It’s all happening!

In this week’s big news, our Superintendent, Jay Cummings, who most informed town educators and activists generally agree is, to put it mildly, an enormous asset to ensuring that our children are prepared to venture out into the world, is now seeking potentially greener  kinder pastures in points southeast in Franklin, Massachusetts.  According to an article Wicked Local Franklin, Dr. Cummings is now a finalist for their vacant Superintendent position.

What’s more, the town this week announced that we needed $3 million dollars in sewer upgrades, lest last night’s barbeque come back to literally bite you in the ass.

Also, the town announced that $20 million in library/DPW projects would be on this spring’s warrant – costs that will only continue to accrue if they are not addressed this spring.

The teachers still are without a contract, despite being offered 2.4-2-2% raise that would place them competitively with towns like Westborough and Shrewsbury, who have twice Grafton’s income.

And, oh yeah, we continue to run a structural deficit that will see us hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole by fiscal year 2020, just two years from now – despite a Selectman candidate pointing this out last year.  We’ll probably need another enormous override in a few years to keep things afloat.  That’s before teacher raises.  And no one on the Board of Selectmen is keen to admit it. (“We’re in great financial shape!” says Brook Padgett, who likes to call me a liar.)

Does that about sum it up?  Good times.

Despite this relatively grim picture, there are some yahoos who are still blaming the school committee and Jay Cummings for our depressing state of affairs.  These jamokes claim that the school committee has not reasonably acceded to the Grafton Teachers Associations’ demands of being paid on par with communities that absolutely destroy us economically.  And now, in addition, a few of these morons have taken to the internet to claim the superintendent has gone job hunting on their dime

To these people, I say this: Haven’t you already done enough harm?

I’m not sure what movie you’re watching, but since I’ve been here we’ve operated a school department that records high student achievement all while costing us the lowest per pupil spending in the state.  But sure, let’s run the guy in charge of that out of town.

The fact of the matter is that Grafton has been running a structural deficit for years now, and no matter how many Selectmen claim not to know what a structural deficit is, or claim not to know “a lot a lot” about schools, there is precious little that Grafton can do to pay its employees more while keeping taxes at their present level. (Please ask your selectman candidates what structural deficit is this year – I’m begging you.)

And because of this structural deficit, Grafton simply cannot continue to meet its current obligations by fiscal year 2020 – just two years from now.  Put another way, we won’t be able to pay for all the things that we pay for now by 2020.  That’s before we give the teachers a raise.

I know. I’m with you.  Education is the single most important thing we do in this town.  Teachers deserve to be paid competitively.  But I ask you, how do we do it?

I don’t have an answer to that question.  Neither does Tim McInerney.  Neither does Brook Padgett.  Neither does Jen Thomas.  Ask them.

And yet, the unwashed masses have been urged to take sides against the only people in town who have dedicated themselves to the cause of public education – the school committee and Jay Cummings.  They’ve been urged to do so at the behest of Grafton Teacher’s Association leadership, whose tactics are becoming more desperate and, frankly, pathetic by the day.

To observers of Massachusetts education, however, these tactics are not unfamiliar.  Far from it.  They are standard text-book tactics from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, who has pledged to do battle with local officials, rather than seek compromise.  “Do we want once again to cut an insider deal and declare ‘It could have been worse?’, I don’t think so,” says incoming MTA President Barbara Mandeloni.  Mandeloni has succeeded former MTA President Paul Toner, whom she criticized as having a record of negotiating with, as opposed to fighting against, local officials (read: your elected school committee members).

And you know what?  Fine.  Education is important and I want teachers to get a good deal. Except I have no patience in my life for yahoos who want to shoot first and get down to details later.

IMG_2741 (1)

To wit, here’s a picture from the Grafton Teacher’s Association Facebook page, trying (lamely) to call me personally out for not dedicating (now) all of the 2014 override money to teacher raises.

Just for fun, let’s go through all the ways that this pisses me off, and should piss you off:

  • Yes, we advertised the override as paying for teacher salaries. Of course it did.  Salaries make up 80% of the school budget.  So, yes, that money paid for teacher salaries. They increase by 4% per year, while the town’s income increases by about 3% per year.  Anyone who can do basic math understands that if costs increase greater than revenue, you’re in trouble.  And yet, people who can do this basic math are being publicly flogged as not supporting education by the very same people who couldn’t be bothered to get off of their asses to campaign for the override that was passed to allegedly pay their raises.
  • But none of this was earmarked for raises above and beyond what already was contractually in place.  Anyone who tells you different is lying to you.
  • No one from the GTA actually campaigned for the override with YESGrafton. The idea that they think that people who did campaign for this override and sacrificed their time to do so did so to give teachers a raise is both absurd an insulting. I seriously cannot get over how insulted I am by this premise.
  • Neither Elaine Najemy nor Lynn Loiseau, or any of the GTA leadership, actively participated in YESGrafton 2014 in any meaningful way. You know who did? The entirety of the present school committee.  All of them.  Laura Often.  Peter Carlson.  Mo McCallion.  Teri Turgeon.  Jennifer Connelly.  Shout out to Daryl Rynning and Donna Stock, too.  They all knocked doors, made phone calls, raised money and conducted poll watching, which I know that each and every one of them hated  – hated  – doing.  I know they hated it because I made them do it.  So you know what?  It’s absolutely embarrassing and shameful that you’re trying to take credit for their work.
  • That would make any of these other people trying to capitalize on their efforts frauds.  I can’t stress this enough.  Some people do a lot of work.  Other people like to talk about it.  We all know who these people are.
  • None of this money was slated for teacher raises for the next contract. Anyone who tells you different is a liar.  I’m known to call out liars.  Repeatedly and voiciferously.  Do not test me on this.
  • For the record, while Elaine and whatsherface were doing whatever it was they were doing in the spring of 2014, I was out spending time knocking doors and raising money (allegedly for their raises). For the record, I will never ever ever do this again.    I seriously caution other people from doing it as well.  What’s the point? You spend time away from your family and your job only three years later to be insulted by the people that you’re helping.

Nah.  I’m good.

  • Nice work, guys. Your tactics took a naturally ally and turned him into a lifelong adversary.  I’m smart and I’m vocal.  Good call.

I don’t even know what to say anymore.  We have precious little leadership from the Board of Selectmen.  The School Committee has post-traumatic stress disorder from this past year.  The Superintendent is looking for life rafts, the Town Administrator is looking for duct tape, and the teachers are looking for every dollar that’s not glued to the floor.

I want to end this on a hopeful and optimistic note.  But I can’t.  Thanks for sucking my will to live.  Much appreciated, GTA.

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