Friday, April 30, 2010

Fleeting Fame

So apparently Wikipedia doesn't set very high hurdles for inclusion as a "historical" or just plain "notable" figure living in town as none other than Andrew Churchill (no relation to Winston) just made both lists, with his only cited claim to fame that he served on the School Committee until 2010.

No mention of course that under his watch the School Committee convinced Amherst Town Meeting to purchase two portable classrooms for Mark's Meadow Elementary School (where he had a child attending) for $215,000 that were never actually used for classrooms and will be auctioned as "surplus" at great loss.

Or that he rubber stamped the hiring of interim co-superintendents Alton Sprague and his wife Helen Vivian for $125,000 saying ""The Vivian/Sprague team really seemed to understand what we need in an interim superintendent - keep the trains running, keep communications open with the community, keep moving forward on our existing goals, and set things up well for the permanent superintendent next year."

The Co-Supers flew the coop four months early due to medical issues yet still collected full pay for the entire one-year contract. And as for keeping "communications open with the community" Mr. Sprague brusquely rejected the suggestion of an on-line suggestion box saying that in his 40 years of education experience "nothing good has come from a suggestion box."

During the School Committee vote on the suggestion box issue Mr. Decisive distinguished himself by voting No, but admitted: "I guess I'm going to vote against it, even though I support it, even though that's lame."

Churchill was also chair of the Amherst School Committee when the Regional Committee hired Alberto Rodriguez at 20% over the previous Superintendent and he too lasted only 8 months, but is still collecting his generous salary with checks being mailed to Florida.

And no mention that Andy co-writes a bland, milktoast, snoozer of a column for the venerable Amherst Bulletin--although that column has recently been axed.

Since the standards to inclusion now seem somewhat diminished, I'll just nominate my own person, Bill Elsasser. At least his paranoid schizophrenia has no agenda.

Wikipedia reports about all things Amherst


Anonymous said...

Using mentally ill people for your lampoon of wikipedia is completely tasteful, insensitive and inappropriate. Three strikes and you're out.

LarryK4 said...

Oh, I don't think Bill would mind in the least. He's a VERY public kind of guy.

He has been described a number of times in the print media as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

And I think you meant to say "distasteful", so I guess that only makes it two strikes.

Batter still up!

Anonymous said...

The batter deserves a hard one up and in.

LarryK4 said...

Bring it there Anon, bring it on.

Anonymous said...

When you draw attention to the fact that Andy Churchill is placed on the same list with Chinua Achebe on wikipedia, you have delivered a crushing blow to that particular Internet institution.

Amherst Center is going out with a whimper rather than a bang. Anybody remember why they were given a regular column in the first place?

LarryK4 said...

Working for free had something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

South Hadley schools chief to keep job

By Marie Szaniszlo
Saturday, May 1, 2010

Embattled South Hadley School Superintendent Gus Sayer’s $125,000-a-year contract extension - approved in a closed vote - drew fire from critics who have called for him and Principal Dan Smith to step down over their handling of the Phoebe Prince case.

“The school committee has to figure out they don’t work for Gus Sayer and Dan Smith; they work for the community,” said family friend Darby O’Brien. “Nobody’s holding them accountable.”

Sayer’s lucrative deal would automatically have renewed for another year, if no action had been taken. But the committee met in a closed session this week and unanimously voted to extend it.

“While Dr. Sayer demonstrates the utmost in personal integrity, he has struggled this year under the intense scrutiny of recent months in the area of public communication,” the committee acknowledged in a recent evaluation.

“Despite this, Dr. Sayer has maintained a professional and respectful tone to everyone, including his harshest critics, which speaks to the strengths of his character.”

On a scale of one to five, the school committee gave Sayer a 4.4 for educational leadership, but only 3.6 for community relations. He got a 4.8 for both his relationship with the school committee and for personal qualities.

Neither committee Chairwoman JoAnn L. Jordan nor Sayer returned calls yesterday.

Prince, 15, a high school freshman who had moved to South Hadley from Ireland last summer, hanged herself Jan. 14 after what prosecutors have described as months of relentless bullying.

Six students have been indicted in connection with the case, which led to the state Legislature’s passage Thursday of a landmark anti-bullying bill.

Anonymous said...

Friend of Prince family reports being threatened

April 28, 2010 11:36 AM

By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff

A friend of the family of Phoebe Prince who has publicly criticized South Hadley school officials said today he has been threatened in recent weeks.

But Darby O'Brien said he cannot directly link all three threats to the Prince controversy, and he also said that he has not formally reported any of the information to police.

Prince, 15, hanged herself in January after what Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel has said was three months of bullying by two groups of fellow students at South Hadley High School.

Administrators have been accused by residents – including O'Brien -- of not having done enough to protect her. Six former students at the school have pleaded not guilty to felony charges.

The Globe reported today that South Hadley school officials have drafted a new antibullying policy that requires all staff members to report "any bullying they see or learn about" and pledges to "promptly and reasonably" investigate any allegation of harassment.

In a telephone interview today, O'Brien said his brother was told by a fellow runner at the St. Patrick's Day road race in Holyoke that O'Brien was going to be "whacked."

The second incident was an unsigned letter sent to his home. The letter urged O'Brien to redirect his criticism of South Hadley school administration and school committee to another school official while urging the Holyoke native to return to the city of his birth.

The most recent incident occurred sometime in early April as he was walking his dog at night in his South Hadley neighborhood, using the same route he has for years, he said.

"A car came flying up the road and went up over the grass and missed me by inches," he said. "That was a little odd. I haven't run into that before. ... But I don’t know whether that was related. I was also wearing my New York Yankee hat. It could've been a Red Sox fan."

O'Brien said he does not believe he or his extended family – he is one of 11 children – are at risk.

"I expected to take some heat for taking the stand that I have," he said. "I am not worried about it. There are a lot of emotions going on" in South Hadley.

Anonymous said...

Incubated in Amherst, exported, protected and thriving in S Hadley...

Nice work, Kathryn Mazur.

Anonymous said...

O'Brien is a long time, well known, bogus, grandstanding gasbag. Even the Prince family has denied that he represents them.

Anonymous said...

"O'Brien is a long time, well known, bogus, grandstanding gasbag."

I guess every community has a Larry-like character to call their own.

LarryK4 said...

Ones that don't feel the need to hide under the cloak of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry,

From today's Boston Globe:

Despite much support, many charter schools not making the grade

...for all their support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests, according to experts citing years of research.

Last year one of the most comprehensive studies, by researchers from Stanford University, found that less than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered the same education, and more than a third, 37 percent, were “significantly worse.’’

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Charter Schools. I don't think anyone argues that the curriculum is different. The mindset of the parents and students is different. That's why they produce high achievers. It's not about the buildings, it's not about the books. It's the mindset going in the front door.

Anonymous said...

hey larry....
to use someone with a major mental about as insesitive as you have ever state: "Oh, I don't think Bill would mind in the least. He's a VERY public kind of guy."
did you ask him ? or just think in your narcesstic way....
you should be ashamed of yourself...but when someone wants to talk about a loser or an idiot or someone who knows nothing then i guess we have your permission to use your picture.....
being someone who works with prople with mental illness....using a film of bill was the lowest you have reached..

Anonymous said...

I thought long and hard about this, and I will state this: I truly despise people like Bill Elsasser.

He doesn't have to do things like "crawl across crowded streets on his stomach", he may have a great deal of difficulty not doing it, he may need a great deal of assistance in not doing it, but he doesn't have to do it.

There are a large number of people with mental health issues (let's not use the Orwellian term "behavioral health") who are working very hard to fit into normal society. Who manage to more-or-less function within accepted social norms when in public -- they may well be quite crazy in private, but in public they do that which is necessary for them to function as a normal productive member of society.

These are the people who are leaving the Section 8 Program because they now have a good job. These are the people quietly fighting with the SPED folks in an attempt to spare their children the personal hell they grew up through. These are the people whom you would never know anything about until they trust you enough to tell you.

To these people, who aren't disrupting the community, folk like Bill Elsasser are a grotesque insult. To have him be the face of mental illness is not unlike having that child-molesting principal be the face of American education. It serves to excerbate a bigoted prejudicial sterotype.

Subject to laws promoting public order (and blocking traffic by crawling across the street is one) he has the right to be crazy in public. But we do not have to reward him for it, we should not encourage him to do it.

The proper response from the Slectboard would have been "it will be great when you can learn to put your pants on in the morning, and we would love to hear when you can." Because there are a lot of people, such as those who have had a stroke, who work really hard at that, manage it, and then have the value of what they worked so hard at dismembered by Bill Elsasser.

And if this is beating up on the disabled, so be it. We have a cadre of people in the valley, a large number of them in Amherst, who milk a legitimate into a sense of entitlement and a license to do whatever they want notwithstanding everything else. And in doing this, they create a hard line between crazy and sane, thus forcing those who both have mental health issues and are functional to fall through the cracks.

I say treat Bill Elsasser just like you would a drunken UMass student. Address the conduct, not the disability, and arrest him. Frequently if necessary.

His narcassistic behavior should not be rewarded...

Anonymous said...

Exactly what would you arrest him for? Being different? Cleaning the streets?

Anonymous said...

Bill Elsasser for Amherst mayor!

Campaign slogan: "One of you."

Anonymous said...

May 2, 2010 8:45 AM

Right on the money.

Fck Amherst.

A.N.W. said...

you're an idiot, and a man who obviously needs (thrives off of having) an enemies list.

Anonymous said...

Annonymous May 2, 2010 8:45 AM

Very well said. Thank you for saying this, it needs to be said and you did it eloquently. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Bill spends countless hours making our town more beautiful. Larry and his drones just spread their ugliness. I didn't think it was possible, but you have sunk to a new low.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous May 2, 2010 4:09 PM said:

"Blah blah blah blahhhhhhh."

No fears, a couple of Prozac tablets'll take care of that disgust.

They're in your child's night-stand's drawer.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what would you arrest him for? Being different? Cleaning the streets?

"Disturbing the Community" which essentially is what the UM students are arrested for. Want more specifics - how about "obstructing traffic"?

Anonymous said...

Exactly what would you arrest him for? Being different? Cleaning the streets?

"Disturbing the Community" which essentially is what the UM students are arrested for. Want more specifics - how about "obstructing traffic"?

Or better yet, let's go for broke in this Clockwork Orange world and license some of the irate motorists stuck in his traffic jams to go kick the s**t out of him. You want a breakdown of social order, lets have a complete breakdown of social order.

Lets see if people interfering with his life, the way he interferes with those of others, would lead him to be a little less visibly crazy.

Let's see some good-old-boys go through Downtown Amherst & Northamption in a real-life imitation of the "Naked Gun" movies and just punch every panhandler and ner-do-well that accosts them. Let's see them express their honest opinions of those with the alternate sexualities. Lets see what happens when everyone starts acting like a select few do.

What we will see is utte And it won't be pretty. And that is why we ought not tolerate some doing the stuff that Bill does, lest we want all to do it.

Anonymous said...


I think you and some of your readers who are disgusted with Bill are taking a page out of the Adolph's book. Didn't he want to get rid of the metallay ill as well, for living off society. In fact, didn't he want just one super race. I'm hearing that thinking here.

Doesn't surprise me though. What does surprise me is that when things slow down in Amherst a bit, Larry goes malicious. He's looking to simply beat the shit out some locals with whom he disagrees. It's a slow news day in Amherst so Larry goes hunting for people to attack. That's a bully mentality, an insecure person who has to beat up on others to prove his worth to himself.

Have you no self respect, man? What drives a person to continue to berate people who have served the community and left office.

Let it go, for god's sake. What is wrong with you. Your utter lack of regard for a fellow human being disgusts me. Why do you even live among other people. You seem to hate them so much. I've never encountered so much hate for so little reason.

Bill has far more dignity and intelligence than all of you assholes combined.

LarryK4 said...

Actually, I like Bill and honestly thing he's done more for Amherst--in a Hippocratic sort of way--than Mr. Churchill.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, I get it! First do no harm. Very good!

Anonymous said...

"Actually, I like Bill and honestly thing he's done more for Amherst--in a Hippocratic sort of way--than Mr. Churchill."

Me too, I mean, he's helped so many here realize they're not alone being god.

Anonymous said...

I think the slow news day comment is right on target.

Mr. Churchill is no longer a public official but you are still slamming him just to get ten seconds of attention.

If you want good people to serve our town they are never going to do it (for free no less) if narcissistic attention seekers try to demonize them even when they are out of office.

LarryK4 said...

Oh come on, Andy is still a public figure. Hell, he made the list of "notable residents" living in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Were you not on the list Larry? Is that really what this is all about?

And btw, for those that keep referring to Bill living off the system...if you listen to the video clip, he actually has a trust fund. He has used his personal funds to provide flowers to beautify the downtown area. I, for one, am grateful to him for this and the fact that he chooses to clean up the sidewalks. He's not sitting outside the liquor store asking for handouts as some other sad souls do.

LarryK4 said...

Considering some of the people on the list, I'm not so sure I would use it on my resume if I were to appear there.

And I'm well aware Bill has a trust fund.

I believe Gerry Weiss is the state authorized social worker in charge of overseeing him, so I always thought it maybe a conflict when he as a Select Board member cheered on Bill's "donations."

Tom said...

Bill is crazy, but there is a method to at lease some of his madness. His street cleaning gig is actually religion based, he has taken a Buddist vow of poverty (which is why he ignores his trust fund) and believes he must always be a servant to everyone he meets and spend his time voluntarily as the lowest person in the community, crawling through the streets and picking up the trash for free. He is also a classically trained pianist. Catch him when his mood and his meds are right and he can actually be quite coherent and intelligent. On other occasions, well I can understand why some people get weirded out by his behavior.

Anonymous said...

Our organization is starting a new website called "Intolerant, Thin Skinned, Jerks." We are going to use your photo. I'd ask permission but I'm sure you won't mind.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah just be mindful of libel/slander.

Since I'm no longer in Town Meeting and the bricks-and-mortar media pretty much avoids me these days, I may no longer be a public figure.

Anonymous said...

You're as much a public figure as your use of Bill.

LarryK4 said...

Could be.

But would a coward like you take that chance?

Anonymous said...

Not with your hot temper and lack of self-control.

LarryK4 said...

Hmmm..over the past 35 years--and I've dealt with Nitwits like you for most of them--I have never yet punched anybody (outside of the Martial Arts arena of course.)

Ed said...

Gotta wonder how long those with trust funds will have them. I suspect not all that long with the economy continuing to fall apart...

Gotta wonder what Amherst would be like without left-leaning leftists with trust funds??? We may soon see...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, because there's no one on the right with a trust fund. Sure, keep talking...