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It’s about the kids. This is a famous buzzword phrase that teachers are told every year at professional development workshops and district meetings. More often than not it’s a lie that overpaid administrators tell their teachers because they think it sounds good. The fact of the matter is that more often than not it’s not about the kids; it’s about adults. And no district in the state of Massachusetts better exemplifies that lie than the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District, which is run by a corrupt school board and an incompetent superintendent.
The School District
Spencer and East Brookfield are both blue-collar towns. Out of 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts, EB ranks 279th in per capita, and Spencer ranks 293rd. EB is one of the smallest towns in Worcester County with a population of barely over 2,000. Spencer’s population of over 11,000 makes it seem like a metropolis in comparison.
There are currently four schools in the SEBRSD. East Brookfield Elementary is a K-6 school. Wire Village Elementary educates kids from K-4. Knox Trail Middle School, which is in Spencer, is where Spencer students go for grades 5-8, and EB students join them for grades 7-8. Once they get to ninth grade all students go to David Prouty Regional in Spencer.
At least that’s what we’ve been told. We wouldn’t know for sure because this is what you get when you go to the District’s website to clarify:
So if you were new in town and didn’t know anyone, it would literally be impossible to find out any information about your town’s public school.
However, according to the DESE report from 2012, there were six schools in the district:
In the last two years both Lake Street and Maple Street Elementary schools have been closed down due to lack of funding and gross mismanagement of resources – a common theme we will see in this district.
From 2008-2012 enrollment in the schools decreased by 7.7%, despite no shift in the population of either town. Per pupil expenditures continue to be well below the median PPE for the state.
Level 3 School District
SEBRSD is a “Level 3” school. Schools are all given levels of 1-5 so that highly paid administrators can justify their six figure salaries. Because anyone with a brain knows that it’s beyond dumb to categorize an entire district’s educational value on a scale of 1-5.
Level 3 is problematic. It’s one step away from state intervention. And the reason they are there is because of Knox Trail, where students are in the bottom 20% in MCAS scores, with special needs students scoring particularly lower than those across the state.
The reason it’s dumb to categorize schools is that there are a million other socioeconomic factors that influence educational outcomes. Take a look around at Level 5 (Holyoke, Lawrence), and Level 4 school districts (Athol/Royalston, Boston, Fall River, New Bedford, Southbridge, Springfield, and Worcester) in the state. Gee whiz, what do all of those districts have in common? Oh yea, high levels of poverty, chronic unemployment, and inadequate access to health care. But the State of Massachusetts, in its infinite wisdom, has elected to paint the teachers and principals in these districts as the primary factor in their student’s underachievement.
Lenox is a “Level 1” school district. Their high school mascot is the Millionaires. Nuff said.
Thus it’s not surprising that SEBRSD would find itself as a “Level 3” school district. They both rank in the bottom 25% in per capita income. So in order for the district to “improve,” the six figure useless suits in Boston compile “benchmarks” that schools have to hit on standardized test scores. This is the reason Knox Trail failed:
Latino kids’ scores went up enough to make them happy. But white kids did not. Your tax dollars pay someone to make this list.
Turnover at Superintendent
Ralph Hicks was the superintendent of schools in SEBRSD from 2004-2011. According to parents we spoke with they had their differences with him, but ultimately he was “about the kids.”
After he left he was replaced by Reza Namin, a scandalous superintendent with a past history of financial mismanagement as superintendent of the Mahar Regional School District in Orange. He burned bridges real fast in Spencer after he started liberally using the district’s expense account, got the district into a $2 million deficit, applied to be Pittsfield’s superintendent and was rejected (despite being the only candidate), was placed on paid leave, and was banned from stepping on school grounds at any place in the district.
Namin resigned in disgrace in March of 2013. An interim superintendent was appointed as the School Committee searched for a more stable superintendent. The district was in real trouble after Namin basically burned it to the ground. They needed an innovative leader that could bring the district back to life. So they appointed an interim superintendent while they searched for a new one. In the meantime they elected a new school board, with a specific vision for the district. Instead of looking locally they went west and found Dr. Nadine “Tracy” Crowe.
According to Dr. Crowe’s LinkedIn Page she has served in a variety of administrative roles in various school districts, including “Academic Dean,” “Program and Curriculum Coordinator,” “Statewide Curriculum & Technology Coordinator,” “Associate Principal,” “Math Coordinator,” and finally Deputy Superintendent in the Pittsfield Public Schools – the same district that rejected Namin in 2012. Apparently no one on the SEBRSD School Committee found it odd that she was not even given an interview for Pittsfield’s superintendent position, but did give one to Mr. Namin, a man whose resume was riddled with red flags.
Dr. Crowe is a professional administrator and a climber. She hasn’t spent a day as a classroom teacher in the last 20 years, and consequently she has no idea what is going on inside the districts she works for. Dr. Crowe was hired by a School Committee that is dominated by two conservative and forceful people in town – Chairman Kevin Hayes and Vincent Cloutier. Both men are widely known to have vendettas against the teacher’s union. They hired a superintendent who they believed best served THEIR interests, not the teachers or the students.
Dr. Crowe came on board in November of 2014, almost three months after the school year began. She received a ridiculous five year contract, despite a resume that showed she was someone with an inability to remain loyal to a district. For some context, Worcester only awards three-year contracts for superintendents. Since taking over she has found a way to take the district that Namin had lit on fire and thrown gasoline all over it.
Turnover in building principals
When she first came on board Dr. Crowe did not meet with the faculty for the entire school year. Not once did she have any sort of assembly to even introduce herself. Many teachers we spoke with had no idea what she even looked like, as the only place you can see her is at school board meetings. Despite having an office in the David Prouty parking lot, teachers report that they have never once seen her walking through the halls of their school, never mind coming into their classrooms to observe instruction.
Based on our research it’s pretty clear that Dr. Crowe’s primary goal is to get rid of all the administrator’s who are experienced in the district because she doesn’t know where their loyalties lie. And she has lots of ways to find out who is loyal and who is not. Since June, the district has seen a 50% turnover rate for Principals, 75% turnover rate for Assistant Principals, and a 75% turnover rate for district wide administration.
That is INSANE for a district this small. David Prouty Principal Dave Bachant, a very well liked administrator by both staff and students, and a man whose entire family came up through the schools, left to take a Vice Principal job at Leominster High School in June of 2014. Things have to be pretty bad to take a demotion and leave the only home you know to take a job almost 45 minutes away.
John Flayhan was hired as Assistant Principal of David Prouty in June of 2015. He literally quit two weeks later without ever spending a day in the school.
Eric Coury was hired to be Assistant Principal at David Prouty in August of 2015. He left the district to take a job in Somerset in October of the same year – 2 months later. Since then his position has not been filled and David Prouty currently has no Assistant Principal. According to a teacher we spoke with at David Prouty,
“In a district pleading for stability and change, someone decided that it would be in our best interest if instead of hiring an Assistant Principal, the job would be posted for an Unassigned Assistant Principal. This person would not report to their building Principal but would report to the Superintendent. This is our second year without this position filled. We hired an Interim last year and still had not developed a plan by the time he left in June. We need now, more than ever, the stability of leadership to give our schools foundation. Instead, our Principal was driven out in August, and we have lost two Assistant Principals since July. One quit after a mere two weeks of employment. The second quit after two months. This unassigned assistant principal idea has failed.”
No one knows for sure why any of these people quit because Dr. Crowe forced them to sign confidentiality agreements as a condition of their one-year contracts. Also quitting since Dr. Crowe has taken over are the Vice Principal at Wire Village and the Principal at Knox Trail.
The recently elected chairman has a colorful past with the district. Kevin Hayes, served 12 years as a selectman before being recalled in 2000 after paying a $1,000 fine imposed by the state Ethics Commission for trying to use his position to avoid a traffic ticket. He ran again for the post a few months later but was defeated.
During contract negotiations Hayes refused to even speak with the Union President Mark James: “Anything that comes from Mr. James or his membership means little or nothing,”
He also put the blame for their Level 3 status solely on the teachers: “If they can put their efforts into their instructional capabilities, maybe we won’t be a Level 3 school.”
Student Activities Fund
The witch-hunt revolving around “missing” money from the Student Activities Account has been the catalyst for disaster, which has destroyed morale amongst teachers, and directly affected the quality of education in the schools.
When an athletic team or extracurricular group at David Prouty raises money with a fundraiser, they then deposit that money into a “student activities account.” They can withdraw money from the account for things such as banquets when they arise, but only after submitting a request and having it approved by the district.
Well, in June of 2015 it was announced by the School Committee that they were going to freeze all funding for school activities after a consulting group they hired determined that there was “evidence of financial mismanagement that may rise to the level of criminal activity.”
At the center of the witch hunt were the Athletic Director, Chuck Fahey, and Becky Bussiere, who heads the show choir, music theater, drama, thespian society, Tri-M, band, and student council at the school. As the two of the most active teachers in the school in various activities, they had put in for reimbursement for a variety of activities. They did nothing wrong and followed protocol exactly how they were required to.
Nevertheless they were both put “under investigation.” This despite the fact that Busierre was named the November 2014 “Teacher of the Month,” by 96.1 WSRS. This investigation involved being questioned about money they had been reimbursed and other monies they had deposited into the student activities account. Busierre was asked by one of the lawyers the school district hired if she had “eaten a slice of pizza” at a music pizza party that was financed by the student activities funds. According to the rules, money from those accounts can only go towards students. She admitted that yes, she had eaten a piece of pizza that may or may not have had pepperoni on it. Guilty as charged.
At the end of the investigation it was determined that there was no actual theft. Money was simply being deposited by the treasurer into the wrong accounts and when bills were paid from those same wrong accounts, it is not in accordance with the law according to the investigator.
Well as it turns out, there is no missing money. We know this because the investigation, led by Worcester lawyer and former City Councilor Robert Hennigan, has ended and neither teacher was implicated. The problem was that there was money being deposited into the wrong accounts and bills were being paid from that same wrong account that is not in accordance with the law according to the investigator. According to Mr. Hennigan,
“While in some cases an argument could be made that there is “some tangential connection” between the expenditures and benefits to students, he said, it seems the School Department did not follow the letter of the law nor an established district policy that has been in place since October 2013.”
Additionally Mr. Hennigan pointed out that the school district was so incompetent in not providing for their school, that coaches and others had to fund the basics by using the student activities account:
“Mr. Hennigan questioned why some items weren’t funded in the school budget. Water for the nurse office, a new shot put and measuring tape for the track team and the costs of band camp and a marching band drill design program shouldn’t have come from the student activity fees, he said.”
It’s clear as day – the school department screwed up, not the teachers. The witch-hunt, which is part of the over $250,000 in legal fees the district has racked up in the last four years, was all for nothing. Turtleboy Sports has filed a FOIA request with the district to find out exactly how much was spent to investigate something which turned out to be their own fault. We have not heard form them yet.
It’s also the reason that the findings of the investigation have not been released. If Kevin Hayes and Vincent Cloutier admit that their taxpayer financed anti-union witch-hunt was a waste of money, then this quote from Kevin Hayes is going to look pretty silly: “We have to find how to pull the plug on this swimming pool and see who’s swimming without a bathing suit.”
It’s you Kevin. You’re the one swimming naked in the pool and now you don’t want to come out because you’re embarrassed about the shrinkage.
Meanwhile, neither Fahey nor Bussiere have been allowed to retain their stipend positions because technically they are still “under investigation,” because the School Committee refuses to release the results of the investigation.
Impact of the Student Activities Fund Investigation on Students
As a direct result of this at David Prouty this year there are almost no arts programs. Their award winning show choir, which performed last year at the Statehouse, has essentially been disbanded. Because a bunch of grown adults want to win a pissing match with some teachers because they hate teacher’s unions that much.
Dr. Crowe made an appearance for the photo op, but the majority of students had no idea who she was at the time these pictures were taken.
Meanwhile the athletic department is being run by an interim AD named Tab Bassett – a man who, legend has it, was fired as football coach at Quabbin for kicking a field goal as time expired and his team trailed by 4. D’OH!!!
But wait, it gets better. The real AD, Chuck Fahey was in charge of hiring coaches. Fahey had previously passed over School Committee Chairman Hayes for the basketball coaching job. And Hayes’ wife Donna applied for the field hockey position a couple years back and did not get it either. Gee, I wonder why they went after Chuck Fahey? Well as luck would have it, the interim AD Tab Bassett is widely known to be chummy with the current administration. One of the first things he did after getting appointed was hire Donna Hayes to be the field hockey coach at David Prouty.
“It’s about the kids.” LOL.
Of course the real losers here are the kids. Imagine going into your senior year of high school and looking forward to your final year in the show choir, or participating in your final Christmas concert. Sorry kids, not this year. The superintendent and the School Committee are too busy tryhing to win a pissing match with your favorite teacher. According to Chairman Hayes,
“As the appropriating body of the regional school district, the school committee has a legal obligation to act on reports of irregularities in district accounts and expenditures,” he said. “It would be remiss for it not to do so.”
No, you didn’t do this as any part of a legal obligation. You did it because you don’t like Chuck Fahey and wanted your wife to get a job as a field hockey coach. Nice try Kev.
Kids paying the price
According to a parent we spoke with, “David Prouty’s Marching Band and David Prouty Shockwave always did competitions, they have both won many awards. We can no longer compete because we have no Directors or Teachers. The kids were crying yesterday because they were told no more student council because we do not have a Teacher for student advisor. A lot of the kids in these groups depend on these activities for college. A lot of seniors are losing out because they have no activities to report for senior year.”
David Prouty is the only school in Massachusetts without an active student council. They also had no fall cheerleading this year (David Prouty historically does well in cheerleading competitions), and no winter track coach has been hired despite the fact that the season starts in a week.
The big picture of this story is this – the district spent a quarter of a million dollars investigating nothing, while the rest of the district had urgent needs that were being ignored as part of the cover up. Let’s look at some more pressing needs at David Prouty. Here are some AP Textbooks students have sent us:
At a recent School Committee meeting the whole town came together with a list of demands, which included the removal of Dr. Crowe.
She has refused to meet or discuss any of these issues with parents, and at this meeting Chairman Hayes announced there would be no questions allowed from the crowd. Ya got that? If you live in Spencer and pay property taxes, you’re not allowed to ask the School Committee why your kid’s books look like Turtleboy Jr. threw them down a flight of stairs 50 time in a row. Because apparently Kevin Hayes thinks he’s the Wizard of freaking Oz, and he doesn’t have to explain himself to the taxpayers.
Before the meeting the kids and parents turned up for a rally to support their teachers and their school:
Passionate speeches were given by Union President Mark James:
and student leader Carter Bemis:
Inside the meeting the students let their presence be known:
The issue of new books was brought up. The Committee refused to talk about it and tabled it for further discussion, but not before Dr. Crowe said something that set off a firestorm. When the issue of the outdated textbooks was brought up, she claimed that the previous principal, Dave Bachant, never filled out the request for them. This turned out to be a boldfaced lie because we actually saw the request was made in February of 2015. But it’s easy for Dr. Crowe to blame the guy who no longer works for the district and isn’t there to tell everyone that she’s a liar.
Well a parent in the audience named Michelle Rosum, whose son is a senior who is being affected by this nonsense had the audacity to speak up. She was immediately silenced and threatened with the police by Chairman Hayes:
This is why Spencer can’t have nice things. Because adults are ignoring the problems that are in front of them, and are refusing to do their jobs out of pride. Michelle has lived in Spencer for 46 years. She graduated from David Prouty and proudly sends her kids to these schools. Tracy Crowe has worked in Spencer for all of 12 months, and she and the school board believe that they are not in the least bit accountable to a taxpayer, devoted mother, and community leader like Michelle Rosum. This is how town politics works in Spencer-East Brookfield.
Of course the school district’s lawyer was there, sitting on his phone reading Turtleboy Sports and billing the taxpayers by the hour:
Substandard building conditions
Here are the molding, leaky ceiling panels inside David Prouty classrooms:
Here is the solution to a leaky ceiling at David Prouty:
Here’s some of the many warning all around the school about asbsetos:
These are asbestos tiles that have water damage, mold growth, and are flaking.
Here is what their track and field looks like, which used to hold district wide track meets in the 1990’s and district championship soccer games:
Here is the long jump pit:
Here is the high jump pit:
This is where they throw the shot put:
This is where they keep the band equipment they won’t be using:
This is what their tennis courts look like:
There is a lot of random crap that is littered outside the building for no apparent reason, and because there is no full time janitor, no one picks it up. This is what other schools see when they come to play David Prouty in the few sports that the MIAA allows David Prouty to host:
This is what the sink and water looks like in their foods class:
This is what the heaters look like:
This is what the boy’s bathroom looks like:
Boys at David Prouty can’t even take a dump during school hours because they can’t close the stall door. This is happening in a public school because Kevin Hayes, Vincent Cloutier, and Tracy Crowe have too much pride to admit that they wasted $250,000 to investigate nothing so that Chairman Hayes can enact revenge on the AD and get his wife the field hockey job.
Meanwhile here is the newly renovated conference room in the superintendent’s office:
According to one teacher, “The air quality is so poor that I can barely make it through a day without getting a sore throat. I know three teachers off the top of my head that have to take an allergy medication in order to get through their school day. Even though fresh air would be helpful, the windows have been bolted and glued shut on the top floor of the building. Further, we have not had adequate janitorial staff in years. The desks, floors, and bathrooms are disgusting, with food, dirt, and grime caked throughout the school. As for the bathrooms, one student, when coming back from the bathroom, recently remarked that “Christmas came early! We have soap AND paper towels in the bathroom today!” Clearly, having both of those items is not common. Even though these concerns have been raised multiple times to all levels of administration, we still do not have a janitor, nor have had any substantive improvements to the building.”
According to another teacher, “During a recent storm, an asbestos ceiling tile became so wet that it fell from the ceiling (literally). In that same room, there is a tile that is so mold infested that the teacher has to keep the Windows open to prevent them from having an allergic reaction.”
The elementary schools are struggling too: “The heaters in WV and EBE have not had the required/necessary yearly maintenance, and now are malfunctioning. Many of them have a broken regulating mechanism, and blast heat constantly, requiring windows to be opened, wasting heat and money. Last year, during the subzero weather during February, one teacher had her heater flood the room and the lower level, ruining her classroom rug , and then had to have her windows wide open for weeks, and two fans going, it was so hot, and the heater still isn’t repaired. “
There is a serious lack of technology in the schools, which is going to be a problem once the new PARCC tests are administered: “Two –three years ago, when Windows XP was being terminated, the interim superintendent let all of our district computers expire, thinking that he could force the town to pass an override for a lavish technology plan. All that happened was, we lost all of our computers. The ones that were updatable were given to administration. Six months later, the teachers and the high school got some back. We now have only computer labs at the elementary level, for student use. We don’t even have enough to accommodate the new PARRC exam. We can’t fulfill State Curriculum Standards like teaching students to keyboard during the fourth grade, or using different technology for research, writing, and presentations. There is no current technology plan to rectify this. And yet, the new superintendent spent $7,000 on new office furniture for herself, without the approval of the full school committee.”
China and Furniture
It would be one thing if Dr. Crowe were actively trying to find a way to get the schools funded. That’s her job. But instead she’s doing other things. She recently spent thousands of dollars to renovate the superintendent’s office with new furniture. She had it moved in during lunchtime so that kids without activities or drinkable water could watch.
She also has been to China twice already since taking over as superintendent just one year ago. No one is sure how this trip is financed because Dr. Crowe refuses to answer any questions about it. And no one in town seems to know what the purpose of it is, because she refuses to discuss that either.
But a major requirement of being an administrator in the SEBRSD under her watch, is that you must go to China with her. Remember the David Prouty Vice Principal who quit after two weeks before ever spending a day in the school? Yea, he quit right after he was forced to go to Red China. Of course we can only speculate that he quickly decided he’d be insane to work for this woman while over there, but we can’t know for sure why he quit because she made them all sign confidentiality agreements as part of the job.
Guess when she’s forcing them to go to China this year? You guessed it – Christmas morning!!! Because lots of normal people travel to China for unknown purposes on Christmas morning!!!!
The Christmas thing kind of makes sense in context. Last year when she was brand new to the job, and before she had ever bothered to introduce herself to the staff in any of the schools, she sent an email out to all teachers telling them that Christmas parties of any sort on the day before vacation were strictly forbidden. Her rationale? They are a Level 3 district so there is no time to let kids enjoy school. Get back to test prep!! Ba-HUMBUG!!!
Of course when the media got wind of this and did an investigation, she denied it. Too bad we’ve got the email right here that proves she’s a liar:
Did you read that email? Kindergarten classes can’t watch any movies that have to do with Christmas. Candy and cake……? NO!!!! Absolutely not!! No fun allowed PERIOD!! This woman is paid to work with kids. She went into education supposedly because “it’s about the kids.” This is the type of person who becomes an administrator in 2015.
Love the part at the end there too. No fundraisers, because it will make poor kids feel bad about being poor. That’s basically what she said. This is in a school district where NOTHING is funded by the school district. Parents are trying to take it upon themselves to raise money so their kids can have nice things in school, and the superintendent is telling them they can’t because it will hurt kids’ feelings. Oh yea, and she charges parents $150 an hour to do fundraisers on school grounds. It’s about the kids though!!
Anyway, we do know that one reason she goes over to China is to observe Chinese classrooms. Ya got that? Here is a woman who has not spent a single day in a classroom in her district, but she has flown across the world twice, going on three times, to observe Chinese kids in class. It’s about the kids. Chinese kids mostly.
Last spring, she and the SC decided to close Lake St. School, and cram all of their students into the remaining two elementary schools, causing every single classroom to have to be moved in the two elementary schools, and many in the Jr. high were moved to accommodate the 6th graders. During this extensive move, staff was sweating it out on their own time, moving and setting up their classrooms. This was when the superintendent made her last trip to China. She never stopped into any of the schools during this monumental move to see how things were going. And nothing has been done with, or any plan given for the closed building. She never thanked the teachers or citizens who donated their time and sweat to the move.
Teacher and Parent complaints about the superintendent
- “She also eliminated the position of ELL coordinator and we lost our IT director because of a massive salary cut and change to his contract. She constantly berates our district for being a level-3 district, but provides no support to change that. There is no focus on curriculum, and no Director of Academic Affairs (who also left the district last year).”
- “She institutes demands that do not follow our teaching contract, such as requiring teachers to give two week’s notice in order to take one of our 3 personal days off, and requiring us to sign our last contract immediately on the first day of school, in view of our principal, with no accompanying copy of the contract or pay grid. “
- “There have been numerous multi-hour lock downs for death threats as well as live ammunition. Regardless of the frequency of these occurrences, there has been no administrative response in terms of prevention nor policy. Despite numerous requests for a communication policy, a community resource officer, a behavior modification plan, metal detectors, an upgrade to the video surveillance system, and/or ALICE training, the administration has failed to address or implement any proactive measures. The climate at David Prouty High School has deteriorated so much in the past 5 years or so that some students had a mock business plan to sell ‘lock down kits’ (with items such as granola bars) because they are so common and lengthy.”
- “She did not attend the superintendent award banquet with our Prouty student this past year. Our student was the only student at the banquet without her superintendent present. Her principal (who has since quit, and been hired by another district) was in attendance supporting her. “
- She was a “no-show at the Junior High “graduation,” and other school functions, despite being invited. She has never come and introduced herself to the teachers, personally, as former superintendents have done. She does not visit the classrooms, or know what is going on in them.
- “She chose to limit the students’ celebration of Halloween to dressing in “fall colors”. However, teachers and other staff members were encouraged by her to dress as a book character and were reminded they could use their participation as evidence of school support for their personal portfolios. The majority of the staff felt it was cruel to be in costume while children were not allowed to do the same and did not participate. On Halloween, she greeted students wearing an Amelia Earhart costume while they filed past her in brown and orange clothing.”
- If you request bereavement time off, she now requires you to attach an obituary to the form! Her blatant actions have resulted in a RECORD amount union grievances being filed, and cost to the district. She has had the job for one year.
- She refuses to even speak with Union President Mark James about any of these issues. Union Presidents routinely negotiate with superintendents in order to avoid labor disputes and ensure schools run smoothly. At meetings where they are together she has one more than one occasion told the Vice President of the Union, “please tell that man I am not speaking to him.”
- People ask why I didn’t leave. My honest answer, my ONLY answer, is because the kids need SOMEONE who will be on THEIR side. And, I have been teaching too long to have any lateral mobility. Nobody will hire me, even though I’ve said I do not expect my current salary. So, maybe the perception is that I am stuck, but I am still giving my students the best I have to offer every single day.
- It should come as no surprise that both administrators and teachers are fleeing the district when there is a climate and culture of fear, fear of repercussions, reprisals and revenge. I have been a teacher for twenty eight years and have taught in this district for twenty two years; I find the disregard and disrespect with which teachers are currently treated appalling. I have been publicly chastised and berated by a current school committee member for showing solidarity with, and support for, my fellow teachers. I have been told I waste too much time reading in class. I am an English Language Arts teacher. WE READ IN CLASS! If attitudes toward the professionals who have invested so much of their lives in the education of this district don’t change, we are going to continue to hemorrhage talented people. How are you going to stop this?
- As a Union, last spring, we passed a no-confidence vote against the superintendent, within the first six months of her working for us. This upset her so much, that they made our new contract (which we hadn’t had for 2 years) contingent upon us revoking it.
That last one is hilarious. The teachers voted no confidence in the superintendent, a very rare occurrence. And to get a new contract they had to take it back. What kind of superintendent would even want that rescinded? I mean, you KNOW they don’t actually mean it when they take it back. You KNOW they’re only going to do it because they want a new contract. I mean, think of how petty and childish that is for a minute. When you’re negotiating a contract it’s strictly about making the dollars work. But to Dr. Crowe it was about forcing the teachers to say they liked her. Kiss the ring!! This is what they’re dealing with in Spencer-East Brookfield.
Of course it meant nothing because the teachers just passed another no confidence resolution on Tuesday.
As mentioned above, there are a record number of grievances filed against Dr. Crowe. Here are some of them:
- Level 3 schools require super and union head to talk over grievance issues. She refuses.
- Failed to staff administrators to run a school district
- Failed to honor extra duty officials
- Failed to address turnover and school choice
- Failed to maintain janitors
- Failed to follow the law to have inclusion teachers.
- Refused to pay ELL teacher 2500 so they hired a full time employee for 60,000.
- District still owed price chopper money
- Lots of teachers haven’t been paid promised stipends or reimbursed.
Loss of teachers and students
As a result of the craptacular, uncomfortable environment created by Dr. Crowe and the school board, there has been a mass exodus of teachers and students. There are currently openings for In School Suspension Monitor, Saturday Suspension Monitor,
Behavior Specialist, Advisor jobs, Assistant Principal, Main Office Secretary, and Full Time Day Custodian, amongst many other openings.
And no one is applying for the stipend positions. Why would they? Fahey and Bussierre were the two most active teachers in the school, who dedicated their free time to enriching the lives of their students. And what did they get for this? Put under investigation and blacklisted. Why would anyone in that school district want to put themselves in that position going forward?
Student enrollment has plummeted. Here are just the last three years:
That is a decrease of over 17% for the past 3 years since Hayes and Cloutier joined the School Committee to make “improvements in the district.” The number of students school choicing is reaching record highs. Countless students are pulling out of the system to attend Bay Path, Shepherd Hill, Tantasqua, Leicester, and Auburn, while even more are going to private schools. Every student who chooses to enroll in another school district costs the SEBRSD $5,000. Thus it is incumbent upon the town to make their schools a desirable place to enroll.
And it’s killing the athletics program. We spoke with three-sport captain Andrew Romano about his frustrations:
“From our eighth grade sports teams at Knox Trail, I counted 12 top athletes from the class of 2016 that we lost. 3 of the 4 Saint Peter-Marian football captains are my former classmates. A national football all-star in eighth grade left to be a starting running back at St. Marks in Southborough. My eighth grade travel basketball team were undefeated district champions. Now, NONE of those players are on the DP basketball team, and only four go to the school. The gym is haunting, as seemingly every banner has a 1997-2001 championship. That’s when athletes weren’t leaving. Today, that type of pride and dedication seems impossible”
After seeing the state of conditions of the facilities, who can blame a student who wants to go to a district where they will actually be supported? He’s right too. David Prouty used to be a powerhouse at football, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, and track and field. That’s not the case today.
Student assault on a teacher
Here’s a story from a veteran AP teacher:
“Last year I was assaulted by a student (NOT one of my students) in my classroom. There were at least 14 witnesses, including 2 other adults. The police who responded that day didn’t charge me with any wrongdoing, but the parent got DCF involved, who also cleared me of any wrong doing. I spent a week in the hospital being treated for PTSD…I’ve been a teacher for 28 years, even taught in men’s maximum security prison, and a residential treatment facility for girls. Nobody has EVER attacked me before.
I was on medical leave for 3 months. Nobody from the administration ever contacted me to see if I was OK. Nobody came to court with me when the perpetrators were being charged. The superintendent wouldn’t allow anyone to contact me during the school day. She did have her administrative assistant hounding me to turn over the Worker’s Comp checks, however. FOUR emails in ONE day. Even after I told her I hadn’t received any checks yet.
This used to be a great place to work. I still love my students and co-workers, but the school committee and superintendent make it a living hell. A filthy building. No books for my AP class. No sense of camaraderie because nobody knows who to trust anymore. The superintendent is all about secret deals and getting people to spy on each other. It’s insane. It’s sick.”
Student organized protests
At the School Committee meeting on November 17 at Wire Village Elementary School, students and their parents showed up in full force to let the school board and the superintendent know how much they were in need. Instead of listening to them Hayes, Cloutier, and Crowe told them that no one could ask them any questions. Great way to get kids involved in their local government.
But these students are a resilient bunch and they were going to get their message out one way or another. They let Dr. Crowe know that they would be holding a sit-in in the school gymnasium all day on Wednesday, November 18. Conveniently Dr. Crowe was “at a conference” on that day – something she does very frequently when trouble arises.
Nevertheless the students got their message across. After we reported on this monumental student movement Dr. Crowe realized that the media was watching. So she offered to meet with 7 pre-selected student leaders to discuss their grievances. There was a catch though – no parents allowed. When the students refused she finally caved and allowed one parent to attend. We are still waiting to see what exactly will come out of that meeting. But anything less than new textbooks, a commitment to immediately start fixing the school maintenance issues, and full transparency from this point on, the restoration of Bussierre and Fahey to their previous positions, a full apology for wasting everyone’s time and money, and a cancellation of all China trips, should be acceptable. Even then, that’s not enough. She needs to resign and so does the School Committee that has enabled her.
The hashtag that the students at David Prouty are using as part of their movement to take their school back, is #MakeProutyGreatAgain. Because when Turtleboy was in high school, David Prouty was a highly respected school that was good at pretty much everything. On that note we’re gonna leave you with a collection of the outpourting of messages we’ve received from DPHS grads, about what David Prouty could be like once again if they can find a superintendent and School Committee that actually care about children. We asked for graduates to share their stories about positive experiences they had as students before the district went to shit. Here’s a small sampling of the overwhelming response we received:
“I am an elementary teacher in the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District. I am also a resident of Spencer, having moved here with my family in 1987. We had five children go through the district in its “glory days.” They had excellent teachers, enrichment programs for High Achieving Students, AP classes, sports, art, drama and a superior music and marching band program that kept them from becoming depressed, addicts, or suicide victims. They all went to excellent colleges, and are gainfully employed, successful, contributing members of society.”
“Hi tb! I am a 1995 graduate of DPHS, and I had an awesome experience there! The chorus and band program was strong, we took trips to Florida to participate in national contests (and I believe the band won a few!), top notch education as well, extremely dedicated teachers who actually got to choose interesting and educational curriculum (our science class frequented a local nature reserve to use as a “living” classroom. The number of students who school choice was much less. We had history books actually written in our decade. we hosted holiday cabaret shows and spring musicals,f rom actually building sets to performing in the shows it really brought a lot of diverse people together. …times have changed I guess…
Graduate of 1999. I loved going to Prouty! I was so upset when my little sister went to Tantasqua class of 2014. (Best decision she could have made).I played multiple sports and there was SO much “Panther Pride”. We won state championships in girls and guys sports, everything was competitive. Now the fields and gym are a mess. We had every extra activity you could think of. And not many kids went elsewhere. A couple of bay path and a st, johns here and there. The teachers were amazing and none of them would have quit. We even traveled to europe every year for international club. The band was award winning and traveled for competitions. We had many very smart kids in our class who had AP courses and many of them went onto great colleges. It was a great high school!!!
I graduated from Prouty in 1996. When I was there I was in band, chorus and the theater program. We were always competing in both band and chorus, and went on a band trip to Atlanta my junior year and a chorus trip to Virginia Beach senior year. We also went on a senior class trip. There were all sorts of other clubs, activities, etc besides sports- peer leaders, student council, a student newspaper, etc. My son is in 5th grade here in Spencer and I refuse to send him to high school here. Most of the other parents I know who have children of the same age think the same way.
These are tiles on the 3rd floor of David Prouty that the State has issued to be fixed and replaced. The last one sent was actually replaced in September of this year only after it collapsed and the teacher had an allergic reaction to the airborne asbestos.
DPHS class of 96. Definitely what got me through the high school years was the award winning marching band we had. We went to President Clinton’s first inauguration and the Peach bowl during my time there.
Hi!! I’m a graduate of David Prouty class of 95. I had a great experience in high school. Some of the teachers I had are still there, and they’re wonderful! Two of my kids are currently seniors at Prouty. Until this year, they have loved school! They are very high achievers, and were very active in lots of activities, many of which have been taken away from them senior year.
I graduated from David Prouty in 2003, some of my favorite times in high school were chorus and doing the musicals I also played soccer for the school as well. But the fact that my brother and sister both graduated mid and late 90’s and the school remains the same since they graduated is sad. No up dates no improvements the school should be knocked down and rebuilt. They teacher/football coach Mr. Fahey that I’m sure you hear about is a great teacher too.
I graduated from prouty in 1999. It was full of great teachers with lots of passion. I feel like all our extra circular activities were top notch. The marching band was extremely popular and won many awards. I had a friend in cheerleading which also did very well. It seemed like on a typical Friday football game you could expect to find the whole school there. We had so many different activities that most everyone particated in something. The sports program was extensive as well. From cross country and indoor/outdoor track it was a great program for a relatively small high school. Chuck Fahey was there throughout my four years and he was nothing but a great guy. He was nothing but a role model to everyone. I know he recently lost the position of athletic director. It really doesn’t make sense to me because he is a stand out guy.
“I attended DPHS as a resident of Worcester for most of my time there. My Senior year I would sit outside in the freezing cold for two hours every day after school waiting for a city bus to come pick me up because even at that age I knew that it was an amazing school. (North High would have been my alternative option.) I owe those teachers my life. I would not be the successful woman I am today without the help of the amazing teachers I had. I was “that statistic”–pregnant in high school. I wasn’t living with either of my parents anymore and I was just trying to not be another uneducated young mom. Those teachers and the previous administration did EVERYTHING they could to make sure I still got the best education possible. They were all so understanding and accepting. I was able to walk around that school with no shame, never being treated any differently for my situation, and never missed a beat. Teacher’s like Mr. Fahey and Mr. Bachant made sure I stayed in school no matter what.” The school provided me (FOR FREE) a tutor while I was out for a few weeks to have my daughter, and when she was 3 weeks old and I had to attend my graduation ceremony practice, Mr. Fahey scooped her up out of my arms and rocked her while I practiced for my big day…. Graduating with honors! Today I am a successful single mom, working at a Genetics Lab in Boston. I owe that to a school administration that CARED and refused to let me slip through the cracks.
Graduate of 1999. I loved going to Prouty! I was so upset when my little sister went to Tantasqua class of 2014. (Best decision she could have made).I played multiple sports and there was SO much “Panther Pride”. We won state championships in girls and guys sports, everything was competitive. Now the fields and gym are a mess. We had every extra activity you could think of. And not many kids went elsewhere.. The teachers were amazing and none of them would have quit. We even traveled to europe every year for international club. The band was award winning and traveled for competitions.
I graduated from David Prouty in 2001 and as high school experiences go, I’d have to say that mine was pretty fantastic. I played JV softball my freshman year as well as served on the yearbook staff, I was a member of the school newspaper for all 4 years and its editor for my senior year, and I was the secretary of the Latin club. We had a plethora of clubs to choose from and they were all incredibly well run. In the Latin club, we participated in competitions at Holy Cross and went on trips to New York City to see broadway plays. The teachers were amazing. They were always there for you no matter what you needed but they didn’t take any crap from students either. At that point in time, if you were acting like an idiot in class, the teacher would call you out on it. The principal the first few years that I was there was amazing, so much so that although he retired, we invited him back for our graduation and a close friend of mine even invited him to her wedding years later. I still keep in touch with a number of the teachers from high school. These were our mentors, our friends, our champions. I have a son of my own now and I repeatedly tell him stories of back when we had a chorus director that would put on full fledged plays – costumes, sets, you name it. And we sang Christmas songs and had Christmas parties and for Halloween we had “Histoween” where we dressed up as people in history and it was a blast. He always tells me how fun it sounds and how lucky I was because he never had any of that while we lived in Spencer. We managed to have fun AND learn. We always had the books we needed, I was in all of the AP classes available with the exception of calculus and the teachers did an amazing job preparing us for the AP tests. Classes were challenging but if you needed extra help the teachers always made themselves available. It wasn’t a perfect school by any means, but it was our school and it is incredibly depressing to see how far its fallen.
I could go on and on about how amazing the music department was and how half the school participated in its programs. The musicals, the competitions, the trips that we fundraised so hard for. Or the sports programs that generated SOOOO much school pride. Pep rallies were an actual exciting thing! We dressed up in our craziest black and orange attire (hair dyed orange and all) and competed with other classes on who had more school spirit! (Yes, it was that corny. It was like a scene out of one of those teen romantic comedies starring Freddie Prince Jr.) It was everything high school should have been. And these kids are being robbed of that.
Graduated in 1999. The school was great due to the principal, teachers, student body, parents, the citizens of the town going to events at the high school, the sports teams were really great, the band was amazing and student council was involved in everything. The student body went to everything and supported the events and had overall pride for the school. Now the school has zero funding, kids have school choice, the sports clubs don’t have enough kids trying out for JV teams, no band, no student council. It’s alarming.
During my high school years at prouty, school spirit and support from all teachers and administrators was like non you’d ever see anywhere else, amazing. Prouty was, and still is, a family.. Prouty gave me some of the best years of my life, and memories and experiences I will never forget. The teachers are mentors and care for each student as if they were caring for their own child. Pushing and striving for you to do your best work, helping you every step of the way. Sports teams were family. Chorus was family. Band was family. Our school was family, administration included. #makeproutyproudagain
Graduated in 06, we had a ton of teachers we loved, extracurricular activities, band and chorus complete with trips to Florida to compete. Prouty felt like a community and we as students felt like we mattered. It was evident in the fun we had, the classes offered and in the support system when we lost fellow students.
I was there close to that time – early 90s and it seemed like the district had a lot of disposable income. No activities fees, waived AP test fees, concert and band trips to FL, plays, musicals, chorus, the football field was brand new, athletic supplies in gym class like cross country skis and in line skates, etc.
I graduated in 2004 my sister in 2005 and my brother right before Shit it the fan. I loved my experience at DPHS. Myself and my siblings played sports. We had amazing coaches and amazing support from faculty and staff. I was part of student council from freshmen year until I graduated and even held officer positions. I had the support from faculty and staff that helped guide me through high school and into college. I had many opportunities that allowed me become a well rounded student. This makes me sick hearing about everything these students/families are going through I could not imagine dealing with this while in high school. I feel for these students and families and still cannot believe what is happening.
I graduated in 1999. The music and theatre program made it great for me, so much so that I went into college as a music major. I went to a chorus competition in Florida while there, and the cuts break my heart for all the students (especially my niece who’s a senior).
Graduated in 04. Our class trip was a cruise to nova scotia. Unbeknownst to the chaperones, it was a booze cruise. Needless to say it was a wild couple of days
I graduated in 2003. I particularly felt lucky to have taken part in the British Exchange program for all four years at Prouty! I’ve kept in touch with those girls. I just recently visited one of them three months ago in London! I was a sheltered country girl and knew little of the rest of the world, but through the exchange program, I learned just how big the world is, and how to appreciate other cultures. I’ve had the traveling-bug ever since, and I love nothing more than to save for special trips overseas. Thank you Ms. Cronin and Ms. Rubino for such a life-changing experience! I would NOT have been the same without it
I graduated in the class of 2001. I had a pretty awesome high school experience. I was part of a bunch of different groups of people. I was part of chorus and band, I was part of track and cross country. I did theater and was part of a bunch of different clubs. I was a part of British Exchange, you know where the STUDENTS were actually learning about each-others cultures… not the administration.. Some of the teachers that are there still teaching now, were some of my favorites, and they still know who I am if they see me out somewhere. At the time, I didn’t realize how awesome our high school was (but what kid does). Our marching band was over 125 kids when I was a freshman there. We performed several musicals, which I became a lead my senior year in. The football kids joined in when we needed guy parts, and they always loved it. We went on field trips and raised money using horrible fundraisers, but always seemed to have money to do the events we wanted to do. My class started the “Snow Ball” tradition of a winter dance. We had days where we could buy carnations for Valentines day and had days where student council would put EVERYONE’S name on a shamrock and you had to find it. We had pride. Prouty Panther Pride.
I graduated in ’98! Prouty was a great place to go to school. I have so many great memories inside and outside of class. Mrs. Higgin’s art program was fantastic. The art classes helped shaped me into the artist I am today by giving me foundation skills that I still use often. Mr. Konkol always had plays going on that everyone was excited about.
I graduated in ’98. I second what others have said about the school pride and involvement at that time. I was involved with sports all 4 years. I took AP classes. I went on to a high-ranking college. I have many wonderful memories of my years at Prouty, between my classes, teachers, coaches, classmates, and even the administration. We had pep rallies, dances, musicals and plays, sporting events, spree day, class trips, student council, and many other clubs to participate in. I can’t say enough positive things about my experience. I hope that things turn around before my own children get there because I really want them to get as much out of it (or more) as I did. I don’t want to turn my back on the school/district that helped shape the person that I am today.
Graduated in ’97. Was in the musical programs such as Marching Band, concert band and chorus. In that time frame Prouty had one of the best bands in the State. Still have all our newspaper clippings from when we won gold across the board in Washington D.C. — And that was against school bands sometimes 3 times our size. Chorus program was the same. Won Silver in the competition in Virginia Beach. We had about 30-40 kids, and if I recall the school that won first place had over 100. I loved my time at Prouty. I went back for the first time several years ago to sing in a farewell performance for the now retired director Josepf Konkol. I was SHOCKED at the condition of the school. When you see cartoon characters mouths hit the floor? That might be what I looked like.
It was the saddest thing to see.
2002 graduate i loved my experience at prouty. The teachers were amazing and supporitive and our assistant principal Mr. Oleary couldnt be beat. You could see the care on his and the teachers faces. They truely wanted us to suceed. There was always a sense of pride. We had sports and council and an award-winning band. We had spirit week and pep rallies and an overall bond between the schhol. I transfered from another district in my freshman year to go to prouty. I ended up at prouty by chance but found a place i continue to call home. I stayed in spencer after having my son in hopes he would have the same pride for his school that i did and i still have that hope.
Class of 2001! I can say without hesitation it was the best 4 years of my life. Not only did I make some amazing friends but I was also part of one of the best cheerleading teams in the state! Our school may have been small but it was mighty and we bled black and orange! None of this could have been done without our amazing coach, Kelly King. Not only was this women our coach but she was also our friend, mother, confidant and so much more. The person that pushed us to be the best we could be and it did not come without blood, sweat and tears. The pride was so so strong during those years and it hurts so bad to see what has come. Every student, teacher and parent were part of all extracurricular activities. This is a disgrace.
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