
New Appointments - Reading School Administrative Council (the Best Friends’ Club) welcomes two new members: Craig Martin, Marie Pink chosen as Coolidge administrators (February 9, 2006, Daily Times Chronicle)
On a recommendation of Superintendent Patrick Schettini, Reading School Committee voted at their recent meeting to waive the public search process. See Policy CBBA .(Selection of Principals and Citizen Screening Committee for Administrative Positions).
This policy required “input of parents, teachers, community, and in special cases, students in the process of screening candidates for positions of associate superintendent and principal.” Martin and Pink have been “acting principal and vice principal” since last June when former Coolidge Principal John Doherty was appointed assistant superintendent.
Reading school policies are a sham.
No public process was followed in replacing the assistant superintendent or administrators at Joshua Eaton Elementary and Reading Memorial High School. The Reading School Committee no longer follows Superintendent’s evaluation (Evaluation of Superintendent CBI).
School superintendent evaluations no longer are compiled and created by School Committee at public meetings. School Committee no longer holds public hearings or conducts votes at two separate meetings to create School Committee Policy.
Gone is “process and the Reading public’s right to know.”
Reading's School Committee rubber stamps administrative recommendations, regularly conducts public business in private, obstructs access to public information and denies parents, teachers and the community input in choosing their school administrators.
Other communities do things differently.
The practice of choosing school administrators with public input and participation is alive and well in Carlisle, Salem, Medford, and Swampscott.
Carlisle – Principal and Assistant Sought (Globe NorthWest 02/16.06) 14 member search committee of parents, teachers, the SPED director, a selectman and two students
Salem – Help pick the new high school principal(Salem News 12/28/05) Input from five distinct groups including parents teachers, students, administrators and community leaders.
Medford – Seeking New Principal (Globe NorthWest 02/19/06) A committee of parents and educators to review applications.
Swampscott – New principal will be named Monday (Salem News 02/02/06) 11 member search team of teachers, parents, and an administrator.
Boston Herald 01/13/05 - Foreclosure Filings Go Through The Roof (.pdf) - "Communities with the greatest foreclosure spikes include Reading, at 250 percent; Burlington at 200 percent; Seekonk, at 163 percent, and Newburyport at 163 percent."
Reading Town Meeting 11/17/05 - Reading officials' failed attempts to bully two Town Meeting members into silence. Toward the end of this "debate," a flustered Chairman Rob Spadafora, in a classic smokescreen maneuver, accuses his questioners of "making disparaging comments" and tries to distract listeners from the issue at hand by negatively associating Town Meeting members Linda and Gary Phillips with the school system's anti-bullying program.
When you can't attack the message, attack the messenger.
Article 9 Discussion - Part 1 (.mp3, 3.17 MB) - Background
School officials already moved money into the high school project contingency fund to cover replacement culvert repairs at April 30, 2005 Town Meeting. Responsible Town Meeting members should review the audio from both meetings (April 30, 2005 and Nov. 11, 2005) before they approve any additional funds for culvert repairs.
11:33 - 12:37 - Town Meeting 11/17/05
"Gary Phillips: What vigilant action is the school building committee taking to insure that those problem areas are being corrected at the expense of the contractors and not the taxpayers of Reading? Can I hear from anybody on the school building committee?
Chairman Rob Spadafora: Mr. Moderator, it's going to be quite simple, I am not going to address either one of the Phillips this evening, if they continue with the disparaging comments. If they continue to be disruptive, they will be removed from Town Meeting.
GP: What? For presenting information that's essential to make intelligent, informed decisions, Mr. Spadafora?
RS: Mr. Moderator, he's talking about slush funds, he's talking about dishonesty. I don't think he's showing respect to the speakers, the town(folks?) or the contractors.
GP: Let me document my statements. I'm sorry.
RS: We're all adults, we demand respect. Our children are watching this, there's a bullying program, I think all of us should take note of how we treat each other in public Mr. and Mrs Phillips."
Respect? Are the slush funds real? Is the dishonesty real? If there was not so much glaring evidence suggesting the slush funds and dishonesty are, in fact, real, perhaps Reading officials would not have to "demand respect."
Respect is earned.
Honest, hardworking school officials doing their jobs, advocating for the best interests of children and the community earn (and deserve) respect.
Public servants who limit access to public information, help protect the interests of private companies and dodge questions by attacking the questioners deserve investigation.
From the veil of secrecy surrounding the school projects to the arrogance and open hostility of some top school officials (who, if they were doing nothing wrong, should be happy to answer questions from an interested taxpaying public), the signs of wrongdoing in Reading are everywhere.
Mass FY06 Budget Amendments - Extended Learning Time Planning and Early Implementation Grant - See floor Number: 85 clerk number: 258 - Early implementation grants? Why would Reading groups seek an early implementation grant if they didn't intend to implement it? Also, where is the parent support in Reading? And how many Reading teachers knew about this grant application?
"...the department shall only approve implementation plans that include evidence of support from teachers, administrators, parents, and any community-based organizations or institutions of higher education involved in implementation, and all collective bargaining units involved in implementation; provided further that the department shall only approve implementation plans that include documentation of leadership capacity to successfully implement a longer school day or year and evidence that the district has made recent progress towards improved educational outcomes and improved district capacity..."
Reading's original application on file included no surveys, studies or letters of support from parents.
Globe North 11/20/05 - School-day study to proceed - "Reading school officials have decided to go ahead with a study on lengthening the school day at the town's two middle schools despite concerns expressed by parents in a series of public sessions held to discuss the idea."
"He (Schettini) has assured parents their voices are being heard on the matter."
Voices in Reading are heard, certainly, then ignored.
Peabody found time to do their research on extending the school day. Why is similar research "not doable" in Reading?
"The team is a group of teachers, administrators, and 13 parents who will study the longer school day idea."
Is this true? Contrary to the Globe article, page 14 of Reading's application to the D.O.E. lists that only 2-4 parents will serve on this committee.
Why don't they announce who these parents are?
UPDATE: Soon after this posting, Edline released November updates regarding the Expanded Learning Time commmittee.
Reading Advocate 11/03/05 - We are all watching - "Maximizing contractor profits at the expense of the health and safety of our students and teaching staff should not be tolerated! Fix the new $11.5 million school the way it should have been built in the first place, with adequate heat, fresh air, ventilation and skylight shades. Do it for the children. Do it for the teaching staff. And do it because it is the right thing to do! Stop giving lip service to the public and making excuses. We are all watching!"
June 20, 2005 Reading School Committee minutes (released to public on October 5, 2005) - The official denial of a heat problem at Wood End, created for the Town's permanent record. "Mr Dunlap stated that the air quality consultant stated that the air quality is fine and not a problem at Wood End. The air temperature was 87 degrees on a particular day and not 105degrees as rumored."
Not a rumor. Fact.
At least 42 Wood End teachers agree.
Superintendent Schettini and the Reading School Committee should be ashamed for 1.) concealing architect and contractor errors, 2.) protecting the interests of those who profited from defective building projects, 3.) allowing school officials and employees to threaten and intimidate teaching faculty and support staff who speak out about problems at Wood End and 4.) putting teachers and children at risk in unsafe school environments.
Parents, YOU have the power to hold school officials accountable for their actions. When you remain silent, however, and do not question the actions of the school department, the more intolerable Reading's schools will become and the more YOUR children will suffer.
March 28, 2005 Reading School Committee minutes (released to public on May 25, 2005) - School Department spin for the Town's official record regarding the October 2004 evacuation incident at newly opened Wood End Elementary. The school was evacuted and children dismissed early. Several children and teachers were taken to the hospital, overcome by fumes. Air testing conducted hours after windows and doors had been open, still showed unacceptable levels of VOC (volatile organic chemicals).
May 16, 2005 Reading School Committee minutes (released to public on October 5, 2005) - A very superficial evaluation of Superintendent Patrick Schettini May 16, 2005 (Page 2) by his loyal followers. Hugs and kisses all around...
Massachusetts Division of Occupation Safety (DOS) - June 28, 2005 DOS letter to Reading Director of Facilities - On June 28, 2005, a complaint of excessive heat and unhealthy conditions was filed with DOS. Though response is requested within 15 days, the Reading School Department did not return the Investigation Response Form to DOS until Sept. 17, 2005.
The June 28, 2005 DOS letter to Reading Director of Facilities, John Thiffault, references a comprehensive assessment conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). This letter followed the Fall 2004 incident in which several teachers and students were sickened by conditions at Wood End School and transported by ambulance to the hospital. The DOS investigation requests an update on Reading's implementation of recommendations contained in the DPH December 2004 report.
A Sept. 21, 2005 letter to Reading's Assistant Director of Facilities Donald Johnson from DOS's Robert Kenrick references the brief investigative response finally sent by Reading on Sept. 17 and states:
"Relative to item 13, excess heat, you indicated that work is in progress to install roof mounted exhaust fans and also to install ceiling fans in all classrooms to address this issue. In a telephone conversation today, you indicated that the expected completion of this work is within approximately one week for the ceiling fans and within approximately one month for the exhaust fans."
Almost a year ago children and teachers were overcome by fumes at the Wood End School. In June 2005, teachers and students suffered terribly from extreme heat, thanks to the school's poor design. Yet, the School Department and School Committee still publicly deny and cover up Wood End's problems.
Parents and teachers can report, in confidence, hazards and unhealthy conditions at Wood End to the Division of Occupational Safety (617-969-7177).
According to the Sept. 21, 2005 DOS letter and investigative response, classroom ceiling fans should have been in place by Sept. 24 and roof exhaust fans to pull the hot air out of the school should be installed by October 17.
Boston Globe 09/18/05 - Officials look into complaint Wood End School too hot - Since post-and-beam Wood End (designed by Flansburgh & Associates) opened in Fall 2004, School Superintendent Pat Schettini and Reading Health Administrator Jane Fiore have minimized or denied the existence of serious problems at the school.
Documentation, however, reveals that school officials have been aware of problems at Wood End for at least one year.
In 09/16/04 Advocate article, School Field Delayed by Town Project, school committee references complaints about temperature fluctuations and stagnant air at Wood End. Then Chairman Carl McFadden told Sam Bird, Flansburgh senior associate in charge of construction: "We're frustrated, It's a beautiful school, and then when people get in there the complaints are justified." Bird stated "airflow tests and air balancing reports, expected this week, would help them diagnose the problem and remedy the situation."
And this is how September 13, 2004 School Committee minutes describe the same discussion about air quality complaints: "Mr. McFadden asked about the air circulation at Wood End. Mr. Bird from Flansburgh stated he was in the process of gathering data and analyzing it."
So what happened to those reports, Mr. Bird?
Over a year later, local officials are still "diagnosing" the problem or, even worse, pretending the problems don't exist.
Also see a Reading Chronicle article from 09/14/04. Compare the level of information included in the local newspaper articles to the school committee's "sanitized" minutes. Why is there so little information published in the official minutes?
The August 16, 2005 report by Garcia-Galuska-Desousa Consulting Engineers (.pdf), mentioned in the 09/18/05 Globe article and just released to the public, also tells a very different story than that of local officials-- one of "poor engineering and design judgments."
Compare Reading officials' denials in the Globe article with what the Garcia-Galuska-Desousa report reveals.
Some details include:
144 - No heat provided in stairway.
114C No supply or ventilation air provided.
102A No heat or ventilation air provided.
220 Refrigerant lines run through electric room which is not code compliant.
"During an investigation of the rooftop equipment, it was noted that the roofing membrane did not appear to be adhered to the roofing structural system...this overall condition should be investigated." (Edward Galuska, P.E.)
Reading's latest "jewel" was designed and constructed with a roof that leaks, an unhealthy heating and ventilation system, inadequate plumbing and not enough parking for the staff, let alone parents attending school functions. After Wood End opened, the Town poured in another $50,000 to create enough parking for the staff.
What is motivating Schettini, Fiore and other officials to minimize or deny the existence of problems at Wood End?
Who is going to be held accountable for this misfit school?
Reading Advocate MHS 09/15/05 - Barrows listed in top 100 schools (.pdf) - Informed residents may find Flansburgh Associates' business practices unethical, disgusting and worthy of investigation by State and Federal authorities but when the firm does a project and doesn't completely screw up, they deserve credit.
With the Barrows project, it appears that teachers' input was actually incorporated into improving the existing structure:
1.) Flansburgh didn't gut the entire interior of the school, only some of it. Many of the original classrooms walls remain and those rooms are the same size they were before the renovation. The original Barrows kindergarten room dimensions already met current state size regulations, even though the Barrows school was designed years ago.
2.) Many of the windows in each classroom now open from the top and some open from the bottom. This gives teachers tremendous flexibility in controlling heat in their classrooms. Good job!
3). Ceiling fans were added which can now circulate the rising hot air out of the classroom through the top opening windows.
Contrast this scenario with what happens at Wood End, the brand new school FAI designed from scratch. At Wood End, the two or so windows in classrooms open only from the bottom. Proposals to install ceiling fans at Wood End will only turn the classrooms into convection ovens, forcing the hot air down, roasting the children and teachers.
Problems for the new Barrows structure include:
1.) The art room (formerly, the gym) is unnecessarily huge, is an heating / energy hog, has audibility issues and is empty most of the week because the school has no art teacher full-time at Barrows. The art room is much too large for the population of the school.
2.) The loading dock is in the front of the building, next to the air vents.
3.) The location of the dumpster probably is a fire hazard. At Birch Meadow Elementary, the fire department ordered a similar dumpster, considered a fire hazard, moved away from the loading dock in the front of the school. The dumpster at Barrows is right next to the school.
But hey, none of Reading's schools are perfect!
Compared to Wood End and the New High School, Barrows is a fine school, worthy of praise. All of Reading's schools should be more like Barrows Elementary.
The Barrows renovation may have cost three times more than it was supposed to (do you remember all the extra redesigns that were done?) but at least the Barrows renovation worked and critical defects and mistakes haven't surfaced... yet.
Harry's Latest 10k Cash Grab - Reading residents, burdened by high taxes and expensive, unnecessary schools, know what an awful job Superintendent Harutunian did during his tenure in Reading. Well, he's still abusing the authority granted to him as a superintendent, accepting a $10,000 bonus while complaining about the budget and laying off teachers in North Andover.
RMHS Construction Updates - Reading Advocate 08/25/05 - Asbestos found in school building (.pdf) - Why is it such a surprise that large, unexpected amounts of asbestos exist in the RMHS structure? Why did school officials not know about this earlier? Could it be because during Superintendent Harutunian's tenure someone illegally shredded the school's federally-mandated asbestos records?
Someone did Harry a big favor by getting rid of those public records and enjoyed years of preferential treatment in return for that favor. And now, thanks to her efforts, Reading taxpayers face a possible $200,000+ unexpected charge for asbestos removal.
If Reading taxpayers had known how much it was really going to cost to tear down RMHS and replace it with smaller, inferior structures, would they have voted to approve those overrides?
Legal Notice - Town of Reading - Proposed Wood End traffic rules and regulations (.pdf). - Let's face it, with all these proposed driving restrictions, the only way children can safely get to Wood End Elementary is to fly there.
There are no sidewalks. To expect young children to walk, with or without parents, along the side of Franklin Street is absurd.
In the interest of safety, the Reading School Department should provide busing for all children who attend Wood End Elementary.
It's the least they can do.
Eagle Tribune 06/27/05 - North Andover Schools Custodian forced to quit over sex report - "A former Franklin School custodian is suing Superintendent Harry K. Harutunian for $1 million, saying the superintendent pressured him into resigning after police reported him for having sex with another man.
...Police did not arrest Magalhaes, but the former custodian said Harutunian accused him of committing 'a crime of moral turpitude' and told him he was unfit to continue working as a school custodian.
Magalhaes also charges that the superintendent threatened to expose his 'alleged homsexuality' and 'make your life miserable' if he refused to resign."
Threats. Manipulation. Intimidation. Sounds like typical Harutunian behavior! Read more about this incident in the North Andover / Harutunian news section.
Hot Times at Wood End Elementary - Temperatures inside the new Wood End school soared last week, showcasing yet another aspect of the building's poor design. The absence of shades on the skylights of the 2nd floor hallway and inadequate/nonexistent ventilation created an 100+ degree sauna for 14 adjoining second-floor classrooms.
At the same time, photographers visited Wood End to take pictures of the school for a Flansburgh Associates marketing extravaganza. Wood End is their first "state of the art" post-and-beam school building and they will try to use the school as a marketing ploy to generate new business.
Wood End Elementary School is, however, a disaster; a building designed to win architecture contests (for its "look" and "innovative" materials) that utterly fails to address the basic needs of children and teachers.
If students and teachers succeed in learning / teaching anything at Wood End Elementary, they do so in spite of the school's impractical and, at times, hazardous environment.
At least one Reading resident is trying to do something about the deplorable conditions at Wood End:
"Monday June 13, 2005
Director Reading Board of Health
We have received several complaints indicating that temperatures last week reached as high as 104-110 degrees have been recorded in student areas on the second floor. Last week District Attorney Martha Coakley shut down the Middlesex District Courthouse when temperatures there were in the 80’s because she felt the state’s business could not be carried out effectively in those temperatures.
Students with asthma, students and adults taking medications, and expectant teachers are at unnecessary risk under such conditions
We sincerely hope this urgent condition is not allowed to happen again when it is absolutely unnecessary.
Gary and Linda Phillips
Cc: Supt. P. Schettini
Cato Institute for Policy Analysis - Corruption in the Public Schools (919 KB .pdf) - "In many districts bureaucracy is now so thick that the purveyors of corruption use it to hide the fraud they’ve perpetrated and to deflect blame if their misdeeds are discovered."
"On one side of this underworld were people like some local
board members who transformed their districts into
Town Meeting Members Air Schools' "Dirty Laundry." Article 4 -
Transfer of special ed circuit breaker funds to building project
- Article 4 discussion part 1, 7.83 MB
Some highlights include (on article 4):
article 4, part 1,
TM Member Dale Merill,
article 4, part 1,
TM Member Diana Kaine,
article 4, part 1,
TM Member George Hines,
article 4, part 2,
(on article 20)
SC Member Carl McFadden,
article 20, part1,
TM Member Christine Derse,
article 20, part1,
TM Member Dale Merril,
article 20, part 1,
SC Member McFadden,
article 20, part 1,
TM Member Andrew Downing,
article 20, part 1,
TM Member, Precinct 5,
article 20, part 2,
Boston Globe 04/18/05 - State balks at $11m in school costs - Could this be the start of a State crackdown on wasteful spending under the guise of school construction?
Treasurer Cahill, the waste and exploitation of local communities and taxpayers has got to end.
When no one holds school superintendents, committee members and their special-interest friends accountable for their actions, the spending problems only expand to more communities.
Without State oversight, school officials spread the word that it's "ok" to exploit public funds, give jobs to friends and rip off taxpayers... because they are confident that no one can stop them.
No one at the Department of Education was paying attention when former Reading Superintendent Harry Harutunian and his architect friends pushed their building projects on the Town of Reading, taking full advantage of SBA's lack of oversight.
Now Reading has 1.) Wood End Elementary, an industrial mix of exposed pipes and wires, wood and metal that Reading didn't need and does not even have enough parking for the school staff. 2.) A gutted Barrows Elementary school, redesigned three times (at cost), that is still under construction and that is smaller than (and, likely, inferior to) the original school and 3.) a new, smaller High School under construction to replace the existing structurally-sound building.
Reading is getting artificial turf fields but not much else (and we're losing an entire HS gym that will need to be replaced!). How many other communities are spending $78+ million for less??
Will Reading's completed projects bear any resemblance to what was approved by the state and the voters?
How much of the projects has been changed in secret, behind closed doors? And by who?
Where is our State-required Building Commitee? Does it even matter that Reading no longer has a building committee overseeing these projects?
It might matter to Treasurer Cahill (and others) when it's time for the State to reimburse the Town of Reading for the cost of this mess.
Mr. Cahill, the State needs to stop and do a comprehensive investigation of what is under construction RIGHT NOW. What you've already found is likely just the tip of a very dirty iceberg.
Don't wait until these projects are completed to investigate them.
In the process, show all Massachusetts communities that school construction waste and corruption, past and present, will not be tolerated.
Start with Reading.
Indoor Air Quality Study At Wood End School - Official October 26, 2004 "Roofing Solvent Incident" Report by Universal Environmental Consultants - On October 26, 2004, police and fire departments transported teachers and students to the hospital and evacuated the Wood End School.
Extraordinarily high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs), typical in new construction, were found in two areas of Wood End.
Reading School Superintendent Schettini and the School Committee have yet to publicly release or discuss this report on the testing conducted 6 hours after some occupants became sick (see reference in Mass Department of Public Health Dec. 2004 report, also yet to be released or discussed by Reading officials + Iror News 03/05/05).
If such high levels of dangerous volatile organic compounds still existed for testing by Universal Environmental Consultants 6 hours after the school had been evacuated and aired out, imagine how severe the levels were when the fire and police departments first arrived! Who was exposed to what and for how long??
No wonder this report has been kept under wraps...
The April 5th Election School Committee Race:
VOTE EARLY, VOTE ABSENTEE if you have to, but VOTE! - Many Reading school parents and citizens are angry. Angry about redistricting, skyrocketing tax bills (up 29% in the last two years!) and manipulative school officials. Angry that their voices are not being heard. But are they angry enough to do something about it?
People are complaining. Writing letters. Talking. But few people are willing to stick their necks out to actually change anything.
Incumbent candidates Carl McFadden and Lisa Gibbs are counting on the apathy and laziness of Reading voters to defeat Linda Phillips' most recent bid for a seat on the Reading School Commitee. Voter turnout will be low and the outcome easy to control. The incumbents will quietly direct their core school supporters to the polls...
...but individuals can make a difference in this election.
Promises of support from parent groups convinced Linda Phillips to run again. Growing dissatisfaction among parents and taxpayers has created a window of opportunity. If enough unhappy parents and taxpayers go to the polls on April 5th, Linda can win.
Now is the time to "put your money where your mouth is" people. If you want Linda Phillips' help in the future, you need to help her get elected now.
Linda will demand answers and accountability from the Reading School Department. She will respect and value the input of taxpayers and citizens. She will advocate for parents and children and work to improve curriculum. She will fight to get the schools the money they need but make sure the schools are spending that money wisely.
Linda has the knowledge (and a willingness) to expose fraud, waste and corrpution. For this reason, those "feeding at the trough" in Reading continue to make a concerted effort to misrepresent and discredit her.
Reading citizens should be thankful that Linda Phillips has stuck her neck out again, for all of us. She's willling to challenge the Reading School Department's political machine.
What are you willing to do?
Barrows at Wood End Elementary School - Indoor Air Quality Assessment Nov. 5, 2004 (.pdf 1.34 MB) - The Massachusetts Department of Public Health report on Wood End air quality has finally surfaced... four months after the tests were conducted. Read this report and cover letter and note the public officials who received copies of this document (and when). Why did the School Department "sit" on this report?
Among the report's findings are high carbon dioxide levels in several rooms, indicating insufficient air circulation within the building. What is most troubling about this report, however, is not so much the high levels of carbon dioxide but what those levels mean.
In new schools, there are typically high levels of gasses from the building materials (glue laminates, formaldehyde, plastics, flooring, paints, finishes etc). Most of the "off-gassing" of such substances occurs during the first few years a new / renovated school is open. The prevalence of white boards contributes another irritant; dry erase materials can be very irritating for children and adults, triggering upper respiratory and eye problems.
Childrens' delicate immune systems are more vulnerable than adults' to airborne chemicals. High CO2 levels combined with poor fresh air ventilation indicate that there are also potentially high concentrations of these other contaminants in the school.
The Wood End was never properly cleaned before the school opened. Accumulated layers of construction dust are visible on the exposed heating and ventilation system, wires, pipes, beams and tubes. The exposed mechanical systems design was "sold" by Flansburgh Associates as a "great learning tool" for the children but, to many, it is an unfinished, cheaply constructed, hard to maintain structure.
Note that some of the air tests in the MDPH study were conducted with classroom doors open or rooms empty. Testing of rooms with doors closed and which have been occupied with a full classroom of children for an extended period (children breathing, exhaling carbon dioxide) would offer a more definitive indication of the poor air circulation and levels of harmful gasses in the school. Even at that, some classrooms, empty and with doors open, still have unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide. Inadequate ventilation is a serious problem at Wood End.
The October 26 roofing solvent incident is briefly referenced in the MDPH Air Quality Assessment report. On that day, ambulances took to the hospital teachers and students sick from fumes at Wood End. Note that the photos in this report show the proximity of roofing patch work (on a brand new roof) to the air intake vent on the roof.
This December 29 report is NOT the official report of the October incident. Where then is the report from "Universal Environmental Consultants," the consulting firm hired by the Reading Schools following the October 26, 2004 incident? What gasses and chemicals were the building occupants exposed to during that incident? Where are the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) sheets for those chemicals?
Wood End Elementary has had serious problems since its opening in 2004. These problems have been repeatedly downplayed and concealed by the Schettini administration and others. Reading teachers and children have been school administration's guinea pigs... and this disturbing trend will continue with the renovated Barrows Elementary school project and the new high school unless parents and citizens become vigilant and intervene.
New Jersey Star-Ledger 02/15/05 - School-building blues and 02/13/05 - Why the big difference? - "The state agency created to help urban districts design and build schools proves to be a specialist in midproject changes and costly overruns."
"It just became a big grab bag and everyone said, 'We have to get our share.' And they did..."
Local officials and architects know that State regulatory officials aren't paying close attention to school constuction projects. State agencies generally don't have the resources / desire to hold anyone accountable and sometimes even work "hand-in-hand" with exploitative architects and school administrators. Consequently, no one is enforcing State laws designed to protect children and citizens.
Download both articles as a .pdf file.
Reading Advocate 02/17/05 - Frustration, dismay over process, plan - "Regardless of where our children go to school next year, we too expected more serious analysis of the questions and concerns regarding redistricting for all neighborhoods. We too felt the difficulty and frustration of having these issues brought to light during the holiday season. At the Jan. 27 School Committee meeting it was difficult to hear, let alone understand, much of what was being said and done."
Reading Advocate 02/17/05 - Price one pays for not listening to reason - "A note of interest: two former members of the School Committee have gone from Reading as has the former superintendent for another town for 40,000 more per year and left us with a building that is shaped in an 'H' in his memory."
The renovated Barrows will also be shaped like an "h." A short, squatty lowercase "h."
Reading Advocate 02/17/05 - Final decision made with little resident input - "Open meeting laws prohibit school officials from discussing school issues as a group via e-mail, phone or outside the public forum. Yet with virtually no public discussion or exchanges, the redistricting plan, affecting hundreds of students, was a done deal. The little School Committee discussion that did occur was drawn out praise for all the hard work and consideration put into their plan and other blather. Amid patting themselves on the back, they lectured residents on how appreciative we should be and how the needs of Reading children will be best served."
Reading Advocate 02/09/05 - Letter: Not seeking exemption, only fairness - "In your front page article on Feb. 3 (Redistricting plan approved with few changes), your correspondent wrote that "The parents, members of the Eaton East Neighborhood Alliance, had requested that their children be exempted from the redistricting plan and be allowed to remain at Eaton." Our organization has never requested (or expected) an exemption from the redistricting process. We have, without question, sought fairness and a sharing of the redistricting burden."
Reading Chronicle 02/08/05 - Letter: Eroding Trust - Reading Advocate 02/09/05 - Agreement, trust violated by School Dept. - "How's your memory? Think back to the time we were being asked to vote on the construction of a new elementary school. Do you remember the hearings hosted by the School Committee and School Administration? Do you remember being told that once the new school was built, the only new hires for that school would be the principal, a secretary, a custodian and possibly two new teachers? The plan was that the students and the teachers occupying the four elementary schools would be channeled into five schools..."
"...I'm scratching my head again. I'm wondering where the money is going to come from to cover the additional staff that was not included in the 'original bill of sale' when we 'bought' the new elementary school. However, as I said at the outset, this letter is NOT about my tax bill. This letter IS about trust - eroding trust."
Reading Advocate 02/03/05 - Changes will strengthen schools - These days, Reading school officials have to sing their own praises... because fewer and fewer people will. Committee members McFadden and Spadafora knew negative letters were coming and had to counteract them with their own "spin" on redistricting.
Reading school officials live in an alternate reality. Out-of-control and out-of-touch with the needs of parents, children and the community, they're so busy with PR, hiding evidence, covering their tracks and protecting their own self-interests that they can't be bothered with the day-to-day issues of running a school system.
Truth is, Reading now has five elementary schools to fill and 400 fewer children coming to fill them.
Remember the t-shirts Harutunian had his principals model at Town Meeting? "If you build it, they will come." Well the students didn't come. And, even back then, some people knew they weren't coming... and that the whole thing was a scam to finance architects, builders and other interested individuals.
Parents and taxpayers were deceived by the Harutunian administration and its supporters, who misprepresented the intent and objectives of Reading's school construction projects (and the levels of State reimbursement!). The current administration continues to perpetuate those myths.
Reading Chronicle 02/03/05 - Resident responds to School Committee letter - "...a lot of people do not think this whole process went well. It was and is, rife with abuse of power, influence and perhaps, incompetence. It does not pass the 'smell' test for many Reading residents."
The business of the Reading Public Schools has been conducted in secret for so long that some administrators and officials actually believe operating behind closed-doors is normal and acceptable.
Mr. Shairs has a keen nose.
P.S. Open meeting statues do not apply to administratively-created committees and meetings. These committees are not required to post or keep minutes. That's why the majority of parent / search / sub-committees (including the recent redistricting committee) are technically created by the Superintendent's office and not the Reading School Committee. It's all legal... and highly unethical.
School Committees with nothing to hide choose to create sub-committees themselves, operate openly and don't abuse loop-holes in the Open Meeting Law.
Reading 01/27/05 redistricting meeting - The Reading School Committee voted to approve most of the new elementary school redistricting plan as it was presented in November.
Minor changes to the plans have been reported involving homes on Rustic Lane, in the Eaton district and elsewhere. However, the changes involve only small sections and, in some cases, individual houses.
Reading Advocate 01/27/05 - Letter: Redistricting plan needs to be re-vamped - "The elementary school redistricting issue is causing great consternation among elementary school parents. This is the legacy created by the current and past school committee members and former Superintendent Harutunian. It is now obvious these individuals engaged in a misinformation campaign by inflating anticipated elementary enrollment numbers to justify the new Wood End School. The 430 additional students predicted did not come (as some of us already knew). Now our current school administration is proposing redistricting with busing to compensate for a very expensive problem of their own making.
Under the guise of a non-existent state mandate for dedicated art and music rooms that will be empty most of the time, the School Committee and administration have unnecessarily taken two classrooms off-line at each of the four elementary schools (total of eight). These vacant classrooms are absolutely necessary to justify the existence of the new elementary school. Why didn't the School Committee and superintendent correct parents' misconceptions that state reimbursement is not contingent on dedicated art and music rooms? There are no requirements compelling separate art and music rooms. Why does the School Committee and Mr. Dahl continue to mislead parents?"
Reading Advocate 01/20/05 - Letter: Schools aiming too high for this budget - "The hard facts are your tax bill has gone up 29 percent in two years. Given only $463,333 more money next year, look for increased class size, fewer crossing guards and certainly no sidewalks.
A local department store slogan is spend less get more; perhaps Reading's slogan should be pay more get less. Just think of how much less you may get with another override."
-William C. Brown
Audio from the 01/06/05 Elementary School Redistricting meeting:
01/06/05 - Part 1 (8.17 MB) and
01/06/05 - Part 2 (8.12 MB) and
Linda Phillips' comments and suggestions to solve the current busing / school crisis (1.57 MB). As usual, right-click, "save target as" to download the files.
If Mrs. Phillips is right about one thing, it is that Reading citizens and school officials need to think "outside the box" that Harutunian and his special interest friends created. The current way of thinking isn't working and it's hurting the Town... taxpayers.. parents.. and kids.
People responsible for creating this mess are still trying to cover up what they've done.
Superintendent Harutunian may be gone but his influence remains. He still has a few friends here, actively working to protect themselves and the interests of the Harutunian administration.
That's why some school officials continue to support a silly redistricting plan that defies logic and common sense.
That's why these school officials really haven't taken the input of parents, citizens seriously and won't make any changes to the redistricting plan until they are forced to make changes.
Citizens of Reading have a choice: continue to support the status quo (and let the community slide further into ruin) or speak out and start making changes.
Reading Advocate, 12/23/04 - Schools took needless steps - "To the editor: Your Dec. 16 editorial that urged 'Parents need to trust the School Committee's intuition' displays a lack of historical knowledge. Those of us who opposed the new Wood End School but supported an addition at Barrows, realized a Barrows project alone would have solved school space needs. Unfortunately, the School Committee, Building Committee and their CARE, PEP and PRIDE supporters presented inaccurate information, and saner voices were ignored. The originally proposed Barrows's renovation would have minimized the need for redistricting. Remember, the two-school solution was sold to the town because it would 'eliminate the need for busing, while creating neighborhood schools.' It appears many supporters were deceived!
Elementary school enrollments continue to decline from the peak year of 1997 when 2,097 students were in the four elementary schools. The flawed 1999 Flansburgh enrollment study projected 2,312 students for this year, 2,415 students for 2005-2006 and a maximum of 2,440 students in year 2007. The School Committee and administration ignored the most accurate 1997 DRA feasibility study enrollment projections (see www.iror.org) to suit their predetermined outcome for a new school. We have wasted $11.5 million on an unnecessary school.
Current elementary school enrollment is 2,013, not the 2,312 students we were told were coming. Why do you think the school district is offering all-day kindergarten, and has reduced the size of the proposed Barrows renovation by approximately 5,000 sq. ft. from the original project? It is to cover up declining elementary school enrollments. Why do you think the new high school project is a reduction of over 50,000 sq. feet from our current high school? It is because enrollments will continue to decrease.
Next year, the School Department's own figures (Reading Dashboard site) show that only 85 of the available 94 teaching classrooms will be needed for our elementary school children. Conspicuously missing from the official web site is the classroom enrollment distribution by school for 2004 and projected 2005; I look forward to seeing it soon. To compensate for the 300 students who have not come, the school department must bus to level enrollments throughout the district rather than have the new school sit empty.
My advice to those parents who supported the wasteful Wood End School is to indeed trust the School Committee, but as President Ronald Reagan said when dealing with the Soviet Union: 'Trust but verify'. Some of us knew better, while some have to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, it is the taxpayers (did you enjoy your new tax bill?) and the children (busing and no sidewalks) who will have to pay for the School Committee's arrogance and ignorance.
Dr. Robert L. Mandell
Even as late as January, 2003, Harutunian and his cronies were still promising to eliminate the need for elementary school bussing. At the time, they needed voters to approve an additional $2.5 million (via a debt exclusion) to fund the construction of the Wood End Elementary School.
Also see CARE (Community Action for Reading Education) propaganda from 1999-2000+. "A new school combined with an already approved Barrows addition and renovation will eliminate the present need for crosstown busing. Funds currently spent on busing would offset staffing costs for a new school."
Where are the CARE ringleaders now? What happened to the whole "neighborhood schools" idea? Was it all just marketing and community organization strategy?
Breaking RMHS Construction Project News -"There will be a joint meeting of the BOS, FINCOM, and School Committee on Monday, December 20 at 7:30 at Parker Middle School Multi-Purpose Room. The purpose is to discuss the need to replace the Aberjona River culvert through the Birch Meadow site, at an estimated cost of $305,000. This is an emergency project - the existing culvert failed when a construction worker fell through a portion near the artificial field. We will have options for funding available for discussion at the meeting."
Is this an "emergency" meeting? Reportedly, this meeting was posted at Town Hall on December 16th, just in time to sneak it in before Christmas. How long have Reading school officials known about this costly "emergency"?
According to Flansburgh Associates' March 4, 2003 schematic design report, review of existing conditons, II-15, "the existing town of Reading's water, sanitary sewer, and storm drainage systems may need to be repaired, relocated, and / or upgraded if these mains are disturbed by the proposed development of the existing school site."
Not many communities invest in a non-reimbursable artificial turf field before they complete the construction of their new high school building.
Not many communities are willing to tear down a structurally-sound high school and then pay to rebuild it in a swamp.
How much is this artificial turf field really going to cost Reading taxpayers? $305,000 more and counting...
Detroit Free Press 12/15/04 - Former Clintondale schools superintendent sentenced to 23 months in corruption case - " Raymond M. Contesti Jr., who held the post from 1983 to 2002, plead guilty in June for his role in awarding school district building contracts in exchange for kickbacks in the late 1990s.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Engstrom, who prosecuted the case, said in statement that Contesti's cooperation helped the government assure the convictions of former East Detroit Superintendent John Gardiner and former Macomb County Sheriff's Department Inspector Ronald Lupo.
Prosecutors say Gardiner and Lupo took bribes from William Hudson, a contractor who embezzled money from the schools. Hudson used bribes to build a network of influence that landed him school district construction projects worth more than $50 million. Gardiner's children and stepchildren also got jobs, prosecutors said."
Valley Patriot, December issue - Lawrence's $110 Big Dig: Waste, Overruns and Mismangment - "Nobody is holding them accountable,' he continued. 'We are going to put an end to it. There are a lot of people gouging us. The children are not on their radar screen, it is clear. This is going to stop.'” - Lawrence Superintendent of Schools Wilfredo Laboy
Nothing Flansburgh Associates does is surprising anymore. The resistance they are facing from high-ranking Lawrence school officials is, however, quite surprising. In Reading, Flansburgh Associates faced very little resistance and worked hand-in-hand with Building Pride, Reading school officials and building committee members to secure lucrative construction contracts. Everybody "in the know" got what they wanted in Reading.
In Reading, Flansburgh Associates was paid by the Harutunian administration to redesign the Barrows school THREE TIMES. Not once. Not for one design. But three separate times for three different designs. If citizens of Reading are lucky, the Town of Reading will only be reimbursed by the State for ONE of these designs. To boot, like the new High School, the Barrows School will end up being a smaller school after the "renovation." As usual, Reading citizens will pay more to get less.
Reading has it's own "big dig" going on, involving millions of dollars, more than one school construction project and numerous special interest groups exploiting parents, children and taxpayers. Why are Reading property taxes so high (and still rising)? Why are kids going to be forced to walk to school down dangerous roads with no sidewalks? Why will some kids be bused miles away from their neighborhood schools? The sooner Reading parents realize and accept the FACT that people have been making money at the expense of children and taxpayers, the sooner everything will start to make $en$e and State officials with the authority to investigate school corruption will get involved and clean up this mess.
A New Parent Group in Reading - Eatoneast.org - A video produced by members of this new "Eaton East" parent organization has been seen on RCTV.
To all those newly-disillusioned school parents, feeling betrayed and looking for answers, be respectful... but when that doesn't work, mimic the tactics of Building Pride. The sqeaky wheel gets the most grease! This time, though, maybe parents and community activists will do the right thing and advocate for the best interests of children and not architects, school officials and special interest groups (who exploit communities and drain taxpayer funds).
Do it for the children!
Daily Times Chronicle 11/24/04 - Proposed Elementary Redistricting Plans - The Reading School Department unveiled their preliminary elementary school redistricting plan last Tuesday. According to the 11/24/04 Chronicle article, "there were no handouts" but the map shows the new lines for the Wood End district encompassing the northern part of Reading, with the line meandering across town from Spruce Road to Rustic Lane. Fewer changes occur in the southern part of town, with Prescott Street the new dividing line between Barrows and Eaton.
Meetings will be held at the following times / locations to present the administration's recommended plans and collect "input" from parents.
If you're unhappy about the prospect of driving your kids through a hideous Wood End traffic jam every morning (or telling your small children they have to walk on the sides of busy roads without sidewalks), make your voices heard at these upcoming meetings:
December 8, Barrows (to be held at the Parker Middle School
Auditorium), 7 PM
On January 6, 2005, a public hearing on proposed recommended changes, public input will take place. The time and location have yet to be revealed.
On January 27, the school committtee will vote to approve the new elementary redistricting plans.
Interestingly, there are no redistricting meetings scheduled at Wood End. Why is this? Reading school officials don't want to show off their brand new building?? Could it be because there isn't even enough parking at the new school to accomodate the school's own staff??
Reading school officials don't want the public to realize the magnitude of the Wood End school's faulty design. Officials deny and minimize the problems but it's obvious to anyone who has actually visited the school that the designers really screwed up. The sad truth is that Wood End simply lacks enough parking (and space within the school) to accomodate common, routine athletic, social and educational functions.
Globe Northwest 11/21/04 - Community briefing - "School Superintendent Patrick Schettini is expected to unveil his preliminary elementary school redistricting plan Tuesday. Next fall, all five of the town's elementary schools will be open to students. To ensure that students are evenly distributed among them, school officials will need to do some reshuffling. The preliminary plans are expected to be presented during a regular school committee meeting, which begins at 7:15 p.m. at Reading Memorial High School auditorium."
Reading School Committee meetings usually start at 7:30 p.m. Scheduling important meetings 15 minutes early (and before holiday weekends) is a typical tactic of the Reading School Committee to discourage attendance and limit public awareness of major policy decisions.
If you are concerned about the effects of redistricting on your children and your property values, attend this meeting - early. Do you want your kids to have to walk to the Wood End School via Franklin Street, where there are still NO SIDEWALKS? Do you want to deal with the horrendous lack of parking at the school? Birch Meadow Elementary and Killam are looking better and better every day...
Boston Herald 11/15/04 - Super under fire in Everett bid rig scandal - "As the Everett schools chief awaits trial on larceny charges, recently unsealed documents show police suspected he was even more involved in bid-rigging than previously revealed.
Court records show Superintendent Frederick Foresteire had work done on his home for free by an Everett Public Schools subcontractor, who later turned informant."
Similar rumors and allegations of school chief misconduct have been floating around Reading for years - but are they true??
To date, the biggest difference between Everett and Reading is that the proper law-enforcement authorities actually seem interested in investigating the activities of Superintendent Frederick Foresteire.
Ambulances at Wood End - Again! - Principal Karen Callan 11/02/04 letter to Parents - "A first grade student ran into one of the cement benches... the children will then begin having recess in the gym."
For the second time in the last two weeks, ambulances have visited Reading's new Wood End Elementary school. The week before, gas and roof repair fumes and chemicals sent teachers and children to the hospital. This week, during recess, a first grader fell and gashed his head against a cement bench in Wood End's cement play area. Principal Karen Callan has now notified parents that recess will be held in the gym until further notice.
What architects would design a play area for elementary children with a cement surface, masonry benches and jagged rocks? Oh yeah... Flansburgh Associates.
Pictures of Wood End's cement play area:
North Andover Citizen 10/22/04 - Kid's calculators don't add up for parents - "A small group of first and second-graders now are learning to do their math problems with a calculator, a practice that has some parents wondering where math is headed in the North Andover school system."
Math skills in North Andover are headed the same place they went in Reading: down! Why does Superintendent Harutunian continue to pilot poorly rated math programs he already knows (12 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later) didn't work in Reading?
Private tutors, the Sylan Learning Center in Woburn, MA and Reading's own Kumon Math & Reading Center are thriving in the aftermath of these 'new math" programs.
Why would a school system implement such a poorly rated math program that requires yearly purchases--workbooks, handouts and other consumables--and guarantees regular long-term income for the publisher? Ever wonder about the "relationships" between school administrators and publishers?
Reading Advocate 10/28/04 -
Everyday math should get a failing score - "Everyday Math is not an approved
curriculum by either the state of Texas or the California State Department of
Education under the 2001 Mathematics Adoption and it does not meet the
California Key Math Standards. Further investigation showed that in 1999, the
Everyday Math program, along with numerous others, had been publicly denounced
in an open letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education. This letter is signed by
over 200 professors of mathematics from some of the most prestigious
universities in the nation. Unfortunately, The
"This program, in its 12th year of implementation in the Reading schools, continues to fail our students."
---Dr. Robert Mandell is a former member of the Math and Science Advisory Committee to the Massachusetts Board of Education. For more information on the hazards of "new math" programs, visit the Reading CPR homepage.
A scanned copy of the article, including the correct presentation of Dr. Mandell's table summarising "MCAS results for the years 1998-2004."
Wood End Elementary School Evacuated - Schettini 10/26/04 letter to Parents - "Odor coming from the roof" is blamed for children and staff members' "lightheadedness." Well, is this odor actually coming from the roof or is there really a problem with the gas / heating system? Complaints of headaches and gas fumes have been frequently expressed since Wood End's opening. There have also been numerous complaints about the air quality in the school, the lack of proper ventilation and excessive heat in the classrooms (or no heat at all).
Is this supposed "roof problem" just a way to cover up more serious deficiencies at Wood End? Or is the roof problem just one more example of poor project and building management? Why are "roof repairs" being done on a brand new school in the first few months it is occupied?
Barrows parents... do you want your children to be Reading's test "canaries" for both the Wood End school and, next year, the renovated Barrows project? How will you and your children benefit from a double dose of new construction hazards, school administrator mistakes, bad designs (compliments of Flansburgh & Associates), poor ventilation, heating problems and abysmal parking situations? Have the State Department of Public Health and the Department of Occupational Hygiene been contacted yet? If not, why? Call them yourself. Don't count on Reading school officials or their "hired gun" environmental specialists to tell you the truth.
Do you still think school administrators, architects and contractors are looking out for your best interests? Wake up (Barrows) parents! Your children's welfare depends on you.
NEW! Boston Globe 11/07/04 - Fumes Affect Students, Teacher - "Seven students and a teacher at the (new) Woold End Elementary were treated at a local hospital last Tuesday when fumes from work at the new school left them feeling dizzy."
Daily Times Chronicle 10/27/04 - Chemical solvent the culprit behind complaints - "Dizzy" or the victims of badly designed building?
Reading Advocate 10/14/04 - Parking Banned on Sunset Rock - "Selectman Camille Anthony, upon hearing that some staff were forced to park offsite, stated 'It doesn't make sense to build a school and not have enough parking for the employees. It blows my mind.'"It really shouldn't. In an October 16, 2000 letter to Town Planner Anne Krieg, residents from the Wood End School area raised the issue of parking --and more. The letter was copied to: Sue Cavicchi (School Committee Chairman), Donald Wood (Fire Chief), Ed Marchand (Police Chief) Richard Howard (CPDC Acting Chairman) Peter Hechenbleikner (Town Manager) and Matt Nestor (Chairman Board of Selectmen). On January 11, 2001 the Reading Advocate printed a letter from William Welch, then a Sunset Rock Lane resident, who raised the same issues--no sidewalks on major streets, design creating gridlock, pick-up/leave off problems, traffic congestion, concerns about emergency vehicle access, narrow driveway and reduced onsite parking.
Reading officials only needed to be AWAKE to know that the Sunset Rock/ Wood End School project was going to become an albatross around the necks of Reading taxpayers. They knew about the problems... and ignored them. All of this happened while "hit and run" school superintendent Harry Harutunian was in power.See the October 16, 2000 letter to Town Planner Anne Krieg (157 KB) and the January 11, 2000 letter from William Welch (83.4 KB).
09/21/04 letter from James R. Johnson, Director of Accounts, to Reading Community Board Members concluding that the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Reading FY'04 school budget into school construction project accounts was "defective."While the Reading School Committee has "sole authority to allocate the annual appropriation between accounts," this authority applies to the annual school budget and does not extend to "capital projects voted separately by Town Meeting."
Boston Globe 09/05/04 - New school all prepped for students - Pete Dahl must be feeling dizzy... but no amount of "spin" and propaganda can change the fact that the Wood End Elementary School is an unnecessary new building constructed to satisfy the needs of architects, school officials and special interest groups. Reading elementary enrollment has been steadily decreasing since 1997. The downsizing of Barrows and RMHS has continued to cover-up for Flansburgh Associates inflated 1999 enrollment projections. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been diverted from the FY'04 school budget to finance Reading school construction projects.Since it's hard for some Reading school officials to tell the truth, they create their own version of reality.
For more, follow the link to the News Archive.
The Two Million Minutes DVD - "2 million minutes stands for the time that students have in high school to build the foundational skills for the rest of their lives. (I like the title's reference to the importance of considering time-efficiency in the process of learning.) American education and the attitudes of American students are compared to those in and . In one sequence, a student from India talks about how when he was young, he could calculate quickly in his head; that scene is followed by an American high school teacher passing out calculators to a class of students before a pop quiz."
Conservation Committee hears Parker Middle School artificial turf field proposal - For the real scoop on synthetic fields from people who have no personal interest in the industry, check out "Synthetic turf raises safety Issues" from Doug and Patti Wood Grassroots Environmental Ed. and the website of Environment and Human Health, Inc. www.ehhi.org original research report: "Exposures to recycled Tire Crumbs used on synthetic Turf Fields, Playgrounds, and as Gardening Mulch." EHHI recommends a moratorium on new synthetic fields until more testing has been completed.
The Destruction of Reading Memorial High School is complete - Reading Memorial High School is gone now, replaced by a smaller, inferior structure that will not serve the Reading Community half as well (or as long) as the 1953 building. The iconic, historically significant school tower was the last part of RMHS to be demolished.
$20 million could have upgraded and repaired the various maintenance problems (like broken windows and stained ceiling tiles) the Harutunian administration did not bother to fix (to be fair, for $1.8 million they did replace the roof and upgraded heating and HVAC systems in 1997-2000 only to be torn down -- what a waste!!!). Instead, Reading has built a new, smaller school for more money (remember when they called it a "renovation" to sell the project to the public?) and located the ugly, box-like structure in a swamp.
And guess what? $57+ million later, the brand new school has the same old heat, HVAC problems and a bunch of new problems, including but not limited to:
1. a classroom space shortage (since the New High School is so much smaller, teachers are now being forced to share classrooms)
2. a cafeteria that is too small to support the student population (some students have to stand during lunch and wait in line to use restrooms)
3. a defective press box that obstructs the views of 100+ fans (who will take credit for this design snafu?)
4. defective track and artificial turf football fields
5. inadequate provisions for drama productions (the oversized stage door specified in building plans failed to materialize in the final product - the door currently installed is too small to move drama props onstage).
6. Leaks (in the High School) and flooding (in the new Field House)
The list goes on and on... R.I.P. RMHS
Reading Advocate 3/14/07 - Frustrating To All Of Us - "Dissatisfied with the continued poor performance of a subcontractor on the Reading Memorial High School construction project, the School Committee voted Monday night to assume control and send the work back out to bid."
Frustrating? What do you expect to happen when building projects are planned and carried out in secret with no real oversight?
Where is the Building Committee? Oh yeah, Reading (supposedly) doesn't have one.
Who is in charge? The School Committee was already supposed to be in charge!
What a mess.
Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, Sept. 14, 2006 - In the matter of Harry K. Harutunian - Disposition Agreement PDF - "...in December 2005, Harutunian told a career counselor at the High School to write a memo to him backdated to November 21, 2005, requesting that Harutunian find his girlfriend's son a job. The career counselor expressed a concern that other students were in need of jobs as well. No other students, however, were given the opportunity to apply for the position Harutunian created for his girlfriend's son."
"22. This Cover up was a privilege. 23. The privilege was unwarranted because public officials may not seek to hide their role in public decisions through false records."
Where has the State Ethics Commission been all these years? In Reading, this was "business as usual" for the Harutunian administration.
Boston Globe - School audit hits ex-chief - Harutunian cited for district's woes - "Despite Harutunian's turbulent reign as chief administrator, the School Committee never properly evaluated him and gave him a $10,000 bonus one year. Harutunian also had a $50,000 merit pay account he dispensed as he saw fit, without established criteria for performance, according to the audit."
Harry also used slush funds to dole-out "merit pay" to his loyal employees and followers in Reading. It's encouraging that the auditors were able to locate this particular 50k merit pay account in N.A. but the question remains; what will be the consequences for this and every other violation of the public trust that Harutunian has committed? Is his "incompetence" a punishable crime?
"While Harry K. Harutunian was superintendent from 2003 to 2006, the
district lacked an improvement plan and a
Who needs development or an improvement plan? You don't need any of those things to run a public school business empire.
And exactly what information was missing from the personnel records?
"An audit of the North Andover school district sketches a portrait of the former superintendent as a micro-manager who bullied subordinates and blocked information from the School Committee."
Follow the money trail, Dr. Argenziano, follow the money trail.
"Argenziano, a former assistant superintendent in
N.A. Citizen - Schools face sharp criticism from state - "School employees told the state Harutunian also advised staff members not to speak with the School Committee directly — to instead communicate through him. He threatened to fire them if they didn’t do this, Argenziano said."
Eagle Tribune -
State audit: North Andover schools 'achieving below 50 percent' Former
superintendent Harutunian's leadership style cited - "Over
the three years covered by the audit, employees told the state that
Harutunian would not allow them to speak to the School Committee. And
Harutunian didn't share information with the board. At the same time,
"Much of his criticism lay with the lack of leadership from the former superintendent and the School Committee."
"Harry Harutunian, who resigned last year after it was revealed he gave a pay raise to a secretary with whom he was having an affair, was a 'top-down administrator', Argenziano said."
Eagle Tribune 09/15/06 - State fines Harutunian for giving girlfriend's teenage son school job; Ethics Commission calls deal 'deplorable violation' of trust - "Former School Superintendent Harry Harutunian created a new position to employ his girlfriend's son as a janitor at North Andover High School and then tried to cover up the indiscretion, prompting a $6,000 fine, the state Ethics Commission said yesterday.
Later in December, Harutunian ordered a counselor at the school to write a letter, backdated to Nov. 21, asking that Harutunian find the teen a job. In its report, the commission termed the letter a 'false memo' and discusses it under the heading 'cover-up.'"
Just when you think you know all the sordid details of Harutunian's activities, if you dig a little bit deeper, you find more.
In Reading, the custodian who was assigned to watch over Harutunian's son for the summer ended up getting fired. Somebody.. started spreading a nasty rumor about him having an alchohol problem.
It's not surprising to hear that Harry fabricated or ordered employees to create false documents, either. Under his direction countless fake and inaccurate memos and documents were created in Reading. Backdating documents, cover-ups and the fabrication of meeting minutes (a.k.a. rewriting history) were common activities for some members of the Harutunian administration.
Boston Globe 06/18/06 - State pays its share for special ed - (.pdf) - "Most people are unaware of the Circuit Breaker Program and assume ...that special education is little more than a huge financial drain on their town or city." - Jeanne Cappuccio, Chair of Readiing Parent Advisory Council for Special Education.
That is exactly what the Reading school adminstration wants the public to continue to believe - that SPED is a huge drain and there's hardly enough money to care for the children who need it. Well, don't believe it, there's plenty of money to be had from the SPED programs and large sums of it are being (mis)spent on raises and bonuses for school administrators and rewards (cushy part-time jobs) for political supporters. Unfortunately, in a sick school system, the ones who struggle the most to get access to SPED money are the kids and parents who actually need SPED services!
In Reading, school officials plead poverty to parents and the community at large while they move large sums of Circuit Breaker money (intended by the Legislature to reimburse Reading's Special Education expenses) into accounts used to fund school building projects. Is this legal? It's certainly not ethical.
Feeling The Heat At Wood End - Again - June 20, 2006 Letter from Linda and Gary Phiilips to Reading Health Administrator Jane Fiore (.pdf 90.9 KB) + 2005 May, June Wood End School Health Logs (.pdf 472 KB) - "After months of waiting, and ultimately State intervention, the Reading School Department finally released the Wood End School's public nursing incident health logs from last year, student names redacted. These logs reveal what we knew all along: children and staff have suffered in the heat and poor ventilation at that brand new school, particularly last spring where temperatures at times exceeded 100 degrees in the upstairs hallway. Contrary to what was reported to you by the Head School Nursing Director Lynn Dunn, the logs indicate dozens of heat related medical incidences."
"Where accountability and action are needed to correct HVAC design
flaws, adequate heat during the winter and sufficient ventilation during
the warmer months, students' needs have been continually neglected.
Rather than correct and mitigate the problems, School Administration and
School Committee have chosen to "shoot the messenger", retaliate against
those who dare raise issues. Teachers last year repeatedly
raised ventilation and air quality issues, yet nothing has been
resolved, and teachers and staff have been bullied into silence."
Architects.org - Fame - People and Firms - (.pdf) - "Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott reports that Sidney Bowen AIA has joined the firm as director of business and market strategy."
Sid Bowen did a excellent job marketing (i.e. selling) unnecessary school construction projects to the Reading public (Wood End + The New High School). Remember, although Flansburgh Associates (Sid's old employers) failed to secure the high school project, Sid, along with Harutunian and Community Manipulator Matt Wilson, spearheaded the PR campaign to excessively "renovate" Reading Memorial High School.
Sid will be a great asset to former Reading school committee / building committee member / architect / attorney Tim Twomey's firm.
Wall Street Journal, Opinion Journal.com - Teacher's Pets - .pdf - "The NEA is spending the mandatory dues paid by members who are told their money will be used to gain better wages, benefits and working conditions. According to the latest filing, member dues accounted for $295 million of the NEA's $341 million in total receipts last year. But the union spent $25 million of that on "political activities and lobbying" and another $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" that seemed designed to further those hyper-liberal political goals."
Boston Herald 12/16/05 - Defendant admits school corruption - In case some of you missed this in the Boston Herald:
"A key figure in the Everett school corruption case pleaded guilty
yesterday to conspiracy and procurement fraud charges, authorities said.
Reading Advocate 12/08/05 - Letter About Disparaging Remarks - "Perhaps two or three years ago the now chairman of the School Committee had a picture on the front page of the Advocate making what myself and others felt was a very visual "disparaging" comment after two outspoken school project Town Meeting members where not reelected, was that treating others like adults, or perhaps the children did not read the papers?"
Listen to the supposed "disparaging remarks" made at the 11/17/05 Town Meeting here: Article 9 Discussion - Part 2 (.mp3, 3.70 MB).
Reading Advocate 12/01/05 - Hey, have you heard the latest rumors about school gossip? - Some Reading officials use these same schoolgirl "gossip" tactics to conceal their own misdeeds and smear and marginalize political opponents.
Reading Public Schools - Extended Day Application to the Massachusetts Department of Education, submitted by John Doherty, Assist. Superintendent, Reading Public Schools (.pdf, 1.22 MB). Signature page A has not yet been released to the public.
Please note the many "revelations" made by Reading school officials in this document:
"Our students have not made adequate yearly progress in math. Moreover, 50% to 52% of students in grade eight scored in the Failing or Needs Improvement categories in the 2004 science MCAS" (p.1).
"Students at Parker Middle School have not made adequate yearly progress on the math MCAS and performance at Coolidge Middle School has also not improved at the anticipated rate. It is crucial that we address the math and science achievement gaps and the lack of mastery of required skills before students continue to high school." (p.5)
"The data indicates that between 2002 and 2004, that there has been no improvement in the percentage of grade six math students in Parker who score in the Needs Improvement and Warning categories. Scores have remained stagnant ranging from an annual total between of 28% and 29% of students." (p.7)
Stagnant? No improvement? Lack of mastery of required skills? 50% to 52% of students failing science MCAS 2004?
This is not good.
If the author of this grant application, former Coolidge Principal John Doherty, has "the experience, training, knowledge and credibility to provide the leadership, required to make the school redesign initiative successful," why are Reading's middle school students performing so poorly? Weren't these kids his responsibility while he was a principal? Or are higher-level administrators at fault for these decisions?
By Reading school officials own admission, major parts of the present curriculum have failed.
And what is at the heart of the failing curriculum (implemented in Reading just 12 years ago)??
Extending the school day won't improve a defective school curriculum (See: 11/23/05, Is it just a matter of time). It may, however, expand the school department's after-school "opportunities."
If anything, extending the school day will cut into outside learning time already spent with the private tutors / Kumon / Sylvan Learning Centers parents employ to compensate for the school system's deficiencies.
Also consider that, if Reading is granted money, Reading may be obligated to implement the program.
"Each district selected has committed to a planning process to develop an implementation plan that will be submitted to the Department of Education Jan. 13, 2006 for approval. Districts will then be expected to open their redesigned schools in September 2006, pending state allocation in the FY2007 budget." - DOE Press Release 10/25/05
Reading may also have to fund up to $1300 in matching funds ($1.3 million for 1000 students) to extend the hours for the 1000 students at the middle school. State money is not guaranteed beyond the first year (See Globe Northwest 10/09/06, officials ponder longer school day).
The Massachusetts D.O.E's instructions (.pdf, 32.6 KB) for the extended day "expanding learning time to support student success" application. Are Reading officials following these instructions? You decide.
Globe North 11/24/05 - Schools divided on hours (.pdf, 24 KB) - "Peabody applied for $107,000 to plan for extending the school day by two hours at the Brown and Welch elementary schools. But the School Committee on Nov. 9 voted not to move forward with those extended hours next fall, and not to accept the $25,000 awarded by the state, according to Superintendent Nadine Binkley."
Peabody made its decision based upon parent forums and a completed survey indicating a lack of interest.
Reading officials held a forum and noted the unhappy response of parents but continued to push the grant process forward anyway.
Once again, Reading is putting the "cart before the horse."
After they have the grant money, it will be time to convince parents it's a good idea and conduct "surveys."
Is it just a matter of time (study by Julie Aronson, Joy Zimmerman, and Lisa Carlos 1998. WestEd.) is considered by Massachusetts 2020 to be the most "concise review of the literature" on time and learning.
Aronson, Zimmerman and Carlos conclude:
"The research literature suggests that, while time is certainly a critical factor, by itself it has little direct impact on student performance. Simply adding time to the school year or day would not likely produce large scale gains in student achievement... what research studies repeatedly find is that in education, quality is the key to making time matter.... educators must -- to the greatest extent possible -- make every hour count...
Policy makers and practitioners should evaluate any potential reform with an eye to whether and how it will contribute to increasing the amount of time when students are truly learning. Only when time is used more effectively will adding more of it begin to result in improved learning outcomes for all students."
Reading School Department - 10/17/05 Superintendent memo to parents regarding the Extended Day Planning Grant. - Superintendent Schettini sets the record "straight," criticizing recent Boston Globe reporting... in a memo sent to Reading school parents.
Boston Globe 10/03/05 + Globe 10/09/05 - Districts pushing for longer school day + officials ponder longer school day - Two Globe articles that triggered "quite the buzz about town" and Schettini's damage control memo.
Boston Herald 10/26/05 - Officials consider extending school day - "The state board also approved grants for some schools in Cambridge, Fall River, Lowell, Malden, North Adams, Old Rochester, Regional, Peabody, Randolph, Reading, South Middlesex Regional, Springfield, Ware and Worcester." Wasn't this State grant intended to help struggling school districts?
Is Reading slipping? Reading usually tries to compare itself to Lexington, Winchester, Lynnfield,and Concord.
Boston Globe -
Magic Carpet: The newest synthetic surfaces aren't perfect, but they're
"While it's still too early in the development of the surface to have conclusive studies on injury rates, in-fill turf would seem to cut down on the knee and head traumas often sustained on AstroTurf, as well as the turf burn that defined the original. But the new turf is also harder on the joints than grass, giving way to a soreness that usually sinks in about the fourth quarter."
"By its second season of use, Brockton's AstroPlay surface began to
show its age. The company that manufactured it, SRI Sports, which once
marketed AstroTurf, never came to repair the damage -- then went
bankrupt in early 2004. Now Brockton athletic director John Boutin is
saddled with synthetic turf that, in its fourth year, has begun to break
down enough that the top layer is pulling away from
Teachers’ letter to Reading Health Administrator, Jane Fiore (.pdf),
correcting misrepresentations in
09/18/05 Boston Sunday Globe article (.pdf).
Teachers and staff only initialed the original document, fearing reprisals, intimidation and bullying from some local officials and members of the Reading School Department.
Unfortunately, since the document was only initialed and not signed with full teacher's signatures, the Boston Globe has refused to print it and Superintendent Schettini, Town Manager Heckenbleikner are treating the document as though it does not exist.
See the note at the bottom of the teachers’ letter in which Fiore claims local officials advised her not to respond to the complaint from 42 teachers about hazards at the defective Wood End Elementary School.
“10/3/05 Showed copy to Peter Hechenbleikner. Advise - no response without names. 10/4/05 Spoke with Superintendent of Schools, he received letter. No name, no response.”
Is this the “Reading way"?
To ignore and marginalize the legitimate health and safety concerns of teachers? To pretend as though serious problems at Wood End don’t exist?
To bully and intimidate teachers and citizens into silence?
To NOT hold responsible the architects, contractors, and local officials who built the school??
Official Complaints to Reading Health Department regarding conditions at Wood End (and action taken, see below): Notice when officials knew about problems, what they knew, and the inconsistencies in what has been told to parents and state agencies. Look at the resistance put forth by some public officials who should be protecting Reading’s children and teachers!
It makes no sense.
What are these officials hiding and who are they really protecting?
June 9, 2005 Complaint from “ group of concerned parents.”(.pdf) - The “everything is OK” June 9 assurances from the Superintendent’s Office reference a May 19 air quality test that apparently does not exist..
Read the truth in the Garcia-Galuska-DeSousa consultant tests conducted May 12 which report extensive problems with Wood End heat and ventilation systems as well as problems with the roof.
June 13, 2005 Phillips' Letter and Complaint (.pdf) - Only after the Phillips letter did Fiore visit the Wood End School.
Superintendent Schettini visited the school June 8, however, when industrial fans were brought in to inadequately deal with the heat. Yet, the official word from Schettini's office remains: deny, deny, deny there is a problem at Wood End.
Sept. 19 and October 3 Fiore follow up on heat problem (.pdf) - Fiore made several attempts to reach School Superintendent 9/21, 9/23, 9/26.
School officials including Superintendent Schettin, last year’s principal at Wood End, Karen Callan, and the present principal Richard Davidson, know Wood End has serious design flaws and unhealthy conditions, yet they continue to pretend publicly that there are no problems. Why?
Why can't Reading officials take action to protect the children while openly working to find and FIX Wood End’s problems? Why can't Reading officials hold responsible those accountable for the poor design and construction and MAKE THEM PAY?
Boston Globe 09/25/05 - Ed Colley's View (cartoon) - Boston Globe 09/22/05 - Sight lines have some seeing red - "Fans who watched the Reading Rockets football team christen the facility with a 26-20 win over Medford Saturday were reluctant to talk about the obstructed-view seats on the record, but McFadden said a number of fans joked with him about not being able to see the whole field."
Why would fans be reluctant to speak out and talk about the seats on record? Do they fear retaliation? From school officials?
The "old" pressbox, built with a lot of hard work by volunteers
(like Chuck Schena) and donations in 1996, was concrete block
construction and included a storage area below. While some insist the
press box did not meet American Disability Act requirements, others
claim the press box was specifically designed for the simple addition of
an elevator at a later time. Meaning, the cost of an elevator would have been far less to the
community than building this huge, new, view-obstructing press box. Keep in mind that the new artificial turf fields, stadium, press box
and reduced athletic facilities also do not qualify for even partial
reimbursement from the State; Reading taxpayers are paying the entire
bill. The inaugural home game in Reading High's new stadium revealed the
now infamous major design flaw: roughly 150 seats have views obstructed
by the new press box! This is what happens when public projects proceed in secret, behind
closed doors. Had the press box plans been presented and discussed at a
public meeting, someone with common sense would have identified the
problem. "There was a lot of discussion about the press box," (Vice Chairman
Elaine Webb) but, apparently, that discussion never occurred at a posted
public meeting. School Committee minutes going back through 2003 fail to show any
press box presentation and discussion, including those minutes from
November 12, 2003 at which Design Partnership of Cambridge architect
David Capaldo now claims he presented the bleacher and press box design. Will Reading school officials suddenly "find" additional minutes?
Will they recreate history in their feeble attempts at damage control? Or were details about the press box illegally discussed in executive
session? According to the
Nov. 12 minutes, members of the school committtee along with "Jim
Jordan and Scott Dunlap from Ai3" were present for executive session.
What were they there to talk about? Litigation? '''If I knew it was going to be like this, I think we would've worked
for some design changes" (Pete Dahl). If the school committee didn't know, who did? Who was in charge of
the projects? The building Committee? But they
disbanded years ago... or did they? The buck stops with Dahl, Schettini and other high-level Reading
school officials. They were in a position to know what was being built.
And if they didn't know or weren't paying attention, they weren't doing
their jobs. It's called "incompetence." 09/26/05 Yahoo News 09/26/05, -
Ex-N.Y. School Chief: I Stole Millions - "For years,
ex-Roslyn schools chief Frank Tassone admitted, he stole millions of
dollars in taxpayer money to finance everything from his breakfast bagel
to European jaunts on the Concorde. His next big journey on the
taxpayers' dime will be to prison." "The schools in Roslyn, 20 miles from Manhattan, are among the best
in the state. The district, where homes frequently sell for millions,
sends 95 percent of its high school graduates to college, and SAT scores
are among the nation's best." 09/14/05 Linda Phillips Apologized: (Please forward to Ms. Fiore and other S. Committee Members) We are in receipt of your July 8th letter responding to our
e-mail of July 1, after we received a letter from Ms. Fiore, Reading
Board of Health Administrator, regarding our high air temperature
complaint at the Wood End School of early June. An apology was made to Ms. Fiore by me on Ms. Fiore's voice mail
last week (she was not in at the time of the call) for any negative
inferences toward either her character or performance in that
e-mail. A mistake was made by us as to the date (Monday, July 13th
instead of Tues. July 14) of our phone conversation with Mr.
Mike Feeney, Director of Emergency Response Air Quality Program for
the Mass. Dept. of Public Health. Our earnest concern has been and still is, to address the extreme
heat and ventilation conditions at the new elementary school. We
understand these conditions existed since fall of '04 and we hope
will not go unapprised in the future when classroom temperatures
exceed 85 degrees during the school day or if students must be
released due to heat rashes, or if teachers find it necessary to
complain to their union representative. Hopefully ventilation
capacity, and air quality and temperature issues will be
re-evaluated to determine what forms of relief can be implemented,
especially if such problems might relate to any deficiencies in
design or workmanship. Hopefully we all wish to work as effectively as we can to provide
the best for our students and teachers. Respectfully, Gary and Linda Phillips" Linda Phillips apologized to Jane Fiore back in July. Yet, for some
reason, Jane hasn't gotten the message. Linda made a mistake about a date. This whole fiasco is a "smokescreen" for the officials in charge of
the investigation of the heat problems at Wood End. Attacking Linda is just one part of a larger cover-up some public
officials are engaged in. Certain Reading Officials know there is a serious heat problem at
Wood End... but, instead of dealing with the problem, they'd rather
magnify a small mistake Linda made about a date in order to distract
the public from the real issues at hand. The heat problems at Wood End are real. Basic engineering
principles were ignored by the building designers. Heat rises. It needs a way out. Ceiling fans won't help if there's
no way for the heat to escape. 09/12/05 Daily Times Chronicle 08/12/05-
Wood End School Traffic Letter - "Once again, the School
Committee has made decisions in isolation that affect the entire
community and expects the residents to compensate for the
Committee's flawed thinking. Reading school officials have known for
seven years that traffic would be a problem; they unreasonably chose
to work out the details in crisis." 08/27/05 More RMHS Construction Updates: After spending millions of taxpayer dollars, there's still a
tremendous amount of "wasted space" in the hallways of Reading's New
High School. In fact, the hallways of the new high school are reportedly
as big as, if not bigger than, those in the old RMHS structure. To add insult to injury, the lighting in the new hallways is
inadequate. Lights are positioned above the student lockers, not in the
center of the hallways, and there is no overhead lighting. Consequently,
it is difficult to see in many high student-traffic areas. Kids planning
to deal drugs, do drugs or commit other crimes in the hallways will
appreciate the low-lighting conditions. The new cafeteria is too small. Cafeteria staff are already unhappy
about the diminished size of (and lack of resources in) the kitchen.
Students and parents will soon be outraged when they realize how many
fewer students the new cafeteria can accommodate. The new high school is a mess. Literally. There's construction debris
and equipment everywhere. Demolition of the old structure has started.
The ramp past the library to the 1970s Science wing has been torn down.
According to sources, opening day will be the 12th, not the 6th, because
the more time is needed to clean up. The lockers in the school apparently are blue and purple. Are these
Reading's new colors? Out with red and black, in with blue and purple!
Observers claim the interior color scheme is reminiscent of a nursing
home or hospital. While the school itself is in danger of not being finished on time,
the school's non-reimbursable, synthetic-turf athletic fields,
bleachers and press box are well on their way to completion. How nice. The non-essential athletic fields and stadium intentionally were
constructed first. When the money runs out through (the inevitable)
project cost overruns, will taxpayers refuse to pay for the essentials
like bricks and mortar for academic buildings? Of course they won't.
Reading school officials know that citizens and parents will always work
to raise funds (or go for another override) to fund the basics that
other more sensible communities make sure are taken care of first. Extras before necessities, profit over the needs of children and the
community; it's the Reading way! Visitors describe the new Reading "Memorial" High School as being
"stark and industrial" in appearance. Much like Wood End Elementary,
there is little that is warm, comforting or inviting about the new (but
not necessarily improved) high school. And why should there be? These
schools were built to "maximize architect and contractor profits." The school memorial tower will soon be destroyed, demolished and
replaced by some cheap plaque or "memorial-designated area." But,
really, who cares about the service of war veterans when there's big
money to be made from new school construction? 08/04/05 Reading Advocate 07/28/05 -
Heat too much for building
The "old" pressbox, built with a lot of hard work by volunteers (like Chuck Schena) and donations in 1996, was concrete block construction and included a storage area below. While some insist the press box did not meet American Disability Act requirements, others claim the press box was specifically designed for the simple addition of an elevator at a later time.
Meaning, the cost of an elevator would have been far less to the community than building this huge, new, view-obstructing press box.
Keep in mind that the new artificial turf fields, stadium, press box and reduced athletic facilities also do not qualify for even partial reimbursement from the State; Reading taxpayers are paying the entire bill.
The inaugural home game in Reading High's new stadium revealed the now infamous major design flaw: roughly 150 seats have views obstructed by the new press box!
This is what happens when public projects proceed in secret, behind closed doors. Had the press box plans been presented and discussed at a public meeting, someone with common sense would have identified the problem.
"There was a lot of discussion about the press box," (Vice Chairman Elaine Webb) but, apparently, that discussion never occurred at a posted public meeting.
School Committee minutes going back through 2003 fail to show any press box presentation and discussion, including those minutes from November 12, 2003 at which Design Partnership of Cambridge architect David Capaldo now claims he presented the bleacher and press box design.
Will Reading school officials suddenly "find" additional minutes? Will they recreate history in their feeble attempts at damage control?
Or were details about the press box illegally discussed in executive session? According to the Nov. 12 minutes, members of the school committtee along with "Jim Jordan and Scott Dunlap from Ai3" were present for executive session. What were they there to talk about? Litigation?
'''If I knew it was going to be like this, I think we would've worked for some design changes" (Pete Dahl).
If the school committee didn't know, who did? Who was in charge of the projects? The building Committee? But they disbanded years ago... or did they?
The buck stops with Dahl, Schettini and other high-level Reading school officials. They were in a position to know what was being built. And if they didn't know or weren't paying attention, they weren't doing their jobs.
It's called "incompetence."
Yahoo News 09/26/05, - Ex-N.Y. School Chief: I Stole Millions - "For years, ex-Roslyn schools chief Frank Tassone admitted, he stole millions of dollars in taxpayer money to finance everything from his breakfast bagel to European jaunts on the Concorde. His next big journey on the taxpayers' dime will be to prison."
"The schools in Roslyn, 20 miles from Manhattan, are among the best in the state. The district, where homes frequently sell for millions, sends 95 percent of its high school graduates to college, and SAT scores are among the nation's best."
Linda Phillips Apologized:
(Please forward to Ms. Fiore and other S. Committee Members)
We are in receipt of your July 8th letter responding to our e-mail of July 1, after we received a letter from Ms. Fiore, Reading Board of Health Administrator, regarding our high air temperature complaint at the Wood End School of early June.
An apology was made to Ms. Fiore by me on Ms. Fiore's voice mail last week (she was not in at the time of the call) for any negative inferences toward either her character or performance in that e-mail. A mistake was made by us as to the date (Monday, July 13th instead of Tues. July 14) of our phone conversation with Mr. Mike Feeney, Director of Emergency Response Air Quality Program for the Mass. Dept. of Public Health.
Our earnest concern has been and still is, to address the extreme heat and ventilation conditions at the new elementary school. We understand these conditions existed since fall of '04 and we hope will not go unapprised in the future when classroom temperatures exceed 85 degrees during the school day or if students must be released due to heat rashes, or if teachers find it necessary to complain to their union representative. Hopefully ventilation capacity, and air quality and temperature issues will be re-evaluated to determine what forms of relief can be implemented, especially if such problems might relate to any deficiencies in design or workmanship.
Hopefully we all wish to work as effectively as we can to provide the best for our students and teachers.
Gary and Linda Phillips"
Linda Phillips apologized to Jane Fiore back in July. Yet, for some reason, Jane hasn't gotten the message.
Linda made a mistake about a date.
This whole fiasco is a "smokescreen" for the officials in charge of the investigation of the heat problems at Wood End.
Attacking Linda is just one part of a larger cover-up some public officials are engaged in.
Certain Reading Officials know there is a serious heat problem at Wood End... but, instead of dealing with the problem, they'd rather magnify a small mistake Linda made about a date in order to distract the public from the real issues at hand.
The heat problems at Wood End are real. Basic engineering principles were ignored by the building designers.
Heat rises. It needs a way out. Ceiling fans won't help if there's no way for the heat to escape.
Daily Times Chronicle 08/12/05- Wood End School Traffic Letter - "Once again, the School Committee has made decisions in isolation that affect the entire community and expects the residents to compensate for the Committee's flawed thinking. Reading school officials have known for seven years that traffic would be a problem; they unreasonably chose to work out the details in crisis."
More RMHS Construction Updates:
After spending millions of taxpayer dollars, there's still a tremendous amount of "wasted space" in the hallways of Reading's New High School. In fact, the hallways of the new high school are reportedly as big as, if not bigger than, those in the old RMHS structure.
To add insult to injury, the lighting in the new hallways is inadequate. Lights are positioned above the student lockers, not in the center of the hallways, and there is no overhead lighting. Consequently, it is difficult to see in many high student-traffic areas. Kids planning to deal drugs, do drugs or commit other crimes in the hallways will appreciate the low-lighting conditions.
The new cafeteria is too small. Cafeteria staff are already unhappy about the diminished size of (and lack of resources in) the kitchen. Students and parents will soon be outraged when they realize how many fewer students the new cafeteria can accommodate.
The new high school is a mess. Literally. There's construction debris and equipment everywhere. Demolition of the old structure has started. The ramp past the library to the 1970s Science wing has been torn down. According to sources, opening day will be the 12th, not the 6th, because the more time is needed to clean up.
The lockers in the school apparently are blue and purple. Are these Reading's new colors? Out with red and black, in with blue and purple! Observers claim the interior color scheme is reminiscent of a nursing home or hospital.
While the school itself is in danger of not being finished on time, the school's non-reimbursable, synthetic-turf athletic fields, bleachers and press box are well on their way to completion. How nice.
The non-essential athletic fields and stadium intentionally were constructed first. When the money runs out through (the inevitable) project cost overruns, will taxpayers refuse to pay for the essentials like bricks and mortar for academic buildings? Of course they won't. Reading school officials know that citizens and parents will always work to raise funds (or go for another override) to fund the basics that other more sensible communities make sure are taken care of first.
Extras before necessities, profit over the needs of children and the community; it's the Reading way!
Visitors describe the new Reading "Memorial" High School as being "stark and industrial" in appearance. Much like Wood End Elementary, there is little that is warm, comforting or inviting about the new (but not necessarily improved) high school. And why should there be? These schools were built to "maximize architect and contractor profits."
The school memorial tower will soon be destroyed, demolished and replaced by some cheap plaque or "memorial-designated area." But, really, who cares about the service of war veterans when there's big money to be made from new school construction?
Reading Advocate 07/28/05 - Heat too much for building(.pdf) - "Extreme heat and a faulty air conditioner forced the library to close its doors Tuesday and Wednesday, Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night.
According to Hechenbleikner, the chillers on the six-year-old unit
malfunctioned, raising indoor temperatures past 80 degrees.The
building’s portable units were unable to combat this week’s heat and
When temperatures rose over 80 degrees in the library, "cooler heads" prevailed and Town officials closed the building.
When temperatures soared over 100+ degrees at Wood End Elementary, school officials focused their efforts on concealing the problem... and forced teachers and children to suffer in the heat.
Jane Fiore, Reading Health Services Administrator - Report to Principal Karen Callan: Complaint regarding elevated ambient air temperature in classrooms - A Reading official's attempt to minimize intolerable conditions and soaring temperatures at the brand new Wood End Elementary school.
Fiore's report of her Monday, June 13, 2005 visit fails to mention children sent home with heat rash. Also omitted from the report is the extended absence of Head School Nurse Dunn from Wood End during the heat wave period she was "carefully monitoring all complaints."
The report does not adequately specify exact time of each sample temperature reading. The report also does not evaluate temperatures in a fully occupied classroom. The report's highest occupancy number is 15 students (small classes at Wood End?) and that class had been moved to the cafeteria from their roasting classroom. Cafeteria temperatures are not representative of conditions in the second floor classrooms and hallways where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. The testing of air entering the windows does not represent conditions children experienced sweltering in their seats.
Fiore's report suggests turning off computers and lights. Yet, requiring children to labor in darkened classrooms has little impact on effects of Wood End's poor ventilation design, particularly as it pertains to the second floor. Fans installed June 8, 2005 (not June 13) following complaints to the Superintendent and Principal simply (and ineffectively) moved hot air around, with no exit for the hot air as the sun beat down through skylights in the corridors.
Though the Fiore report is peppered with questionable temperature readings, the temperature in the extended second floor hallway curiously is described only as "elevated." A reading by the gymnasium area corridor does not accurately reflect temperatures on the 2nd floor classroom side under the skylights. Unknown too is the service record and accuracy of the calibrated Ratytek ST Model referenced in the report.
Desks and work areas in the narrow second floor corridor are fire hazards, as are fire doors open to the staircases at the end of the corridors. Remember the cries of override supporters: Reading children working in the hallways and corridors is educationally unsound and unsafe?
$18+ million later, Reading school children are still being taught in hallways.
Bottom line: this undated report says very little that parents and teachers can rely on. The report uses vague numbers, doublespeak, omits information and references unreliable data. Public officials have done their best to minimize and conceal serious problems at Wood End Elementary and this report does not deviate from that pattern.
Without public discussion of these problems, parents have little assurance that the unacceptable conditions of this past year will not be repeated.
Gary and Linda Phillips' reaction to Fiore's undated letter:
We are in receipt of an undated letter to Karen Callan, Principal at Wood End School, postmarked June 28, 2005, in response to concerns we addressed, via a hand delivered letter to Reading's Board of Health on June 13th, time stamped 9:30 a.m. (not the 12:40 p.m. time claimed in Ms. Fiore's letter). According to Mr. Michael Fenney, (State Dept. of Public Health), he had not had any conversations with Reading's Health Dept as of Tuesday afternoon, June 14 at 4:00 p.m. about the heat issues at Wood End when he assured me he would call Ms. Fiore. We are glad to hear 17 days later, that the school was visited the same day, and that now, sky light shield/shades will be purchased to reduce glare and lower the second floor temperatures. These shades should have been part of the school's original equipment to minimize skylight heat and glare issues.
We have regularly received complaints from students and parents since last September and early June who stated that their teacher's thermometer on the second floor read 104 degrees and nothing was being done about it. When I personally visited the school on Friday, June 3rd at 3:00 p.m., the outside temperature was 91 degrees, and the interior temperatures upstairs was so much hotter than the 91 degrees outside, that after 5 minutes of visiting with one of my daughter's former teachers, I had to leave the premises because I felt sick. This occurred while standing in the middle of an upstairs classroom, well away from any window ventilation where Ms. Fiore's and Supt. Schettini's testing of 4 upstairs classrooms on 6/13 took place showing temperatures between 84 and 94 degrees. When I visited on 6/3, I noticed that there already were large exhaust fans placed in the open emergency exits downstairs on high speed, but the fans did not affect the upstairs temperatures.
No doubt any administrators would complain if they were expected to work without office air conditioning on an on-going basis under such conditions. The most important thermometer, the human response of teachers and students was missing in this evaluation. These issues are consistent with the ventilation issues since the school was opened last fall. In no way does the "movement of a tissue" measure CFM (cubic feet per minute) which is the critical measure. While this new facility was built to house the same number of students in less than one-half the space of the state's recommendation of classroom size, when the classrooms were downsized, so was the capacity of the classroom ventilators to save money. Apparently the ventilators do not move enough air out and take fresh air in and thus the overheating and Carbon Dioxide problems.
To no fault of our Health Department, this is yet another major
school deficiency when the town was seriously shorted only to increase
contractor profits at the expense of our teachers and students. Air
quality and ventilation issues should be monitored on a regular basis to
insure everyone that the Wood End School functions they way we all
expect it should, and not wait until someone complains before addressing
any issues that arise.
Stoneham Sun 06/15/05 - Colonial Park School Heat Too Much For Kids - "'The teachers and everybody else have been told it's too expensive to turn on the air conditioning,' parent Alex Masel said. In fact, he said school officials have told him it would cost approximately $5,000 to turn on the air conditioning at the school. One parent, he said, told him she planned to keep her child out of school until conditions improve there...
'She (secretary to School Superintendent Connelly) told me there was no way they were going to turn on the air conditioning because of a lack of money in the budget,' he said. 'I asked her if hers were on and she laughed and said 'yes, but this is the first year we've had it on.' I don't think it's right for the students and the teachers to suffer and the administration can have their air conditioning on."
Administrators at Reading's Wood End Elementary also enjoy air conditioned office suites while students and teachers have been forced deal with the heat.
Temperatures at Wood End are also reportedly far higher than 86-90 degrees.
Boston Globe 05/12/05 - State lacking in oversight of school spending - "No state agency is assigned to pay close attention to how Massachusetts school systems spend their money, making it possible for misspending to escape unnoticed for years.
As a result, the financial mismanagement a state audit highlighted in Everett's public schools last week -- including overspending its budget by $1.2 million over four years -- may be happening elsewhere, state officials acknowledge."
'''It's not just comical, it's criminal,' said Senator Robert A.
Antonioni, Democrat of Leominster, cochairman of the Joint Committee on
Education. 'You're looking at a state that aside from some basic
reporting requirements on school spending in certain
Boston Globe 05/12/05 -
Everett schools blasted in State audit - "'It's a facade.
It's a clandestine operation up there,' said Stephen Smith, an Everett
Boston Herald 05/12/05 - Reading, writing, rip-offs - "The far-reaching 85-page audit - following a Herald report on the troubled school system - reveals a school business office rife with phony bids and other procurement shenanigans, unlicensed teachers in the classroom and a district overseen by a rubber-stamp school committee."
For more information about the ongoing State investigation of the Everett Public Schools and the efforts of Everett citizens to "take back the School System," visit theeverettmirror.blogspot.com.
Newton Tab, 05/04/05 - Mountain: Plan, not pool, short on logic - Reading school officials' success at "maximizing architect and contractor profits" attracts attention. Public officials looking to get into the "construction business" in other communities have only been encouraged and emboldened by the ease with which school waste-master Superintendent Harry Harutunian and his special interest friends misled and exploited the Reading public.
Newton officials appear to be following in Reading's footsteps, using similar misleading tactics to trick the public into believing that only costly new construction can solve their school building maintenance problems.
Mimicking the Harutunian administration's shameful treatment of Reading Memorial High School, Newton School Committee Chairwoman Anne Larner "and her School Committee have deliberately withheld crucial maintenance funds for the (Newton North High) school. They actually want the building to look dilapidated and unworkable; an eyesore for those who venture in to see for themselves."
Reading Chronicle, 04/13/05 - 35 More Parking Spaces at Wood End School - More parking spaces are to be added to Wood End, to compensate for the deplorable lack of parking at the school.
There are a few problems, however...
Wood End was supposed to have 50-55 parking spaces.
In 2000, Flansburgh Architect Sid Bowen stated (under oath) that 50-55 spaces were included in the Wood End plans. Read the page in his 2000 deposition.
Bowen also explained that in an earlier design phase, half the parking spaces were on the north side and half on the south.
However, by Sept. 2000, roughly 3/4 of the 50-55 parking spaces were in the South and 1/4 in the North.
Bowen explains: "Well, Parking's changed about 16 times. It's been up and down, but it's revolved around 50 and 55 spaces for all of discussions, because that's what the school department required."
In his 2000 deposition, Bowen also explains that the school is in the aquifer protection district (the source of Reading's water supply!!!) and that "no more than 20% of the site can be subject to impervious materials, building or parking lot."
With 55 spaces, the design covered no more than 19.4 percent of the site. So what happened? Who decided to reduce the number of parking spaces and why?
Why is Reading now paying extra to Judith Nitsch Engineering to create parking that should have been (and was) part of the original project design?
Boston Herald 04/09/05 - 'Slush fund' gets special attention from DOE: State to probe Everett super's cash handling - "Everett city auditor Frank 'Skip' Coppola has accused school Superintendent Frederick Foresteire of using a $218,000 'slush fund' of special education money for other purposes, many unrelated to special education, including dinners at the Silver Fox restaurant for teachers, $53,000 on local newspaper ads and $24,000 for homecoming parades."
Audit: School Boss Used Kids Cash - "Foresteire, who is awaiting trial on charges of receiving stolen school air conditioners at his house, maintained the expenses were legitimate. He blasted Coppola, calling him an 'uncertified municipal auditor'' seeking revenge for being embarrassed at a recent School Committee meeting."
Everett Ed Chief Takes the Offensive - "Faced with a city auditor's report that shows he used a $218,000 special education fund pretty much as a slush fund to pay for a variety of things that did nothing to benefit children in the program, Foresteire attacked the auditor who discovered the expenditures!
...Foresteire also insists the disclosure is the work of a 'renegade auditor' who 'will be asked to resign shortly.'''
Regardless of whether Foresteire is guilty or innocent, school superintendents across the State need to be held accountable for how they spend public money. Raiding special education accounts is a common way some superintendents raise "extra" money for spending projects. Like parades. And expensive dinners. And flowers...
The public has a right to know.
A school administrator can easily accumulate and hide special education money, claiming the funds are required by the State. Nobody questions this. Nobody wants to deny special ed children funding.
Unfortunately, it's hard to insure special education funds actually are spent on special needs children. Where does the money really go? Building projects anyone?
The Sheeple have Spoken! - Team Gibbs (1501) & McFadden (1506) defeated Linda Phillips (1121)... but not by much. And they had to spend a lot more money to buy their votes.
In the Selectmen race (Reading's "other" school committee race), clueless young parent James Bonazoli (1305) and new "friend of the schools" Ben Tafoya (1456) won at the polls, defeating common sense candidate Ed Wright (1029) and relative unknown Tony D'Arezzo (436). Will Tafoya and Bonazoli work for the best interests of the entire community of Reading? Or will they be "team players" and do and say what Reading's school lobby leaders tell them?
Support for alternative candidates and common sense is growing but the "tail is still wagging the dog" here in Reading.
As predicted, low turnout (16%, according to the Advocate) resulted in an easily controlled election.
The solid minority of organized, well-funded school lobby "misleaders" and their flock (less than 20% of the total population) still control the Town.
VOTE! - April 5th at the Addison Wesley Building in Reading, 1 Jacob Way, 7am - 8pm.
Daily Times Chronicle - Linda M. Phillips, Candidate for School Committee - "I did not plan to run again this year but was asked by parents who feel that most members of the school committee were unresponsive to the concerns affecting their children."
Daily Times Chronicle -
School Committee debate comments - "Several years ago, I
supported Mr. McFadden in his initial run for office. At that time, he
told me he wanted a change in School Administrators, claimed he did not
support wasteful building projects, and he would add business experience
to the committee. I had hoped Mr. McFadden would bring spending
accountability. Now in this election year, Mr. McFadden is finally
against a prop 2 1/2 override but during his current term he has vocally
and financially supported every override and debt exclusion."
Reading Chronicle Letters from March 21 -
The Story Behind Article 20 - "The issue for many of us has
become an issue of trust. We are ignored when we ask questions; we
cannot get a public hearing on a thoughtful, competitive redistricting
proposal that took time and energy to research; letters to elected
officials go unanswered and Town Counsel opines that our issues are 'out
of order' for town meeting, well in advance of that meeting."
Supports Warrant Article 20 - "We were told that this process was open to our input and that redistricting could be revisited at any time - instead emails went without even the courtesty of a reply, there were no opportunities to correct misconceptions, and in truth we were misleadingly reassured, condescended to, and in my case, even lied to." - Christine Derse
Disagrees with Town Counsel - "Shame on those who shame dissenters in public and try to stifle debate. Whether elected, appointed or volunteer, public servants should answer to the public they supposedly serve, not their own agenda or what they may believe is their mandate." - Tony Torra
Healthy Kids.info - What can I do if my child's school is unsafe? - "You are your child's primary advocate. That means, if you know or suspect that your child is at risk for physical or emotional harm, do not send your child to school. Sometimes others, such as your child's physician or state or local health department staff, can help document the problem and validate the risk of harm. Sometimes other parents or school staff will share your observations and fears and act collectively to work for meaningful change.
Unfortunately, in many cases hazards are widely ignored for months or years and complaints and concerns have been repeatedly dismissed. Or false assurances and empty promises to improve conditions mislead you into expecting change and delaying action. However, delay can lead to preventable distress and injury that sabotages your child's education and can lead to life-long health impairments and disability."
Student Press Law Center - Fully Automated, Fill-in-the-Blanks State Open Records Law Request Letter Generator - "Our letter generator has been used by thousands of people to assist student journalists and other citizens obtain access to public records maintained by state or local government officials. The Student Press Law Center is happy to provide our letter generator free of charge as a public service."
National Transportation Library - A Guidebook to Student Pedestrian Safety - The main purpose of this guidebook is to "(1) provide direction on how to develop and implement school walk routes; (2) explain procedures to identify pedestrian safety deficiencies along school walk routes and suggest remedial actions; and (3) recommend efficient procedures which school administrators can use to work with their local public works agencies to remedy these deficiencies."
In Reading, questions regarding sidewalks, inaccurate enrollment calcuations and real administrative start-up costs were raised in January 1998, at the Enrollment and School Size Committee meetings... and ignored.
Concerned citizens attempted to persuade Reading school officials to address these issues early in the process. See January 22, 1998 Enrollment and School Size Committee (essc) minutes.
Download the Guidebook .pdf directly: A Guidebook to Student Pedestrian Safety (6.4 MB)
USA Today 03/01/05 - Deadly teen auto crashes show a pattern - " More than two-thirds of fatal single-vehicle teen crashes involved nighttime driving or at least one passenger age 16 to 19. Nearly three-fourths of the drivers in those crashes were male. And 16-year-old drivers were the riskiest of all. Their rate of involvement in fatal crashes was nearly five times that of drivers ages 20 and older, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety."
Boston Globe 02/17/05 - Is your home a health hazard? - Parents and teachers should watch for similar health hazards in Reading's new school projects (Wood End, Barrows and the New High School). Normally, in other communities, public information about building materials is available (and discussed) at school building committee meetings. However, Reading has not had a building committee since April, 2003 (contrary to State school building reimbursement requirements!) and only members of Reading school officials' elite "inner circle" know what materials have been secretly incorporated into the building projects.
Health and safety is not a high priority for the special interest groups responsible for Reading's school construction projects. Parents and teachers... YOU must remain vigilant.
National Trust - Why Johnny Can't Walk to School - A must read. Reading is a "poster-child" community for the problems outlined in this article.
"Today, fewer than one in eight students walks or bikes to school. The landmark schools that touched the lives of millions and became stalwart symbols of civic pride are fast disappearing. They are giving way to huge, warehouse-like schools in remote areas reachable only by stressful drives through congested traffic. And along with their demise has gone yet another of the ties that once bound people and towns across America."
View the full report (.pdf, 335kb)
View the executive summary (.pdf, 800kb)
Reading has also chosen to disregard the historic value of Reading Memorial High School. Once RMHS is torn down, it will be replaced by a smaller structure capable of supporting fewer students. The extra space Reading now has in its high school will be lost forever. Citizens of Reading can only hope that the New High School will not be an inferior, problematic building like Wood End Elementary (see below, 01/29/05).
Bus Routes - North Andover Transportation Policy - "No school bus will cross a railroad track with students onboard." (scroll down the linked page for the bus route info)
What is Reading's transportation policy? Has it ever been defined? Was it developed in accordance with M.G.L. - Chapter 71, Section 68? And which came first, transportation policy or school attendance area policy?
Reading children are going to be bused across the Railroad tracks on Ash Street: the same spot where several cars have been hit by trains.
Children's lives are being put at risk because school officials don't want to admit that the construction of a 5th elementary school was unnecessary.
Troubled School: More problems at the NEW Wood End Elementary - Uh oh. Orange cones line the hallways on the second floor of Wood End, warning occupants to stay away from areas where water is leaking from the ceilings. Whether it's frozen pipes, roof leaks or just plain bad design is anyone's guess.
Inside the classrooms of this post & beam construction school, the glue laminate wooden beams (in the ceilings) are splitting and "sap" is oozing out and falling on students.
Window blinds in classrooms have been inoperable ever since the opening of Wood End. For more than five months, school administration has ignored this problem.
Also impressive is the roughly 3' x 4' window pane on the side foyer by the staircase, apparently shattered by a bullet or large BB gun pellet. According to some students, when the sun hits the hundreds of tiny cracks spreading from the hole in the center of the window, it's "beautiful." This architectural marvel must also be considered "beautiful" by school administration because the window has remained broken for more than a week.
Christian Science Monitor 12/06/04 - Contrarian finding: Computers are a drag on learning - "For all the schools and parents who have together invested billions to give children a learning edge through the latest computer technology, a mammoth new study by German researchers brings some sobering news: Too much exposure to computers might spell trouble for the developing mind."
Boston Globe 01/23/05 - Schools plagued by revolving leadership - "A number of factors contributing to the tense atmosphere in Lexington are endemic in many high-performing school districts across Eastern Massachusetts and the nation: swirling accusations -- whether founded or not -- about overly demanding parents, School Committee members who meddle too much in the running of schools, and taxpayers who grumble too much about the rising cost of education."
Reading Advocate 01/13/05 - Schools update parents on redistricting plan - "According to both (Pete Dahl and David Lautman), the town would not have received reimbursement from the state for the schools without art and music rooms."
False. The State recommends but does not require art and music rooms in elementary schools. Some communities don't even have art and music programs.
Globe Northwest 01/13/05 - Some rap school assignment plan - Note that it's now a State "request" and not a "requirement" for schools to have special rooms for art and music. At least the Globe got that right.
Redistricting meeting - Reportedly, in spite of the ice and snow (and no school today), the meeting to approve recent elementary redistricting plans is still happening. When? Where? 7PM at RMHS.
Useful public documents - Disillusioned, angry parents, take notice and bring print-outs of these documents to the upcoming January 6th redistricting meeting!
Even as late as January, 2003, Harutunian and his cronies were still promising to eliminate the need for elementary school bussing. At the time, they wanted voters to approve an additional $2.5 million (via a debt exclusion) to fund the construction of the Wood End Elementary School.
Also see CARE (Community Action for Reading Education) propaganda from 1999-2000+. "A new school combined with an already approved Barrows addition and renovation will eliminate the present need for crosstown busing. Funds currently spent on busing would offset staffing costs for a new school."
Where are the CARE ringleaders now? What happened to the whole "neighborhood schools" idea? Was it all just marketing and community organization strategy?
Scientific Amercian.com, 12/20/04 - Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth - "Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior."
New York Metro, 11/27/04 - The Bad Superintendent - "According to Nassau County prosecutors, Frank Tassone had spent his twelve years in Roslyn quietly running one of the most audacious scams ever to afflict a public-school system. The coffers were plundered in practically every imaginable way—expense-account padding, vendor-bidding violations, check-record fabrications, even the creation of phony businesses."
According to Robert Kolker's article, Superintendent Frank Tassone was a charming school chief and "not good with numbers" but "a tremendous manipulator of people." "One Roslyn parent calls Tassone 'Pecksniffian.' The name refers to a Dickens character who exploits the weaknesses of others, and is selfish and corrupt behind a display of benevolence."
The return of the pink-slipped Salem teachers -
www.salemhigh.net is back - "The
decision to put salemhigh.net on vacation was a difficult one, a
decision that was not entirely up to me. As many may remember, the
administration of the site was turned over to a third party, so
decisions concerning the site are reached by committee. For legal and
philosophical reasons, it's much better to have salemhigh.net hosted out
of the country. Unfortunately, this limits my ability to control
content, focus, and uptime.
For those who are new to IROR, last year, the www.salemhigh.net message boards provided Salem "dissenters" with a place to speak out against blatant, undeniable corruption at Salem High School. Unfortunately, in last year's struggle for survival in Salem, Superintendent Herbert Levine and Salem High Principal Kiki Papagiotas won and successfully "pink-slipped" all of their most vocal critics (who also happened to be some of Salem's finest teachers).
More Redistricting Information - Map of proposed districts in PDF file (2MB file) - Online slide show - The site has been getting lots of questions about the Reading elementary school redistricting information posted on 11/27/04.
By law, children two miles away from a school must be bused and Reading is going to have to make changes to accomodate parents with children who are now two miles away from their elementary schools. If you're determined to be 1.9 miles away, though, the schools aren't obligated to provide anything!
Originally, one of the objectives of building a 5th elementary school was to ELIMINATE busing and have "neighborhood" schools (another objective was to address an alleged increase in enrollment). Eliminating busing was part of the "sales pitch" given to Reading voters when Harutunian and his cronies were pushing the idea of a 5th elementary school. Do you remember?
Now that the unnecessary new school has actually been built, the goal has been changed to "minimize" busing (but are there more children who will need to be bused now than ever before??).
Reading school officials must load the unnecessary new 5th elementary school with students - to 90% capacity. They will try to accomplish this by forcing students away from their neighborhood school districts and closing off / hiding spaces within existing schools. Enrollment levels will likely be less than 90% since there never was a real enrollment crisis in the first place. Yeah, other towns wish they had this problem but.. have you looked at your tax bills lately? Reading taxpayers are paying dearly for low enrollment levels... and many children who live very near some Reading schools will be forced to attend other Reading schools further away.
If you're having trouble getting answers from the Reading School Department, you're not alone. School employees and officials have been ignoring citizens and parents for years. Unresponsive customer service is one of the reasons this site exists (and that hasn't changed).
Residents have petitioned to be removed from the Wood End district - and been ignored. Parents worried about the changes to the Eaton / Killam line have been told that they need to sit back and "go through the process." Once you have gone "through the process," though, it's too late.
Call the school department and voice your concerns. They are paid to answer your questions and listen to your complaints. If they continue to ignore you, call school committee members directly. Write letters and leave a paper trail. Write to the Reading Advocate, Chronicle, Boston Herald and Globe. Create your own web-sites (it's amazing how many people all over the world read and write to IROR) and bring attention to problems. Contact your State senators and representatives and tell them about how you've been treated by Reading school officials. Make noise and ask questions; sometimes that's the only way to advocate for the best interests of your children.
Principal Karen Callan 11/12/04 - Letter to Parents - Read this and weep. If this letter is an accurate reflection of Callan's writing skills, Reading has bigger problems at Wood End than just a badly-designed, poorly-constructed elementary school.
Reading Advocate, Fire log, Monday, November 8 - More odors and gas smells at Wood End - "At 10:18 a.m., Engine 4 responded to Wood End School for an odor and / or gas leak."
"At 1:25 p.m., Engine 4 responded to Wood End School for an odor and / or gas leak."
What the heck is going on at Wood End? Wasn't there just another fumes / gas leak / evacuation incident back in October??
See the news for 10/26/04...
Reading Advocate 11/14/04 - Town Meeting Zips Through Articles - Reading's "rubber stamp" Town Meeting is at it again, zipping through articles because there is no real political debate here anymore. Dissenters are marginalized or intimidated into submission. Outcomes are predetermined.
Welcome to Reading. Pay your taxes but don't ask where the money goes.
Reading Advocate 10/28/04 - More accountability needed for school projects - "Reading is the only community in the commonwealth whose School Committee builds schools instead of a community building/construction committee that oversees public school construction projects. School Building Assistance (SBA) applications requires a building committee. Even when Reading's "hand picked" building committee existed, much of the discussion and decision-making still was conducted by the administration and School Committee behind closed doors, including the parking space reduction, traffic and safety issues Selectman Anthony finds so shocking. The little that surfaced into the public view raised 'red flags' for some townspeople; these people were belittled and ignored by school officials and committee members."
"What can we do to avoid the same thing happening again with the current school projects? The same traffic, parking and safety problems will occur at the renovated Barrows School site and the new high school unless intervention by other public officials hold the School Committee's plans and decisions accountable to the public."
Reading has a long and sordid history of school construction "cover-ups." Will we ever learn?
1.) Reading Memorial High School (Harutunian-era): asbestos was removed dry while RMHS was still in session; the contractor responsible was fined.
2.) Birch Meadow renovation: student and teacher complaints of headaches were dismissed. Months later, while officials were investigating a gas leak between Birch Meadow and the YMCA, gas meters picked up high carbon monoxide levels in the 5th Grade wing. The cause? An improperly operating gas furnace.
3.) Parker Middle School renovation: several evacuations, frozen pipes, brand new carpeted classrooms flooded, wall collapse, dead of night asbestos removal.
4.) Joshua Eaton Elementary renovation: heating, ventilation problems, and faulty fire alarm system.
5.) Coolidge Middle School renovation: headaches, tearing eyes, fumes entering classrooms AND water and mold problems - nearly all hidden from the public view.
Skyrocketing Reading Property Taxes - ****THIS IS NOT A BILL**** - Reading real estate valuation notices are the mail! So how much did your property taxes rise this year? $400? $500? More? Did you forget that, along with the recent overrides and debt exclusions, your property valuation would continue to climb? This is, of course, on top of the "obligatory" 2 1/2% annual increase. Were you misled by Building Pride and Reading Pep's inaccurate estimates of Reading school projects' impact on your pocketbook? Do you feel snookered? You should, because you were! Wait until next year's bill!
Reading Chronicle 09/14/04 - Officials look at possible HVAC issue at new school - An article some might have missed about problems at Wood End Elementary. The new school has many problems, including the HVAC system. Such problems are not just "possible," they are the reality of a project designed to satisfy the needs of architects and their supporters.
Updates added to North Andover section of the site.
Salem News 09/02/04 - Ex-Beverly school superintendent collected a month of unemployment - Apparently, after paying "a $10,000 penalty for leaving before the end of his six-year contract," Superintendent William Lupini decided he was "entitled" to collect "$2,332 in unemployment for the month he spent between six-figure jobs.""When a former employee files for unemployment benefits, the School Department is required to fill out a form telling the state if the employee was fired or laid off. Dunn said he did not know who filled out the form on Lupini."
Comparison of Past and Present Enrollment Projections - July 12, 2004 elementary enrollment numbers provide more proof that Flansburgh Associates inflated their own 1999 enrollment projections to justify the construction of a 5th elementary school in Reading.According to the July 12, 2004 School Committee meeting (see Reading Chronicle article), the anticipated 2004 elementary school enrollment will be 2043 students, including all day kindergarten. In 1997, DRA (see 1997 Drummey Rosane Anderson Feasibility Study, page 20) predicted that Reading's 2004-2005 elementary population would be 2015 students. DRA projections have been and continue to be the most accurate over the last seven years. Harutunian-era school officials did not acknowledge DRA's projections because the projections would not justify the construction of a new elementary school.In 1999, Earl R. Flansburgh and friends predicted that Reading elementary enrollment in 2004 would rise to a whopping 2430 students. Flansburgh Associates "overestimated" the size of the population by an entire elementary school!
This was no mistake.
Now, to hide the deception, Flansburgh Associates and individuals still working to protect their own "interests" will:
1. Reduce the size of the Barrows "renovation" and its gymnasium while providing no savings to the Town of Reading.
2. Reduce the size of the new school, Wood End, from what was originally planned.
3. Implement all day kindergarten classes (which occupies double the space) instead of half day classes.
4. Fill full-size classrooms with one or two special needs students, regardless if there are other smaller rooms and spaces available.The exploitation continues...