Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do as I say! (Not as I do)


UPDATE: Thursday, 9:20 AM

So the Crusty Gazette did not cover /expose the health hazard going on since September at Wildwood Elementary School in this morning’s edition. Now you know why I call them Crusty.

But they did cover the “restructuring “ of our elementary schools proposal that somebody posted as a Comment yesterday (so I’m not sure if that qualifies as scooping them or not).

The article by Mary Carey is of course a lot more thorough than what you might find in the blogesphere but then that’s why she makes the big bucks. There was a, perhaps inadvertent, odd juxtaposition of paragraphs that I found illuminating:

Just keeping the schools running at the current level would require an increase of 7 to 8 percent in the $20.6 million budget. The schools will instead be aiming to increase the budget by only 2 percent over last year.

"I've never dealt with decreases of this size," the co-superintendent said.

Only in Amherst is a 2% budget increase considered a “decrease”
###################################################################################
ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday afternoon
So if you can believe those damn anonymous “spurious” and “ugly” comments posted on local online forums; well actually there’s only one, Masslive (Amherst) Forum, as the Crusty Daily Hampshire Gazette spiked their lively one seven years ago: Wildwood Elementary School (built in 1970), entrusted with over 400 Amherst children, has no hot water.

And furthermore, if you can believe another anonymous commenter who provided (in a journalistic sense—if you acknowledge anonymous sources) corroboration, they have been running on cold water since September!

I decided to be that investigative journalist I always wanted to be and took a trip up to Wildwood this afternoon, figuring a formal Freedom of Information request could take weeks.

Sure enough, no freaken hot water! And then I went back to recheck over an hour later (figuring maybe multitudeness kids used that bathroom and temporarily overwhelmed the hot water heater). The video is from the second visit.

Now if Puffton Village or Southpoint Apartments lost running hot water in the wintertime, the People’s Republic of Amherst Building Inspector would instantly shut them down. And since private management knows that, the problem would be corrected overnight.

Last month the US economy shed over 500,000 jobs--mostly from manufacturing, construction and retail. But, education and government actually experienced job growth. Ahhh…the dramatic difference between 'I'm-here-to-help-you' Government and the 'source-of-their-funding' Private Sector.

God help us!


video

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's Ron Bohonowicz's department.


Haha, figures!

Anonymous said...

Ummmm... is this even worthy of an entry? I think the comparison between a school and a residence is spurious-- no one expects to bathe or shower at a 38 year old elementary school. I would think that the bigger worry in an elementary school is water that is too hot-- scalded hands and such are a real danger with kids. Not having warm water may seem kind of spartan, but you can wash your hands with cool water and soap and rinse off the germs just fine. Does it constitute any risk to anyone's well-being? Don't think so.

I think you're looking to make an issue where there isn't one, Larry.

(But yes, this would be a good item for an electronic suggestion box-- an explanation could be posted in about 30 seconds).

AJ

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, 27 years ago when I first opened my Health Club I also thought the comparison between commercial usages and residential was “spurious”.

So I had a couple of gristly, hard-working, hard-drinking ‘pipe fitters’ install the plumbing for my showers using PVC pipe, which is perfectly legal (works better than metal) in residential use, but was illegal in 'commercial' buildings because in a super-hot fire it melted creating toxic smoke.

Last time I looked firefighters fight fires in BOTH commercial and residential buildings and in either usually wear air tanks to prevent the intake of anything.

But alas, the Amherst Building Inspector gave me a week to correct it or shut my doors. So I corrected it.

The Amherst Health Department require Massage Therapists to have hot running water as part of their annual business license and if any landlord failed to provide hot water for a lousy 48 hours the town would be all over them (not to mention the Crusty Gazette.)

According to the USDA (you know those Government folks who are here to help us):
“Hot water that is comfortable for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria. The body oils on your hands hold soils and bacteria, so hot or warm, soapy water is more effective than cold, soapy water at removing those oily soils and the bacteria in them.”

But you’re more than right about this embarrassing safety issue being great for an Electronic Suggestion Box—although I question whether an “explanation posted in about 30 seconds” would satisfy many health-conscious parents.

Anonymous said...

My point is basically, "pick your battles". It simply looks silly, in my opinion, to try to make this into a huge issue. First, it is an elementary school. It is not a massage therapist's office. It is not a gym. To say that the requirements for water temperature in a school sink are the same is just plain wrong. The presence of a lot of young kids is a strong argument against water that is anywhere near hot enough to burn.

My connection to the school is minor, and it's in the past. But I'd bet the lukewarm water temperature came first out of fear of lawyers should a kid get burned (these are Amherst parents, after all), and (possibly) second, out of an attempt to save a little money-- the cooler that water, the less money for fuel to heat it.

Larry, this blog is so often a wonderful antidote to the many wrongheaded ideas that abound in Amherst. But when you make a big deal out of stuff like this, it just makes it easier for people to dismiss you as a crank who complains about *everything*. Don't give them so many chances to do that. It just hurts your chances for success on the really important things.

AJ

LarryK4 said...

Well first of all I would not call the water I tested “lukewarm,” more like “lukecold” as opposed to the faucet with an “H” that was freaken freezing!

I think the requirement for water temperature in the town of Amherst is the same for EVERYBODY (or at least they should be). But we will find out, as the Crusty Gazette will probably start asking questions.

Just for the Hell of it, when I picked my daughter up at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley (at the defunct KidSports a former gym competitor of mine) this afternoon I tested the water. And hey, it was hot. Not too hot, not too cold…just right.

I’m not making a “big deal out of stuff like this” (as I said, my darling daughter goes elsewhere). Let the people—especially the parents—decide.

ARHS '76 said...

Larry,

First things first. The handle on the right s ALWAYS cold, left is hot. They have the wrong know on the right.

Most hot water heaters produce 105-120F but because its a kids school, the temp should be about 90F.

LarryK4 said...

I always look for the H or the C. And even then I run the water for a few moments to see if it gets hot.

This water did not get HOT. It did not even get WARM. It got slightly less than freaken freezing.

Tony said...

Don't let them pooh-pooh you Larry. Your making a good point about the efficiency of public versus private money-management. There's no excuse for a public school to not have a working hot water tank.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Tony,
With my almost-two-year old I'm used to dealing with pooh-pooh (as you will soon find out)

In the People's Republic of Amherst the public schools are the most sacred of Sacred Cows and, apparently, can do no wrong.

But right is right. And that knows no geographic borders.

Anonymous said...

So, how do the cafeteria workers wash their hands after using the facilities? It is hard to wash your hands in ice cold water.

Anonymous said...

I worked in the Wildwood cafeteria a year and a half ago, and I did wash my hands in semi- warm water and lots of soap, to kill the germs.
Some of those boilers are not up to par, in maintaining the temp of water, no matter what it is set at.

Ed Cutting said...

The housing reg is 105 CMR 410.190 and the Board of Health is supposed to CONDEMN the place if the hot water is off for more than 23 hours.

And it has to be between 110 and 130 degrees. And there is some other reg that applies to public bathrooms, which are required to have hot water, and that would cover the school if there aren't specific school regs.

Hot water is needed for three things:

First, handwashing. Kids ain't gonna do it if the water is cold.

Second, sanitation -- mopping the floors and washing down the desks with WARM water is necessary to kill all the nasty bugs that go through elementary school.

And third, they are serving lunches down there, aren't they?

The Board of Health should have been all over this -- and why haven't they? No one complained? - well Larry isn't clairvoyant so someone had to tell him...

And time to play hardball: Call the Mass Department of Public Health in Northampton. I believe that the phone is 586-7525

Anonymous said...

In addition to the cafeteria at Wildwood (yes...how DO they wash up the kitchen with just cold water, not to mention their own hands?), there is also a school nurse. You would think that the nurse would need warm water for cleaning the inevitable cuts and scrapes.

Has anyone done a water check in our other schools?

Anonymous said...

One person said:

"Ummmm... is this even worthy of an entry?"

Excuse me?!!?


What Larry is doing is FANTASTIC because he is VERIFYING what some people have been DESPERATE to EXPOSE about a situation that is ~corrupted~ and ~flawed~ and ~failed~!

But NOT by going around snooping, looking for things to complain about on a blog, but doing do what most most people in this town have ~~~~failed~~~~ to do... FOLLOW UP, EXPOSE, AND FINALLY CORRECT I.E. give enough of a sh*t to ACT!!


Shame on YOU!!!!!... you who said this...

"Ummmm... is this even worthy of an entry?"

Let me suggest you do something about your Kool-aid habit because what its done to you...


is written all over your soul...

Anonymous said...

Shortly after this "the town" (who exactly, we still don't know) contacted the state and requested the name of the individual who filed the complaint!


Frightening???


Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 15:07:15 -0400
From: elbrighty@amherst.edu
To: XXXXXXX@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Asbestos at the Fort River School, Amherst Mass.


If you want a document, all you have to do is stop in and request it at the central office. There may be a small charge for Xeroxing it, and there can be up to a 10 day window under the law. But a public document is public and will be provided.

If you want a document,contacting the state and the EPA is overkill at this stage. At this point, you sound more interested in complaining to the state than in receiving the document you are interested in.

It's time to stop the anonymous approach.


Love Amherst wrote:

Hi Elaine,

Well, we tried a different email address (remember the school "spam
blocked" this one) and sent another request (our 3rd or 4th) for information regarding how/where/when the superintendents/Ron B. wanted
to make the asbestos plan available for viewing etc... We received no response. A few days later we tried again. Sadly, the NEW email address got blocked.

We've gone ahead and contacted both the state and the EPA and asked them for help. Now we're wondering if Ron Bohonowicz is being honest and if such a plan ever existed... at all.

Additionally, we've asked the EPA to consider seeking, from him, hard copy proof. I expect there
would be an investigation if Ron is found to have lied to the Feds
and the state. Just wondering Elaine, are you communicating at all with either Ron or the sups.? What are you hearing on your end?


All the best!
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2008 16:42:55 -0400
From: elbrighty@amherst.edu
To: XXXXXXX@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Asbestos at the Fort River School, Amherst Mass.





I said that you should handle your request directly in person. Thatmeans using your real name and requesting information appropriately. I expect your future emails to me to use your real name, not play this
anonymous game. I do find it disrespectful.

If your email address is blocked, you must have been very inappropriate in an email.




Elaine


Love Amherst wrote:

Hi Ms. Brighty,

We contacted Ron Bohonowicz and the two superintendants (by email)
because you said this issue of asbestos in the schools should be handled

through them. We respect/ed your desire and recognize your need
(we know you're busy and that's O.K.) not to have to deal with the
matter. After weeks of not getting a response we tried contacting them again, only to find this email address getting BLOCKED at their end. Not a very smart or friendly thing to do. So, we contacted the EPA (email series below, please review) and now
it looks as though the asbestos plan WILL be made available to us. Our concern, Ms. Brighty, is that Ron B. never looked after, nor updated and probably didn't know of his responsibility to keep such a plan at all(!!!).

Perhaps he has been stalling for time? In any case, the EPA and the State of Massachusetts should investigate what is going on in Amherst.

I would like you to contact the school and have this email unblocked. We must have an open line of communication between ourselves, Ron B.and the superintendants. We have a lot to talk about.



Thanks again Ms. Brighty for all your help,


L.A.






Subject: RE: Asbestos at the Fort River School, Amherst Mass.
To: XXXXXXXX@hotmail.com
CC: Janet.Mckenna@state.ma.us
From: Pilgrim.Hugh@epamail.epa.gov
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:54:18 -0400

Thank you for your email and bringing this matter to our attention.

Please note that under provisions of 40 CFR § 763.84 (f) the local
school department and both Amherst, Ma schools are required to ensure the asbestos management plans are available to the public for inspection and notification of availability has been provided as specified in the management plan under 40 CFR § 763.84 (g).

Kindly note that I recently spoke with Janet McKenna to provide a
heads-up on this matter and I am copying her on this email. Ms. McKenna will communicate directly with Mr. Bohonowicz to ensure that he provides access to the plan in accord with AHERA requirements above.

Please feel free to contact Ms. McKenna at the email address above or at telephone no.: (413) 781 2676, for additional assistance. Do let me know if you have further questions or need additional assistance.

Again, thank you.


Hugh Pilgrim
US EPA - Region 1
Office of Environmental Stewardship
Toxics and Pesticides Unit (SEP)
1 Congress Street, Suite 1100
Boston, MA 02114-2023
Tel: (617) 918-1843
Fax: (617) 918-0843
pilgrim.hugh@epa.gov



Love Amherst
XXXXXXXXXX@hotmail.com

To Hugh Pilgrim/R1/USEPA/US@EPA
09/11/2008 09:39 cc
AM
Subject
RE: Asbestos at the Fort River
School, Amherst Mass.



Hi Mr. Pilgrim,



Just wondering if you can give me a hand with getting Amherst Mass.
schools to make an asbestos management plan available. The EPA along with Janet McKenna from the state of Massachusetts (Janet.Mckenna@state.ma.us)
did an investigation over there a while back... short of it is, we've
asked Amherst for a copy of the management plan:




From the EPA web-site:

9. Do I have the right as a teacher or employee to access my school’s management plan?


Yes. Parents, teachers, and school employees, or their representatives,
have the right to inspect the school’s asbestos management plan. The school must make the plan available within a reasonable amount of time.

10. Does this management plan have to be updated periodically?

Yes. The asbestos management plan must be updated with information
collected during periodic surveillance every 6 months, re-inspections
every 3 years, and every time a response action is taken within the
school. Also, records of annual notifications to parents, teachers, and
staff concerning the availability of the school’s asbestos management
plan must be included within the asbestos management plan files.




Unfortunately the director of facilities for the schools (and the town) does not want to make it available. What can I do about that? Is this something you could talk to him about?


His name is Ron Bohonowicz and his email: bohonowiczr@arps.org.


Thanks for the help! Please let me know what you find out.






From: r1web.mail@epamail.epa.gov
Subject: Re: Asbestos at the Fort River School, Amherst Mass.
To: loveamherst@hotmail.com
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2008 07:46:56 -0400



Do you have names of staff at the EPA who did the investigation? If
not, followup with Hugh Pilgrim for assistance: pilgrim.hugh@epa.gov





Love Amherst
XXXXXXXX@hotmail.com> To
Mail R1Web/R1/USEPA/US@EPA
09/10/2008 11:03 cc
AM
Subject
Asbestos at the Fort River
School, Amherst Mass.


Hello,


I contacted your office a while back regarding asbestos materials in the Fort River and High school in Amhesrt Mass and an investigation was conducted. In the mean-time, I have tried to get access to the school's
asbestos management plan:


From the EPA web-site:

9. Do I have the right as a teacher or employee to access my school’s management plan?


Yes. Parents, teachers, and school employees, or their
representatives,
have the right to inspect the school’s asbestos management plan. The
school must make the plan available within a reasonable amount of
time.

10. Does this management plan have to be updated periodically?


Yes. The asbestos management plan must be updated with information
collected during periodic surveillance every 6 months, re-inspections
every 3 years, and every time a response action is taken within the
school. Also, records of annual notifications to parents, teachers,
and
staff concerning the availability of the school’s asbestos management
plan must be included within the asbestos management plan files.



Unfortunately the director of facilities for the schools (and the
town) does not want to make it available. What can I do about that? Is this something you could talk to him about?


His name is Ron Bohonowicz and his email: bohonowiczr@arps.org.


Thanks for the help! Please let me know what you find out.

More From Schools said...

I want to update you on a very important proposal raised at the Amherst Elementary School Committee meeting last night. Following a brief outline of the dire budget situation, the superintendent proposed the pairing of Crocker Farm and Fort River and the pairing of Marks Meadow and Wildwood as a means to achieve a significant cost savings. Under this plan all students currently attending Crocker Farm or Fort River will go to one of the two for the early elementary grades and the other for the intermediate grades; the same holds for Marks Meadow and Wildwood. This was one of the plans discussed by the school reorganization committee last year to reduce the concentration of low income students at Crocker Farm and save money by reducing the number of teachers in some grades.

The Superintendent is setting up a committee to consider this change and perhaps other reconfiguration/cost saving options. This committee will meet on December 29th and 30th and will present their recommendations in January. The superintendent hopes to have a school committee vote in February in order to fit into the budget process.

A small number of parents are invited to serve on the committee. If you are interested in being on this committee and will be in town during the holiday break you can email Superintendent Helen Vivian at vivianh@arps.org. You can also email your concerns, thoughts, and ideas about reconfiguration or cost savings to any of the Amherst School Committee members and/or to the superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Hello LARRY,

Nice job, sneaking into a school. Bring a video camera. Going into a bathroom. You said there were childen in the school. Your a pervert. Maybe the police department should take a look at you!!

LarryK4 said...

I would not describe it as “sneaking.” I walked in the main entryway, as did a few other adults immediately before me. Yeah, there are over 400 children in that school (without hot water) but none were present in the bathroom either time I was there (one hour apart).

When I was appointed and reappointed to the Amherst Redevelopment Authority by three Massachusetts Governors (Weld, Cellucci and Jane Swift) each time it involved an extensive State Police background check that I passed with flying colors.

Anonymous said...

I guess there has to be a first time for everything!

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, that's what the farmer said when his horse died.

Ed Cutting said...

From: elbrighty@amherst.edu
If your email address is blocked, you must have been very inappropriate in an email.

---

For what it is worth, AOL appears to randomly block about 2% of the emails sent from UMass IP addresses. For no apparent reason that anyone can figure out, and totally at random.

Totally random.

Ed Cutting said...

Mass State Whistleblower Act: 149§185

Prohibited Employer Activity: Can not discharge, suspend, demote, or other retaliatory action if employee discloses or threatens to disclose; provides information or testifies; or objects or refuses to participate in violation of law, rule or risk to public health, safety, or environment.

Protection for Public or Private Employees? Public

Opportunity for Employer to Correct? Employee must bring violation to attention of his/her supervisor and afford them the opportunity to correct unless employee a) was certain supervisors know of violation and situation is an emergency, b) reasonably fears physical harm resulting from disclosure or c) unless disclosure is evidence of a crime

Remedies Can file civil action within 2 years of incident, court can give all civil law tort remedies including: temporary restraining order, preliminary/permanent injunction, reinstatement, reinstate full benefits and seniority rights, back pay, benefits, court and attorney's fees

Anonymous said...

"Totally random."


Ed,

Nothing random about what happened.


Also:

Subject: RE: complaint at Fort River School
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 14:49:18 -0400
From: Janet.Mckenna@state.ma.us
To: XXXXXXXX@hotmail.com
CC: Frank.Kramarz@state.ma.us




This is to notify you that our office has received a records request for all documents related to this complaint. Our agency's attorney has advised me to inform you that all emails relative to the complaint are subject to a records request.



Hmmm, I wonder what "they" are planning to do with that information...????

Hmmm...

Hope the person making the complaint ins't a TOWN employee...!!!!


Bad town, BAD TOWN!!!!!!