I am back. I took a month off to refresh my internal batteries. I have 560,4200 replies to my blog, quite an accomplishment given that I blog on the condition of the Lowell Public School system in its early days. I think that it’s nostalgic for some readers. It is for me too.
Anyway, it is nice being read. Google tells me that I have been read by a million people and they raised my blogging fee. So much for success.
My focus this week is on cutting the contract for the Superintendent. In my opinion, he was a breath of fresh air in the system in which he was the Superintendent. It is older news now, and I have covered it so why continue to pursue it? Because he was, I believe, summarily discharged without a hearing. Now he has sued and he, I feel, has a chance to collect from a school system that is in the red. I cannot blame Salah Khelfaoui for protecting his legacy. As I have stated before, he was not a high finance Superintendent. He was a one-on-one Superintendent who worried about the curriculum maybe more than the finances. The board took his job without worrying about what he was here for, and who he was going to help. He was treated badly. I can openly state that he told me that he would sue if he was released by this School Committee. I had issues with Superintendent Khelfaoui, it was not all golden, but my problems pale in comparison to what was handed to him. Visions of King Herod ordering Saint John the Baptist’s head come to mind. The School Committee tried to get his side of the story, but only after he was released.
There are a few problems here. The School Committee failed to see how degrading their methods were so he felt, I believe, that he had no options left – he had to go to court to clear his name. His replacement cannot be the result of a national search because of the type of job he had. He was protected by a contract, he had just gone through a review and was given good grades by the persons who voted to let him go. Superintendents are an interesting bunch, it was my father’s job and there are few who can be a Superintendent without flinching. No current Superintendent wants to go to a city which just ran their current superintendent out of town on a rail. No good superintendent wants to go to a city which offered a contract, broke it, and stopped continued employment. If we knew that about a business position, it would be difficult to find a replacement even in the business world. In the world of American education, it is even more difficult.
So, no superintendent worth his salt wants to go to a district that did not honor their contract. They would rightfully think that what the « Fab Four » did was going to happen to her or him. Those people are the ones who pushed the Superintendent away. They include the only two women who both voted to let the Superintendent go. There are only two women on the School Committee and they voted to release the Superintendent. In my opinion, both of them lowered their special status when they voted to fire the Superintendent.
As I said, I had an-on again off-again relationship with the Superintendent. But overall, I had a very good relationship with this man. He was the star of the « Superintendent’s Sessions » on my show, « Peters’ Principles. » The four people on the School Committee were welcomed to go on the show. They knew that because they had been, at one time or another, guests on the television show. Not one of those people came to, or called, to get on the show with the Superintendent. One person said that she was not officially invited. Everyone was invited. There was a dearth of people wanting to get to the Superintendent through the show. Not one School Committee member called to challenge something that the Superintendent said on the show. And, they knew that they were definitely invited on the monthly show.
All of them had open access to the show and could have started a lively discussion with the Superintendent over any issue. My belief is if they had used that medium, some of the bitterness would have been left in the world of television and perhaps this could have been handled.
Anyway, it is my belief that we are at a point where there is a crack in the wall, as in that nursery school story about the boy who stuck his thumb in the wall to hold back the sea; or more recently, the way that the Berlin Wall came tumbling down after Lech Walesa had stood up for his country. This is a major mistake, and Lowell looks bad, I think. We can take care of the image by hiring the current interim superintendent, Jeanine Durkin. But only if she wants it. This overshoots our academic prowess and the efforts we have made to get good principals in the schools. We need to stop, look around, and realize that in the 1800’s and 1900’s we made the Lowell School Department the « center of the (educational) universe. » We have the best teachers, and the best support staff in the Commonwealth. We normally have about ninety things interceding on the path we are walking. But, I have never seen, and I see it everyday, any faculty more attuned to doing well. Give us a good superintendent, like Dr. Durkin, and they will give us their best effort. Before all of this happened, we were getting higher MCAS scores, happier kids, and professional personnel. Let us get over this quickly, and continue on with the greatness of Lowell’s schools. In the past students left the suburbs and paid to go to Lowell High School. Let’s acheive greatness again. It is Lowell’s responsibility and even a duty. And let us get Dr. Khelfaoui straightened out. I can tell you that he is basically a very good man.