Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Make Up Missed Time?

Apparently parents at the Talbot Middle School are not happy about the way the school department handled a recent shutdown. The school department shut down the school to conduct air quality tests after learning some of the caulking used in the building contained PCB's.

Now I understand parents being irked by the last minute notice and by the inconvenience of it all. I don't know how long the school department has known about the caulking and if it could have been done before the school year. I would have to say I hope not because that would mean they decided to let kids attend school knowing of a potential risk, which I think would be a MUCH bigger issue. So I am going to assume that the PCB's came to light after the school opened for the year and the decision was made to be safe and not sorry. And the good news is the tests have come back and the PCB levels are well below any levels of concern. What I don't understand is the feelings of some parents quoted in the Herald News who don't believe their kids should have to make up the lost time.

Are you kidding me?!

These parents think the closing was badly handled, it's not the kids fault and they shouldn't have to make up the time.

In a city where the state school department has one hand on the "takeover" button, where drop out rates are still too high and MCAS scores are still too low their parents feel that their kids should have LESS school?

When it comes to education in this city our kids already have two strikes against them. And it's not because we have lousy teachers. (Because I don't believe that.), It's not because we have poor leadership. (Although I believe there is certainly room for improvement.) It's because we're a poor community with all the social economic problems that come from that and because we can't providing more funding to combat some of these issues.

Let me tell you something, if it were up to me I would strongly consider making EVERY school in this city an expanded day learning school, because our kids need more education not less. And parents need to stress the importance of education. When a parent basically compares education to some burden like paying the rent it sends the wrong message.

"Gee the heating system in my apartment let go and I had to move out for a week, so I shouldn't have to pay rent for that week."

"Gee they closed school for a week to make sure it was SAFE, my kid should have to make that up!"

Education is something that is NEEDED, it's essential and we shouldn't be fighting for less of it, we should be making sure our kids get everything they can from it.

"Gee the stove was broke and the appliance guy didn't fix it until 2PM.. so Johnny shouldn't have to eat lunch."

Obviously most parents would say hey we're back in business let's get some lunch together! If I were a Talbot parent I would be fighting to make sure the school department didn't throw 5 lousy half days on to the end of the year. Personally I would probably be fighting for some Saturday classes. Five Saturdays in school NOW seems better than a full week in June.

I'll bet no matter how they go about making up these days a lot of parents will just keep their kids home. And in the end, it's not the 5 absences that will have a negative effect on a child's education. It's the attitude behind them.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mayoral Race

If I had my way the primary election would result in Cathy Ann Viveiros and Stefani Koorey making it through to the general election. I don't think, however that this will be the likely outcome. Mostly, because I imagine Mayor Flanagan will safely be one of the top two vote getters. Not that I think he should be, more because of the advantages of being the incumbent. The Mayor still retains a core of support and if nothing else has made efforts reaching out to neighborhood associations that should serve him in good steed come election day.

Of course two years ago I would have bet the outcome was going to be Mayor Correia and Cathy Ann Viveiros facing off in the general election. It just goes to show you that sometimes the unexpected happens and "conventional wisdom" is just flat out wrong.

The thing that amazes me the most about the current race is that nobody has really seperated themselves from the pack. I've watched to forum at White's and listened to the WSAR forum and watched the Richard Urban Show, and never once thought someone had clearly run away with it.

Obviously the disadvantage to being an incumbent is you have a record to defend and for the most part Will Flanagan has managed (at least in these forums) do a passable job at that. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying he's done a great job at it, just that he's kept his opponents from scoring any direct hits. Now those who really pay attention will say that I'm wrong that he evaded, or soft shoed his way through and I would agree with that. But it's a soundbite world and the average voter will pick up on the buzzwords, 'jobs' 'safety' etc. and never focus on the lack of substance in those responses. But other than doing that I don't feel that he has inspired people with his vision or leadership. I don't walk away blown over by his passion (although I did see glimpses once or twice), instead much like two years ago I walk away mostly unimpressed by Will Flanagan.

There seem to be 3 great certainties in life, death, taxes and Cathy Ann Viveiros will run for mayor. I knew when she lost 2 years ago that she would be his challenger in this race, and so did everyone I talked to. Fortunately the Mayor has made plenty of mistakes for Cathy to seize onto but for some reason her passion doesn't come through, her leadership fails to inspire. I almost wish someone would piss her off before these things so she would go out fiery and worked up. I think back to her debate against candidate Will Flanagan, and that night she did seem to be energized, passionate, ready to win. Sadly I think by then too many people had already made up their mind. Then like now the thing that impresses me about Cathy is her ability to give an answer, share a vision and give specifics and details that she has really done her homework, thought long and hard about the subject and has a knowledge that her opponents often seem to lack.

Stefani Koorey is, too me, the most interesting candidate if for no other reason than because I don't think people know what to make of her. Maverick? Vested outsider? Critic? Advocate? Is she serious? Is she nuts? Right from the start I have felt that she faced an uphill battle to wage a successful campaign. She doesn't have the name recognition or background that we look for from our political candidates. But Stefani is certainly is very intelligent woman who can speak knowledgeably on many of the issues that face Fall River today. She is perhaps the current administration's biggest critic and certainly has become a watchdog over local government. She has been very involved, attending countless city meetings. She is also a dedicated advocate in many causes. She has an "outsider's perspective" which basically means she sees the positive and isn't held back by years of self-doubt about the city's future. It's easy for some to dismiss a candidate who is critical of the current administration, but mostly unknown before running and has no previous experience in government. But two years ago we elected that person as Mayor of Fall River. Could we do it again?

I get the biggest kick out of Carolyn Burton. I don't mean that at all in a dismissive way. Nobody does a better job of taking on the "citizen politician" mantle. She tells us, she is just one of us an average Fall River citizen who is concerned about the city and she's 100% believable (at least to me). She lacks polish, she lacks specifics yet she has such terrific passion, such charisma and such and honest belief in common sense that you wonder if she could overcome her own shortcomings and actually move the city forward.

I have to admit I just don't get Richard M. Renzi. With his suits, stylish glasses and perfectly coiffed hair I'm ready to award him best dressed candidate. However with his almost monotone voice he comes across to me as a cross between Alec Baldwin and a televangelist. Neither would I want for mayor. He has big ideas some of them good, but no specifics on how he thinks he could implement them. There is no way this guy could be elected mayor and implement what he wants. Government doesn't work that way. He also projects a supreme confidence in his ideas and ability to lead, which I'm not sure is the right tact for someone who hasn't even lived in the city a full 6 months yet.

With election day quickly coming upon us I'm still not sure anyone has really stepped up and really convinced us why they should be mayor. Will Flanagan hasn't really defended his record or promoted his accomplishments and while others have been quick to point to his faults they haven't always shown how they will do things differently or accomplish more than he been able to.

Who are you leaning toward on election day?