Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Freedom of the blog? Not in The People's Republic!



UPDATE: 4:15 PM Super Sprague responds...finally.

-----Original Message-----
From: Al Sprague
To: amherstac@aol.com
Cc: Helen Vivian
Sent: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 3:09 pm
Subject: Re: Permission to use the 1'st Amendment

Dear Mr. Kelley:

I’m sorry I was not able to respond to the request you sent at 3:17
p.m. yesterday asking to attend the school committee meeting last night.
Unfortunately, we were in budget planning meetings for the entire
afternoon and did not have an opportunity to check email until this
morning. If you wish to attend public meetings on school property in
the future, please call 362-1810 with as much advance notice as
possible. That is the best way to ensure we will receive your request
in time to consider it.

Al Sprague
Co-Superintendent
##############################################################
Of course my reliable sources tell me the school administration was having a BIG party while watching the inauguration and everybody had to bring in food
either from Hawaii or Kenya (at least they did not send out for pizza at taxpayer expense)
##############################################################
UPDATE: 9:25 AM (Wednesday)
So the local media, swept up in Obama fever, had nothing to offer in their morning edition's of the Regional School Committee meeting last night where if indeed a FY2010 budget was presented makes it an important meeting.

And since I have live blogged a few Select Board meetings in the past or usually if covering a meeting on school property—such as Town Meeting—where there is no free wireless (that costs Ed $30/month) I get my posts up within the hour.

Soooooooo, if I had attended that critical meeting last night you would now be reading my impressions. And yes, I took 'Journalism 101' and watched 'Dragnet', so I know how to relate the facts.

Even if colored with my sometimes (okay, oftentimes) snarky observations, at least you would now be better informed. That is, if I were given permission to attend the meeting.
###################################################################################

Original Post Tuesday 8:00 PM
So I was reminded by email from a blog reader that the Regional School Committee was meeting at 7:00 PM tonight and Acting –Co-Superintendents planned to unveil the FY10 budget, a huge component of Amherst’s $60+ million operation (with some slightly strange ideas for cost savings.)

At 3:17 PM (what we in the private sector refer to as normal business hours) in order to avoid arrest I emailed for permission to attend. It’s now 7:55 PM and no response. Hmm….



-----Original Message-----
From: amherstac@aol.com
To: spraguea@arps.org
Sent: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 3:17 pm
Subject: Permission to use the 1'st Amendment

Alton Sprague, Co-Superintendent Amherst Schools


Please consider this a formal written request for permission to set
foot on Amherst School property--specifically the Amherst Pelham
Regional High School--to attend the Regional School Committee meeting
this evening January 20 at 7:00 PM.

Larry Kelley

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

You still have the freedom to blog. But, you dove the freedom to take pictures in the boy's bathroom.

LarryK4 said...

Actually it was a single picture of a thermometer showing too low a water reading and the only person present with me was a, you know, MAN--the School Principal.

According to the legal trespass notice served at taxpayer expense I "may not be on any school property at any time, or at any school sponsored event, without prior written approval of the Superintendent of schools.

Should you be seen on any school grounds, the police will be called and you will be subject to arrest."

So it makes it kind of hard to blog a meeting with the police dragging you away in cuffs.

Anonymous said...

"So I was reminded by email from a blog reader that the Regional School Committee was meeting at 7:00 PM tonight"

Larry, don't blame them, you have to plan ahead a little better than emailing at the last minute. They don't just sit around waiting for your emails.

Anonymous said...

Haw-Haw!
-Nelson Muntz

LarryK4 said...

Well you would think with an important public meeting this evening he would check email up to the very moment before going out the door.

Ah yes, but he hates the idea of an electronic suggestion box so he's probably not overly fond of email as well.

Tony said...

The school budget unveiling counts as a school sponsored event? Isn't that a public, town meeting about spending town money..?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, they do spend money--big time.

But this is a School Committee meeting (which is indeed supposed to be an Open Public Meeting)and they end up making a budget recommendation to Amherst Town Meeting who gets the final say this Spring.

And yes Town Meeting will meet in the Amherst Middle School, so it will be interesting to see if I get arrested because after this evening's incident I'm not asking permission to attend Open Public Meetings.

Although by this Spring, Acting Co-Superintendent Sprague will be back in retirement at Cape Cod.

Ed said...

You know, under one reading of the law, they would have to reschedule the meeting to a venue that Larry was permitted to attend and to revote everything voted on. This happened some years back in Sunderland with the Police Chief hiring although the circumstances were slightly different.

I still think it would be best for Larry to challenge the trespass order via a threat of a personal Section 1983 Federal lawsuit against the Supt (personally) and that (with his desire to retire to the Cape) might end this quickly.

The problem with all of this is that the trespass law is written as if the entire school system was the personal PRIVATE property of the Superintendent -- and it isn't.

Neil said...

Ed @ 10:52 PM:

Was that so hard, commenting on a post and not mentioning UMass?

Neil said...

Larry, mail Sprague and ask for perpetual permission to attend all town government meetings in school buildings,to which you are entitle access under the law, that you are not allowed to attend under the tresspas order without express permission - SB, Town Meeting, committees, hearings. CC the town manger.

Anonymous said...

"ctually it was a single picture of a thermometer showing too low a water reading and the only person present with me was a, you know, MAN--the School Principal."

According to this blog, you were there 3 times. The last time you were supervised. So, I think you had plenty of access to the bathrooms. But, hey why not make a larger case out of it - destroy your reputation even farther.

Headline:
Kelley seeks access to bathrooms

sub heading
Larry Kelly, 44 seeks unfettered access to elementary school bathrooms so that he can take photographs of ...

LarryK4 said...

Gee, you would make a great journalist spell my name wrong and get my age wrong in the same sentence.

Glad you read the blog closely. Yes, I went in 3 times total. The first time only took video and put my hand in the water (somebody emailed my privately and suggested that was a tad unreliable). But there was no reaction whatsoever from the Schools.

A couple weeks later a second visit with thermometer where the temp read out just under 70 degrees. Instant reaction from school: Super calls and threatens to "have me arrested".

But then calms down and asks if I would report to the office if I "ever set foot" on School property again, OTHERWISE he will get a Trespass Order'.

3'rd visit about two weeks after that. Where I abide by the verbal agreement with the Super (from the 2'nd visit), announce myself at the Front Office and have the School Principal as escort the entire time.

Next day I get the Trespass Order.

Ed said...

Actually, (and I would check with a lawyer on this - Bill Newman of the ACLU comes to mind) one could do this:

Send the Supt a letter, certified mail, that has four parts.

1: You hereby request blanket permission to visit any ARSD property at any time for any legal reason.

2: You make this request in your capacity as an elected Amherst Municipal Official and not only on your behalf but that of your constitutents in Precinct (whatever).

3: Unless you hear otherwise, in writing, within 10 calendar days of your receipt of the return receipt, you will presume that this request has been granted. Reference the public meeting law.

4: I would reference/incorporate the FIRE Letter that went out nationally to lots of colleges (including UMass, Neil)
http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/10134.html
This involves 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 and the PERSONAL liability of public administrators (including Superintendents of Schools).

I would copy this not only to Charlie Scherpa but also to the Sec of State's office. Possibly the DoE and maybe even the Boston DoE OCR office.

Be gracious and give this Supt an opportunity to back down. And if he doesn't, sue him. Wouldn't you like a nice retirement home on the Cape????

And I really would have a lawyer look at the letter before you send it.

Ed said...

One other thing: "or at any school sponsored event"

He doesn't have the authority to do this. His authority under the trespass law only extends to the property which he personally "owns", ie school-owned property.

Look at it this way: Larry Kelly owns the AAC and thus he can trespass someone from that property. Larry can (and does) sponsor a parade -- but Larry can *not* trespass people from the parade even though he is sponsoring it.

Lets say Larry sponsored an event in the VFW hall -- THEY, not he, would be the persons to issue a trespass order. This may be a minor point in that it would be Larry asking someone else to do it, but it is an important point legally.

The Supt of Schools does not have the authority to prohibit anyone from attending "any school sponsored event" not on school property. And Neil, lets say the school makes a field trip to UMass -- the Supt does NOT have the authority to trespass anyone from UM property and the UMPD is quite clear that they and they ALONE have that authority.

He can go to court and get a restraining order, but that is a judicial decree.

Anonymous said...

Larry, Ed is correct. You HAVE TO be at these meetings...

You represent A LOT of people who give a s*it.

Really.

Anonymous said...

"...he was sued for gender discrimination, but cleared. Sprague had reached an agreement to leave the Westfield school system amid criticism of his performance in 1995, and may have been difficult to work with, but his actions did not amount to discrimination, arbitrator Mark L. Irvings wrote in his findings."
We certainly were warned!

LarryK4 said...

Well I can certainly vouch for the "difficult to work with" observation.

And I was not too impressed that they first agreed to do their co-Super routine for Greenfield but then bailed after Amherst made them an offer.

'bach said...

lk...

have you calculated the costs of keeping the water at your preferred temperature. with the town in constant fiscal crisis, you would think saving a few grand on heating water would be a good thing.

i have yet to hear any evidence that the colder water has caused health problems. have you done a comparative analysis of illness in wildwood?

maybe if they ditched cherry hill, it would be a wash?

Anonymous said...

"...he was sued for gender discrimination, but cleared. Sprague had reached an agreement to leave the Westfield school system amid criticism of his performance in 1995, and may have been difficult to work with, but his actions did not amount to discrimination, arbitrator Mark L. Irvings wrote in his findings."


"We certainly were warned!"


Game on!!

LarryK4 said...

Hey Bach,
Actually there is no extra cost going from 86.7 up to 110 degrees.

And I would love to do an analysis (my Umass degree is in Exercise Science) of illness at Wildwood compared to other schools in town that have hot water.

But after the School Committee meeting last week where Kathleen Anderson blurted out that the High School also has no hot water, I’m beginning to wonder if ANY of the schools have hot water.

So it would be hard to compare one school with normal water temperature (you know what you have yours set at in your new home) and the others since they may all be frigidly the same.

Ditch Cherry Hill? Gee, the Town Manager insists it will make $12,000 this coming year.

Of course he fails to mention that FY2010 would be the last year of the Niblick Management contract where Amherst was GUARANTEED $30,000 to privatize the turkey.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ed for your comments, I find them most interesting and valid. Keep them coming. There are grateful residents Ed so again, thanks!

Anonymous said...

"Actually there is no extra cost going from 86.7 up to 110 degrees."

So, how is the water heated - by burning unicorn dung? It takes energy to heat water so, it costs money to heat it from 86 to 110 degrees.

LarryK4 said...

From 150 degrees (which is indeed instantly scalding) you will save 4% for every 10 degrees of decrease. But the savings stops at 110.

Kind of like a car, I guess, where maximum fuel efficiency is attained at a certain MPH and anything over that or UNDER that results in no gas savings.

Notice town officials do not use the energy cost savings argument.

They use the even more scientifically incorrect argument about keeping the temperature below normal body temperature in order to "avoid scalding" (and at 110 that would take quite a LONG while)

Ed said...

Four things:

First, there is an inherent cost to heat water. A calorie (small c) is defined as the amount of heat needed to raise one gram of water one degree centigrade. To determine the exact amount of fuel needed to boost from 80 to 110 degrees (F), one would need to know exactly how much hot water was used, how much heat was lost via pipes and the efficency of the heating system. But if you wanted to spend enough time and money, you could get a fairly accurate figure for at least a snapshot in time.

Larry, the reason why they don't list savings below 110 degrees (think practically here, if you turned the heater off completely you would save more) is because you AREN'T SUPPOSED TO HAVE IT BELOW THAT. This essentially is a state/national standard and some bureaucrat in Boston/Malden forgot to put it into the Schools'R'Us regs...

Second, in a democracy, the temperature of the hot water in a public school is a matter of public policy. In our system of government, the Feds first get to set the policy (Larry, is there a FEDERAL policy on this, possibly as part of the stuff in the 1950s that led to Title 1 and the rest?).

If the Feds don't set the policy, then the state gets to do it. A lot of people, including myself, have trouble believing that the state didn't. They regulate it on everything else but not here?

BUT if they haven't, then I would have absolutely no problem with the School Committee setting the temperature that the water will be. This is just like closing (or not) Mark's Meadow -- they get to vote publicly on doing it and those who don't like it can run against them in the next election.

Third, IF you are going to make decisions like this, if you are making policy decisions, you gotta do them IN PUBLIC in a FORMAL MEETING. You don't just do it and then deny you have done it, which appears to be the case here.

Personally, I don't know what the ideal temperature, the balance between comfort and cost, between having this or having something else would be. UMass lived for years with leaking roofs and buckets, Lombardi fixed many but left a major budget mess as a result. These are the inherent things that become public policy debates.

Fourth, shooting the messenger does not solve the problem. Exiling him does no more than the Czars exiling folk to Siberia prevented the Russian Revolution.

Larry raised an issue. The way to deal with it is to either say that "Larry, you are wrong" or "Larry you are outvoted." This is the "good government" approach, this is how the system is supposed to work.

-----

The Amherst Town Meeting voted for the impeachment of Bush/Cheney. Imagine if Team Bush had responded to that criticism the way that this Superintendent responded to this criticism. Enough said?

Anonymous said...

An evil thought:

Larry Kelly for School Committee...

School committee meetings are school sponsored events and it would be grounds for termination for the Supt to exclude a committee member from a meeting.....

Anonymous said...

"Larry Kelly for School Committee..."


YES WE CAN!!!!!!

LarryK4 said...

Hey Ed,
Actually the interesting thing is according to Director of Facilities, Ron Bohonowicz memo to Super Sprague “the domestic hot water tank stores approximately 575 gallons. The hot water in the tank is maintained at approximately 160 degrees”.

Then there are two routes for it to take: one to the kitchen and another to the bathrooms regulated by mixing valves which cools the water going to the restrooms. So to BRING DOWN the temperature to the restrooms they need to mix in MORE cold water.

And these days, in the People’s Republic of Amherst, water is not cheap.

So by using more cold water to reduce the original temperature they increase payment to the town’s water/sewer fund, as the schools pay the same water rate as everybody else.

Anonymous said...

"So by using more cold water to reduce the original temperature they increase payment to the town’s water/sewer fund, as the schools pay the same water rate as everybody else."

Nice try. I can see why you didn't become s plumber like your father. There's a finite amount of water coming out of the faucet. It just has some cold water replacing some of the hot water, instead of being all hot water. The pipe is a finite diameter so less hot water is used. It's like pouring half a cup of water for tea and adding half a cup of cold water to cool it down. It's still a cup, not double the total amount of water.

'bach said...

lk is the plumbers son?

now it is coming clear.

'bach said...

larry the plumber for mayor!

;)

LarryK4 said...

Anon 4:27 Yeah it is a tad embarrassing that my Dad, his Dad and his Dad before him were all plumbers in Amherst and my Great, Great Grandfather was a "domestic" for Miss Emily (which I'm sure involved plumbing) yet when my toilet is on the fritz, I call Pickering.

Glad you cleared that up. Either way as 'Bach would say "It's a wash": No freakin difference in cost between keeping water temperature at 86.7 or 110.

Anonymous said...

That I would agree with you because the water has already been heated and then is cooled back down. So the cost of heating it has already been paid.

Ed said...

The question I have is if this mixing valve is permitting the 160 degree HOT hot water to backflow into the cold water supply. This was considered acceptable back in the 1950s because oil was cheap and no one really cared if you were heating the water being flushed down the toilet, you saved having to have two separate water heaters.

That was then - back when combined sewer overflows (CFOs) were considered good things, along with DDT and lead paint...

For at least the past 20 years folks have been trying to find these "mixing valves" (aka "cross connections") and either remove them and/or install backflow preventing devices. The reason is simple: oil isn't cheap anymore and hence wasting it to heat the Atkins isn't cool anymore.

Now I am an inspector and not a plumber, but it seems to me that the district could save a whole chunk of change if it was to drop a couple hundred to have a licensed plumber bring this up to current code. Think about it, if you have your hot water flowing into the cold, you have to put a LOT of unnecessary heat into it so as to keep it up to 160 degrees.

And with the dramatic drop in the price of freestanding hot water heaters, it may well be cost effective (full financial recovery in 2-4 years) to cut the hot water line beyond the kitchen and heat the bathroom water off a separate hot water heater. WalMart, always cost conscious, does exactly this, as do some McDonalds...

Anonymous said...

"Hey Bach,
Actually there is no extra cost going from 86.7 up to 110 degrees. "

Wrong. BTU's cost money/fuel. Simple math. Any rise in temp requires a transfer of heat, no matter what the difference.

Anonymous said...

Larry.


School Committee.


It's time.


Please.

LarryK4 said...

Anon 7:48 PM (pay attention Nitwit)

According to the Director of Facilities, Ron Bohonowicz the water STARTS at 160 degrees (interestingly the Health Department agent did not check that and it damn well better be because of the threat of Legionella) and is then cooled down to 86.7.

The transfer of heat is in the opposite direction, Nitwit

Anonymous said...

Back to name calling? How can people have an honest discourse with you if it always degenerates into name calling.

LarryK4 said...

Because if you don't pay attention--as in read the post and follow up Comments--don't bother leaving an uniformed Comment.

Indeed, there is no such thing as a stupid question. But that Nitwit (or maybe it was you) made a declarative statement (based on ignorance by being to lazy to read the material).

Ed said...

> If you wish to attend public
> meetings on school property in
> the future, please call 362-1810

Oh, My, God....

I almost missed this, but this is such a legal landmine that it is not funny. The word "entrapment" comes to mind.

The trespass order is in writing, but the Supt wants to have the exceptions verbal. In a 2-party recording state so that Larry has absolutely no legal proof that he got the permission, he can't even tape the call.

This is called a set up.

Larry, you need to sue the school district. At the very least, challenge last night's meeting under the public meeting law. I somehow suspect that the board members will be p****** enough to tell the Supt to end this charade.

Anonymous said...

Larry, I wouldn't be too quick to call some0ne a nitwit. It takes energy to heat water. How do you think the water got to 160 degrees in the first place?

When the hot water flows to the tap it is no longer in the water tank. So, it must be replaced by cold water. To become hot water the cold water must be heated which of course takes energy.

Mark Wheaton

Anonymous said...

Larry,

I wouldn't be so quick to call someone a nitwit period. This is a bad habit that you should break yourself of.

LarryK4 said...

Yes Mark the water must be heated to 160 after that everything is pretty much free of cost. 86.7 or 110 degrees at the bathrooms makes no difference. Because by that point it's simply mixing in cold water (that has no energy costs).

People who don't pay attention are Nitwits. I'll try to use it judiciously.

Anonymous said...

"Yes Mark the water must be heated to 160 after that everything is pretty much free of cost. 86.7 or 110 degrees at the bathrooms makes no difference. Because by that point it's simply mixing in cold water (that has no energy costs)."


Beautiful. Bulls-eye.



"This is called a set up.

Larry, you need to sue the school district. At the very least, challenge last night's meeting under the public meeting law. I somehow suspect that the board members will be p****** enough to tell the Supt to end this charade."


Do this. Or, become a member of the school committee.


"According to the Director of Facilities, Ron Bohonowicz the water STARTS at 160 degrees (interestingly the Health Department agent did not check that and it damn well better be because of the threat of Legionella) and is then cooled down to 86.7."


They need to come back... and also take into consideration the pre-boost temps that Larry encountered (and documented). The school was clearly in violation. R.B. needs to be held accountable. Enough of the games...

LarryK4 said...

I actually did run for School Committee 3 or 4 years ago pretty much to provide close air cover for Alisa Brewer as Czar Awad had put up a Frank Gatti to replace her (the Far Left doesn't like the "sensible center").

I withdrew from the race a week or two before the election and publicly threw my support to Brewer (who won handily) but I still ended up with a ton of votes.

So, hmmm, well, never say never.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have kids in the Amherst schools it wouldn't be appropriate.

Ed said...

I disagree -- and actually believe that members of the school committee should NOT have children in the schools during the time they serve.

It is called conflict of interest -- and it goes both ways. On the one hand, if you are a board member and some schmuck gives your kid a hard time - be it a teacher, school bus driver or another child - are you calling the principal as an upset parent or as his boss?

On the other hand, what parent doesn't want the best for his/her/its child? So thus where is the line between advocating for your child and showing undue influence as a board member?

I don't think that teachers should live in the district, nor that administrators/board members should have their children in their schools. I have seen too many problems and even the most ethical and idealistic person runs into problems -- often disadvantaging their own children because of their need to be impartial.

Larry is a long-term town resident and a business owner. And taxpayer. He is an ideal board member....

Anonymous said...

Yesterday please, Larry...

Anonymous said...

Yes, please run. Everyone will vote for you if you do a campaign poster in your super-hero costume. Red tights, blue leotard, cape, and a big white "W" on your chest (or maybe it would be an "H". Which letter was it when you were taking unauthorized photos in the Wildwood boys' room that third time?)

Trimegistus said...

I find it fascinating how many people apparently have nothing better to do than anonymously insult Larry and criticize him for pointing out shortcomings in Amherst town government. How many of those anon comments are coming from the Amherst town offices?