Sadly, the Springfield public school system has long had a lousy reputation even by the standards of urban districts. Yet it has improved some in recent years, and for that much of the credit must be given to Springfield School Committee member Antonette Pepe. Unfortunately, in return for her efforts she has rarely received more than insults and threats, most recently receiving warnings that she might be impeached. She has also been accused of always running to the media with her complaints. However, as these following excerpts from a copy of a letter by Pepe to the Davis Foundation, which I obtained through a third party, reveals that much of what Pepe has done was not reported in the media, and probably should have been.
Due to a conversation I had with York Mayo, I believe you may not be aware of my work on the School Committee. I do not go to the press unless I have exhausted all other avenues. Therefore, I offer the following information, because I had the sense that he and others may have a mistaken view of my motivation and manner of trying to rectify problems in the district...
The following provides some highlights of my accomplishments on the School Committee:
1. My first year, I was selected by the Vice Chair as Chairperson of Vocational Education Committee and served on 6 other committees. When I immediately visited Putnam, I found that although thousands of dollars had been spent on equipment for the students in their respective shops none were wired for use ( plasma cutters, printing equipment etc.). Mayor Ryan hired an electrician to wire the equipment after I told him of the problem. ( I did not go to press.)
2. At this time, the School Committee was not meeting with the Putnam Advisory Board as stipulated by law. After my repeated requests to Dr. Burke, it was finally accomplished. I was commended by Attorney Hurst for my persistence since the Committee was not aware of the accomplishments and the help the students received from the Advisory Board Members. ( I did not go to press.)
3. An administrator was not allowing the students at Putnam to use the required computers they needed for shop. The computers were stored in a closet for a couple of years. I made sure the students were allowed to use the required computers. ( I did not go to press....
7. Walsh School had an annex (portables) as part of their school. The annex was detrimental to the health of the students and faculty. To repair or try to rid the building of black mold was expensive. After explaining to Mayor Ryan the costly problems, he agreed to have the building raised. (I did not go to press.)
8. We had a Twilight Program that was costing the system $1 million. It was an enormous failure. Students were truant and/or absent constantly. The regular classrooms during the day were extremely overcrowded. I was instrumental in abolishing that program. By doing this, teachers were assigned back to the regular school day which lowered the number of students in the classrooms.
9. After we selected Dr. Ingram, our past committee and superintendent tried to give the teachers a $3.5 million raise with money we did not have. I argued the point that it would put Dr. Ingram $7 million in debt when he arrived since the $3.5 million was money we owed and he would no be able to make payroll. Dr. Burke's comment to me was, "If you think I am going to make it easy for Ingram, you are mistaken." TJ Plante was present at the meeting. He can attest to that statement.
10. I notified the representative of the Control Board to inform him of what occurred and that Dr. Burke was going to transfer the IB Vice Principal at Commerce High School to Zanetti Montessori when he had no prior experience in that field, and it would have been detrimental to the students in the IB prpgram. The representative of the CB stopped the raise as well as the transfer immediately and gave a cease and desist order to Burke. ( I did not go to press.)
11. I made Dr. Ingram aware of the truant officer that was very rarely in the building at Forest Park School as well as the police officer who was not getting the job done. (Although this was in the press I did not provide the information to the press....
14. I would not give up on the amount of students that were and still are truant. When Dr. Ingram arrived, I gave him the facts. He instituted a plan to help correct the problem. I spoke to church groups, parents and different organizations that we needed to support the Superintendent in this endeavor because we cannot educate any student who is absent consistently. Dr. Ingram did not meet with any opposition from the parents as others have in the past....
I walk through our schools on a regular basis to visit with the students. I attend most of the school functions to support our students and staff. I have attended every high school graduation as well as the GED graduations.
Being a team member is not the same as going along to get along. A team works together, is open to all the facts, shares information and ideas, and collaborates. My main focus and goal is to support our students at any cost to me.
Outside the Haymarket in Northampton this weekend I ran into multi-media artist Kelsey Flynn (right) and her wife Jaime with their cute little pet dog.
Pete playing banjo.
Woman playing saw.
Legendary libertarian activist Terry Franklin is back in Amherst after attending last week's annual Rainbow gathering. As you can see, a good time was had by all.