Reading Massachusetts Education

Patrick A. Schettini, Jr., J.D.

Superintendent, Reading Public Schools,
July 1, 2003 - Present

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 Elementary don’t exist?

To bully and intimidate teachers and citizens into silence? To attack and marginalize those who challenge school officials or ask unpopular questions?

To NOT hold responsible the architects, contractors, and local officials who build expensive, flawed schools like Wood End Elementary?

Reading has already seen what can happen when a ruthless, power-hungry superintendent repeatedly abuses the authority granted to him by the State, citizens and taxpayers.

When will we ever learn?

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."

"'There is a special education revolving account but we didn't do that this year,' Schettini said, 'We thought this [extra money] was just a one-time event."

"Schettini said, 'This is good business practice: when you have funds, you put them when they are needed most. The transfer didn't impact the services rendered to students. This made common sense to us, and we believed we had sufficient power to do so.'"

Good business practice?

Tell that to the Reading parents and children who have been denied SPED services because there allegedly was no funding. Many Reading parents are unable to talk about their experiences battling the Reading Public Schools to get services for their children because of gag orders written into their settlement agreements!

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."

One-time revenues?

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"
"Mr. Carpenter made a motion that the sum of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) be transferred from the School Department's Special Needs Budget to the Alice M. Barrows Elementary 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?

May 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 budget."

"Contrary to what was reported by Town Meeting members, the Special Needs segment of the School Department's Budget has no funds available to transfer to the school building projects."

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?"

"The Regular Day segment of the School Department's Budget is currently projecting a surplus at the end of the Fiscal Year. It is the only segment of the School Department's Budget that is available to fund the building projects."



Please right-click, "Save Target As" to download the linked files on this page.

Resume when applying for the position of Reading Superintendent of Schools (.pdf download, 167 KB).

Compare and contrast Superintendent Schettini's 2003 - 2004 employment contract [.pdf, 298 KB] with Superintendent Harutunian's contract with the Reading Public Schools, 2002 - 2003 [.pdf, 71.3 KB]. What is missing from Harutunian's contract (and what has yet to be released to the public)?


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."

"Parents need not raise money for a playground when public money was already been appropriated for it twice, (once within the project's scope and budget, and second time with the additional $100K appropriation)... and it should not be necessary to then raise funds again, this time privately, before that Wood End playground becomes a reality."

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.


Unfortunately, Superintendent Patrick Schettini appears to be playing many of the same games to obstruct access to public information as his predecessor (i.e. delay tactics, claiming documents are "not in my possession," charging exorbitant "search fees" for basic information that, in other communities, is available in the public library or online).

Mr. Schettini may feel intense pressure from other school officials and individuals to keep secrets and restrict public information. Regardless, the Reading School Department is not a private business and public has a right to know what is being (and has been) done with public funds.

Schettini, who came to Reading from the Natick Public Schools, is reportedly charging $240, up front, for a staff member (at time and 1/2) to "research" school construction records. If his administration were closely monitoring Reading's school construction projects, these records would already be accessible to the public. In Natick, detailed public information on local school construction projects can be found online.

See Natick School Committee minutes and other public documents.

Also read public documents from the Town of Newton... or visit the Town of Wayland's comprehensive Building Committee website, complete with copies of the E-MAILS passed among architects, school officials and committee members.

Where are the emails for Reading's projects?? Where is the correspondence? Why are some Reading officials - even now - so afraid to release information about school construction projects? Why all the obstacles? What is the big secret??

The Reading public currently has no access to basic pubic information about its $70+ million school projects. Major decisions have been (and are) being made behind closed doors.

Who benefits?