Thursday, March 26, 2009

Citizens to School Committee: Et tu, Brute?

Nero fiddles while Rome burns

Closing Marks Meadow Elementary School, thus saving $600,000 annually combined with teachers pay raise giveback this coming Fiscal Year, thus saving $1.2 million, are simple solution to the current School budget crisis.

Yes, closing an entire school is not easy.

And after teachers discover that the proposed new Superintendent is being offered almost 20% more than the previous superstar Jere Hochman, the chances of a pay raise giveback are almost impossible.

And of course that also has a ripple effect swamping the chances of a townside (police, fire, DPW) giveback as well, which the Town Manager has already requested in writing.

Outgoing School Committee member Elaine Brighty said that Mr. Hochman was a “rare event” and the town was “spoiled” by his divine presence. He came in at controversial $135,000 to replace Gus Sayer who was making $104,000 before his sudden “retirement.”

But to his credit Hochman never accepted a raise over his five-year tenure, although he did leave rather suddenly for twice the pay to Bedford N.Y.

And Town Manager Larry Shaffer has already stated he will not be accepting a raise this coming year --although he will not be happy that the new Super will be making W-A-Y more money.

When Hochman came in with his pay boost for the position the first thing previous Town Manager Barry Del Castilho did was whine for a pay raise, which the Select Board granted mid-year, because his ego was bruised.

Considering this is the same School Committee who hired acting co-superintendents Alton Sprague and Helen Vivian for the same $135,000 we were paying Hochman and did not even bother to put in the one-year contract that if you resign your pay ends that day. So as a result taxpayers had to give them $22,500 after their sudden resignation.

One parent has already threatened that if Alberto Rodriguez’s contract is greater than $135,000 she will organize a Boston Tea Party and burn tax bills in a hibachi in front of the Superintendents office.

I’ll be there with my camera and some hot dogs—tofu dogs of course.

The Bully Reports (faster than ever)


Anonymous said...

This is what we like about this blog: it's called Vigilance With an Edge.

What we don't like is when Larry personally insults the guests in the Comments section.

And the result is that the quality of the dialogue there has deteriorated.

Just compare with the Comments section for this blog one year ago: a lot of the constructive talkers have left. Too bad.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

Larry, do you have the details on the new super's salary? Or his current salary as principal down in Miami-Dade? I certainly hope, given this current budget crisis, that we will not be paying Dr. Rodriguez more than 3.5% (i.e. the amount of cost of living raise our teachers are getting) over the $135K we paid Dr. Hochman.

Anonymous said...

Larry, Do you read the Sanderson/Venman blogs? All people seem to want to do is analyze the SPED budget. Hopefully, with the intent of finding additional revenue for services provided "students in need". Yeah, right! Or maybe to better allocate resources so that those whose school day is just "slightly" more difficult are better assisted. One can only hope.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Alison,

Yeah, I have the deleterious details but can’t get complete corroboration to publish the exact numbers.

If you think the OVER 20% payraise is bad, just wait until you see the “housing/transportation” allowance ON TOP of that. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:41 -- But isn't this Blog much more entertaining? Reading it can even bring a smile. And some people can even laugh at themselves. Very refreshing. Unlike some Amherst blogs which upon reading can actually result in a headache.

Anonymous said...

"Just compare with the Comments section for this blog one year ago: a lot of the constructive talkers have left."

You friggan wish...

LarryK4 said...

Anon 11:41 AM

Since you have been coming here for over a year I’m surprised that you don’t get my demographic: about one-third of the local folks come here HOPING I make a mistake and they can trumpet it to the world at large.

Another one-third of the local folks come here because they LOVE my ballsy stands on any particular issue.

And the other third are from outside Amherst (sometimes W-A-Y outside) who comes here simply for a chuckle or two.

My goal as a columnist for the crusty Amherst Bulletin over 14 years was 50/50, meaning I hoped half the readers loved it and the other half hated it.

A Realist said...

Here's a more realistic breakdown of your demographics:

5% - "The Choir" - this is the group of locals who you preach your damn-the-facts-full-speed-ahead, gotta-show-'em-who's-the-boss LK Gospel to and they say "Amen"

10% "The Smarty Pants" - this is the group that tunes in to see if they can trip you up, trade insults with you, or - god forbid - try to get you to "see the light" and change the content/format of your blog (good luck with THAT!). Amherst has more than its share of these arrogant, professorial types who always fail to see that they are nothing more than the flip side of the same Larry Kelley coin so there's never a shortage of "new meat" in this group if/when the old meat gets frustrated or disgusted and moves on.

85% "The Rubber Neckers" - this is by far the largest section of your demographic & these are the folks who tune in to be entertained by the on-going theater that they find in your blog. Each of them secretly hopes that they will get to be witness to a real juicy chapter (the trespass order was the most recent example...that was a VERY entertaining chapter!) in the on-going saga that is "The Life and Times of Larry Kelley: Town Tough Guy"

The back & forth between you and your choir members is always good for a "chuckle or two" as you said - it's easy to believe at times that your "Band of Four" is some sort of Moral Majority with how you can tend to support each other back & forth and then get whipped up into a things-must-change, grab-the-pitchforks-and-storm-the-castle frenzy over the most trivial of things (hot water @ Wildwood?...must have been a slow news week, eh?)

In the end, however, I have to agree with Anon 11:41 re: the observation that your blog has changed for the worse with the increased reliance on "The Choir" to fill your comments section and, as a result, you have lost some of your teeth as a Town Watchdog and a whole lot of your relevance when it comes to being a part of the swirl of day-to-day life here in Amherst. Which is kind of unfortunate because, done right (see Catherine Sanderson's blog for an example of this) you could indeed be helping to shine some light into places that need that type of strong disinfectant. Instead, you continue to waste your time on unimportant items that simply serve to feed the monster of "controversy and tough-guy swagger" that you've created for yourself and that your Choir has come to expect and demand from you. What a waste of a potentially great resource for Amherst.

LarryK4 said...

And I'm supposed to know that you are not the same person as Anon 11:41 AM, exactly how?

You would think somebody who took the time to write such an intricate (although incorrect) analysis/comment would have the balls (or ovaries as the case may be) to leave their name.

My sitemeter is open for public perusal. Feel free to check it out. (WELL over half my hits comes from outside Amherst)

Anonymous said...

"What a waste of a potentially great resource for Amherst."

"...grab-the-pitchforks-and-storm-the-castle frenzy over the most trivial of things (hot water @ Wildwood?...must have been a slow news week, eh?)"

Yeah and you, ~you've~ been trying to "recast" Larry Kelly SINCE he was "trespassed" (so-long to that asshole)... which is so telling...

And now you're at it again.

I suspect you've got your greasy little fingers deep in the town's cookie jar... remember, as you said, you know the folks here, you know the folks there...

Yeah I bet you do... vipers have a way of slipping into many cracks.

Time to move along... or, it will be, very very shortly. The days of the cover-ups are over.


Anonymous said...

"remember, as you said, you know the folks here, you know the folks there..."

That is if you're the same person who used to post as "Realist"...

A Realist said...

Yeah, same guy. And I see that you're still a member of LK's "Chorus", hoping that he can somehow exact some revenge on the Schools for you b/c of your having been let go by Ron B/Pete C. Kinda sad. And speaking of balls (or ovaries?) - how is it that you, a charter member of the LK Chorus, can continue to blog under the Anonymous banner without penalty from LK and the rest of the Chorus? Seems like a bit of a double-standard to me...

And your viper/greasy fingers comments only solidify what Anon 11:41 said earlier (and, for the record, no we are not one and the same guy...sorry) - that any semi-reasonable comments/voices get shouted down, insulted, and otherwise bullied into silence. That's not a very effective way to create "change in the way things are done" if that is indeed your goal with this blog. Just an observation.

And I don't know how the fact that well over half of your site's visitors are from outside of Amherst MEANS anything...rubber-neckers are EVERYWHERE!

LarryK4 said...

Not really a double standard.

Because it is far easier to agree with somebody than it is to criticize them.

And it is W-A-Y easier to criticize while cloaked under a cowardly pseudonym.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, same guy."

That's right.

Hey, what's new down the maint/trans. dept?? Hmm? They sweating down there?

Hey, why not get a picture of Peter at his desk? You can keep it in your wallet... you know, remember the "good times".

"hoping that he can somehow exact some revenge on the Schools for you b/c of your having been let go by Ron B/Pete C. Kinda sad."


(BTW my slippery, heartless friend, it's over.)

A Realist said...

This is too funny...who the heck do you think I am?!?! You can keep on with the "it's over" (cue the scary music) comments until the cows come home but that won't change the fact that I have zero, nada, zilch to do with either the Town or the Schools (other than having two children who went through the Amherst Schools many years ago). I am semi-comfortably retired from owning/managing several small businesses (hard to be truly "comfortable" in this economy) and find this "hobby" to be more engaging & fun than doing Sudokus and crossword puzzles. Sorry to put a pin in your conspiracy theories but all you have here is a guy making some observations from the peanut gallery. Nothing more, nothing less.

And when you get right down to it...near as I can tell, you only have 2-3 truly UN-anonymous bloggers at this site: Alison, Rich Morse, and yourself. Everyone else is basically "unknown" to the readers (including the ubiquitous "Ed" who could actually be a nom-de-plume for some 70 year-old woman from Topeka named "Gertrude"). On-line personalities & identities are established through the consistent use of the same "stage name" (mine being "A Realist") - anything more than that is unnecessary, unless you are the Site Steward (LK in this case) in which case it is helpful to the reader to know if/when you are throwing in your two cents.

Still interesting to me that you defend Mr. It's Over's right to stay anonymous - implying that his selfish, fear-based reasons for staying Anon are somehow more "legit" than other people's similarly based reasons.

Anonymous said...

It's Anon 11:41 back again after posting just the first comment earlier this morning.

No, I'm not the Realist.

But I do rest my case about the deterioration of conversation on this blog, with many in the string of comments today as Exhibit "A".

The point is that Larry's daily blog entries and the attempts at muckraking are in fact very fun to read. The filmed bikerides between the speed cushions on Lincoln Avenue and over the potholes on Hulst Road were two of my favorites.

Larry has accomplished one thing: you do feel the compulsion to peek regularly to see what he's up to. If attention-getting is his prime objective, he's succeeded. But in other respects, he's making a serious mistake.

The personal slamming of commenters who do sign their names, AND the really cruel remarks about some people in town (like the stupid, truly self-defeating fat jokes made about a former Select Board member last week, even as he was lauding her self-restraint on business matters that might be seen as a conflict) will result in the inevitable: the steady slide into the Amherst equivalent of Masslive Forum, and its corresponding level of relevance in the public discourse.

Fortunately, the lady bloggers in town seem instinctively to understand this: if you treat the guests on your blog like dirt, the constructive commenters will leave.

LarryK4 said...

Hmmm... So again I have back-to-back Anonymous criticisms from individuals who are ANONYMOUS.

And the most recent Nitwit insists that if "I treat the guests on your blog like dirt, the constructive commenters will leave."

Well Nitwit, you are not a "guest" as I did not personally invite you here. And you are far from "constructive." Go start your own blog.

JWolfe said...

Back to the original post:

You mentioned a transportation and housing allowance. Why would our superintendent need a transportation allowance? And, since when do we pay for school administrators' housing? Isn't that what his seemingly very high salary is for?

What gives?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, good point.

I know (because I obtained a copy of the contract under Public Documents Law) the Town Manager was paid a ONE TIME $5,000 moving expense and in addition to his $125,000 annual salary has a $350/month cell phone/automobile allowance. But nothing for housing.

A dollar is a dollar is a dollar. Don't matter if you call most of it "salary" and some of it "housing/transportation", it all adds up to a burden on the overburdened taxpayers.

LarryK4 said...

And folks are really going to freak when the find out the housing/transportation allowance alone is greater than a 10% raise over what we were paying Hochman.

Anonymous said...

I see a bad moon a-risin' on the Superintendent's compensation.

Once Diversity figures out how badly a community wants Diversity, Diversity exacts its price.

AIG, meet the Amherst School Committee.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and notice Michael Hussin Chair of the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee already signed the contract and sent it to him for his John Hancock (probably Fed Ex overnight).

Thus telegraphing that we are desperate for his almighty services (at W-A-Y too high a price).

Anonymous said...

Any guesses on what the salary will be? Your 20% increase takes it to $160,000+.

I predict that the masses will break out the Molotov cocktails and begin overturning cars downtown at $145,000-$150,000+.

Anonymous said...

"And it is W-A-Y easier to criticize while cloaked under a cowardly pseudonym."

I think it's interesting that anonymous posters rarely call you names but you call them cowards, nitwits, etc. Despite their being anonymous, they usually are better behaved than you are.

LarryK4 said...

Jesus, you are a freakin nitwit. Get the Hell out of my way, will ya!

Anon 9:52 PM (the good one):

Unconfirmed. But I would bet my life--not my wife or daughters of course--on it: $158,000

And that does NOT include housing/transportation allowance.

And yeah, there should be a HUGE reaction.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is Amherst. Bullhorns are standard issue tools.

And perhaps enough folk with them outside his "housing allowance" home would encourage him to go back to Miami...

After all, this is Amherst, this is how things are done here.....

Anonymous said...

"Jesus, you are a freakin nitwit. Get the Hell out of my way, will ya"

Your kids have a wonderful role model.

LarryK4 said...

They are safely in bed A__hole.

Anonymous said...

As a town meeting member you are one of our elected officials. I am sorry to see we have elected one that is so intolerant and rude to others. Pity.

Anonymous said...

It is one thing to have a strong opinion, that is a sign of deeply held beliefs. Name calling on the other hand is a sign of immaturity.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, an "elected" Town Meeting member (since 1991 I might add).

And this coming election we have contests in 2 out of 10 Precincts for 3 year seats-- meaning 64 folks (over one-quarter Town Meeting total membership) are guaranteed election with just their own vote.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, the negativity on this blog makes it exhausting to read. Obvious solution: I'm going to stop reading it! Why, WHY, does LK and everyone waste their time here. Any that goes for me too. Must. Stop. Typing. Now.

LarryK4 said...

Hey, at least rubbernecking Anons don't have to worry about rear end collisions

Anonymous said...

I love to read people complain about this blog. They come back again and again to say how much they hate it. They don't realize how funny that is to the rest of us.
I don't agreee with everything Larry posts but I often find out some bit of info I won't find elsewhere, at least not for a few days. Just like all the other Amherst blogs, take it or leave it.

Anonymous said...

So you are quite right in assuming that the Town's Non-school employees will not agree to give up any of their cost of living increases. This group of employees has said repeatedly they are willing to share the pain, but the sharing must be with the school employees as well. The current direction that the Town is going is to give everthing to the school and throw scraps to the Town employees and watch them wither and fade away.

$158,000 with a housing and transportation allowance!

Anonymous said...

C'mon people, this is to be Superintendent. How much do you think he should earn to move here from another state? $25,000? Get real. Presidents of colleges earn $500,000 to $1 million-plus. This isn't 1955 anymore. Houses cost a half a million not $20,000.

LarryK4 said...

Maryland, a state with almost the same population and geographic size as Massachusetts, has 32 school districts; Massachusetts has 375.

And of course each district has a Superintendent who makes over $100-K. What a scam.

Anonymous said...

So let's take Amherst's top-rated schools and put them in the same district with Hadley, Belchertown, and Greenfield. That's a loser of an idea.