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School Committee Addresses Teachers' 'No Confidence' Vote in Pope

A vocal crowd packed the meeting room as the board took up the teachers union's recent resolution.

"I'm a teacher in Southborough, but a taxpayer and parent in Marlborough," said Jennifer Turieo, "and I don't feel there is leadership at the top in Marlborough, and that trickles down to every staff member and every student. It doesn't matter what your vision is; if there isn't leadership, you won't move forward."

Turieo was one of more than 100 citizens who packed the standing-room only special meeting held by the Marlborough School Committee on Thursday that included on its agenda a discussion of the "no confidence" vote taken by the Marlborough Educators Association (MEA).

The MEA on Thursday, May 16,The teachers vote, according to the recent article in Marlborough Patch, came in support of a resolution which claims Pope showed disregard for the welafe of students and unprofessional behavior that has "had a demoralizing effect on the entire school community."

Wading through sporadic jeers and outbursts from a noisy audience, the committee discussed the recent vote, addressing what the teachers union had addressed as deficiencies in Pope's performance since he was hired two years ago. 

The union has said the vote was unanimous and "cited Pope’s deficiencies, including a disregard for student welfare, unprofessional behavior, and failure to provide adequate special services for subgroups of students. In a statement of his own, Pope called the vote 'divisive.'

At the special meeting on Thursday, Pope addressed a series of concerns from the committee surrounding special needs issues in the district.

Some committee members focused on what they say is Pope's inability to deliver timely information, as well as adequately address what some consider to be a dire situation facing special needs students, and ELL, in the district.

Committee member Katherine Hennessy, whose statements were often met with applause from the audience, said, "Are we doing right by these kids in the classroom now? There were line items that there were no discussions about. We not only need it in written format, but open and transparent discussion about it. A lot of people are working exceptionally hard, but it all has to come back together."

Pope indicated several times that he and his cabinet would answer the committee's concerns in an outlined "ten point response." The committee had requested a response prior to the meeting, but did not receive one.

"I want to refer you back to the entry report," said Pope, "and we will put that back on the website. When I came in last year, we were specific in outlining from my needs assessment a perspective on what I think the needs are in the district. We were clear about ELL coming into the district. A change, especially in public schools—you cannot turn that over in two years. And I was clear about that from the beginning."

Pope added that a coordinator was recently hired, who will focus on pre-K through grade 5, and that the administration is just starting the building blocks on what will define the philosophy for ELL.

"It's a struggle throughout the state," said Pope. "A data point that always sticks in my head is that 22 percent of our special education students are proficient in illiteracy. That is unacceptable. We are fully aware of our issues in special education. We are a district identified as needing corrective action. That validates my entry report. We were very aware of those."

Committee member Michelle Bodin-Hattinger agreed that a new program takes a lot of building, but added she had a "lot of grave concerns. You talk about coming in and doing an entry point, yet two years later we're in worse shape in terms of staffing, and you've pointed to issues with ELL."

"I will go back to research on change," responded Pope. "It's a fact that when you enter into a new district, you do not fix it in two years. As far as special education, we weren't capable of changing special education coming into the second year. This is an old model we're still trying to change."

Committee member Jennifer Hardy argued that the administration cannot "hand over a program with a bow on it" and that it is a journey to build a program.

"I go out on a limb here because I'm in a union," said Hardy. "I think any program four years later is much meatier, but districts don't have funds or resoruces to have these things pulled in the first time. Programs are built over time."

Many in the audience, some who held "No Hope With Pope" signs, shouted displeasure. "She's full of crap!" yelled someone from the audience after Hardy spoke. Hardy added that she was extremely disappointed that people had visited the high school during a middle school visitor day holding "No Hope With Pope" signs.

"With extreme confidence," said Pope, "and I would say my leadership team would agree, that we have areas we need to improve, and I will be the first to say it. But where do we start? We do not have a solid foundation that holds us all accountable."

Turieo, who talked with other concerned citizens following the meeting, said that two past superintendents, parents of former students and parents of present students joined union members to make up most of the audience on Thursday. To her, it isn't "just the union" that is upset with the situation in the district; it's the general public.

"I'm a teacher in another district," said Turieo, "and that school system does not operate like this. It's positive leadership in the community that I work, from the administration to the custodial staff and everyone in between. But you have to have a leader at the top that people respect, and want to work together, and I don't see that here."

Rajan Patel June 01, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I think that the School Committee needs to take definitive action. It seems that Ms. Hardy does not get it. While I would agree that program building takes time, you should definitely see some level of positive results in two years. The level of disdain for Dr. Pope is well deserved. From what I understand, his arrogance and lack of communication skills has hurt the school. I know that I will not support any School Committee member who continues to support an ineffective leader.
Ginny Carpenter June 01, 2012 at 12:29 PM
I just wish there was more information publicly available. All I have been able to learn is that Dr. Pope received a vote of no confidence from the teacher's union and that the magistrate determined that there was no probable cause to issue criminal charges for assault against Dr. Pope. Now this article debates whether Dr. Pope has shown sufficient results from his programs in 2 years. What does this all add up to? It seems like Dr. Pope is on the verge of being fired, but from what I've seen, I really don't understand why? What are the details, the facts? I'm all for good leadership, and for removing bad leadership if necessary, but what are the real facts leading everyone to conclude that there is "no hope with Pope?" Thanks to anyone who can fill me in.
Keith Regan June 01, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Ginny: I think many people share your frustration. Two things complicate the flow of information here: First, it's a personnel issue, which affords those involved some confidentiality. Second, there are legal proceedings ongoing--the wrongful termination complaint from Adam Bakr--that further restrict what people can say publicly. Of course, we will continue to report and follow the story and do our best to keep readers informed.
Concerned Mother June 01, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Ginny - there is information, it's just not always in print. If you happen to watch the meetings you will see that there are 5 major areas of concern: -Bakr incident -student meeting incident -alleged assault incident -budget vagueness and missing deadlines -missing accreditation deadline I'm just wondering how many more incidents/missed deadlines have to occur before something is done. The vagueness of the budget information and not forthcoming with actual data worries me, what is being hidden? I applaud the mayor for cutting the budget because I feel there is more than adequate money in the pot. I sense there is no accountability based on the School Committee’s actions and think Marlborough's reputation is being dragged through the mud. I’m truly embarrassed to say I live in Marlborough and that my children attend the Marlborough Public Schools even though I feel they have had great experiences thus far. Now with that said there always is room for improvement too. I'm saddened that many on the school committee, who were elected to by the residents have changed their stance since the election and are allowing this kind of "behavior" for lack of better word. I cannot imagine private sector jobs would allow this. Something (not sure what) needs to be done to resolve this crisis and soon because it does not appear to be moving in the right direction.
Suzanne June 02, 2012 at 02:01 AM
There were some signs up at MHS with info on the SC meeting, place, date and time and it said No Hope With Pope above it. They were printed, not hand drawn and were NOT plastered over the school. The purpose was to remind people of the meeting. No one was "holding" signs. I was at the school Wed. evening and saw some signs. Jen Hardy must be delusional to think we really care if she is disappointed. She doesn't even have her facts right! None of this would be necessary if Pope was doing his job and not done and said inappropriate things as well as lie. Also, his "cabinet"? Is he serious? The president has a cabinet, he does not. Grandiose delusions or what. Ties right into his arrogance. When he quickly called Mrs. Greulich to come up to speak for him you could tell how extremely uncomfortable he was. People in the audience said "YOU answer the question." "You were the one who was asked, you need to answer." Lastly, if the SC knows anything they should know laws about confidentiality regarding students disabilities in regard to needs not being met and not ask for names. Are you kidding, Dwyer? Vigeant demanded a date for a deadline to get NEASC accreditations done since that deadline has already passed with Pope doing NOTHING about it. Hetinger tried to pass it off saying it doesn't matter to schools - oh yes it does! The SC voted on these deadlines and Dwyer was the only member to vote against the deadlines! Ridiculous!
Suzanne June 02, 2012 at 02:23 AM
There would be more money left in the budget if the SC didn't give Pope $11,000 for a home office. He HAS an office. Then they gave him money for a home computer for work. Really? I know plenty of people who have a desk or a table and log in on their own home computer. That's $13,000 of wasted tax payers money. People in Weymouth said Pope would show up maybe 2 1/2 days/week. Someone told me Pope's often not here in Marlborough and if he is, he's gone by 3pm far too often. This man has become a blight on our city and school system. Do you know he was invited to the National Honor Society's induction ceremony on Wed. and it was an RSVP, invitation only event. Kids didn't want him there but they invited him because he is the superintendent. Not only did he NOT respond to the invitation, no RSVP, he never showed. Great job, Pope. As usual. You not going to the graduation is not putting the kids first, you're saving your own butt from the general public because it's far more than students, teachers, and staff who want him gone. Mrs. Boniface raised her hand when Pope was talking about NEASC but was not recognized or allowed to speak. She said that everything Pope was saying about NEASC was NOT true. Isn't it something that two former superintendents were there to support the faculty, etc. and not Pope.
Lee Wright June 02, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Glad to see this issue continues to be covered in-depth and that people are engaged. Regarding the question from Ginny about more information, Jim Ash at the Main Street Journal News, which is online, has done an excellent job digging deep. You'll find additional information there. Clearly, Dr. Pope's time in Marlborough is going to end soon. The question is how soon. The accounts, from several individuals, indicate that Dr. Pope is, at a minimum, not temperamentally suited to serve in any leadership position, and that there were reasons to detect this before the selection was made. Given the turmoil over the last few years, the School Committee has some explaining to do. They should not undermine their position further by continuing to dally on the matter of releasing Pope. Once that's done, and before they begin the search for a new superintendent, the city deserves an objective outside assessment of the functioning of the committee and its handling of superintendents, including the selection of Pope.
Me June 04, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Bring Bakr back. Get rid of Pope & the entire SC - put all new people in those positions and start fresh.
MhsStudent June 04, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Me- I agree with you, but its clear who is on our side and who isn't. Hardy, Dwyer, and Heddiger MUST GO! I always knew Hennessy, MBH, Matthews and the Mayor were in support of the students and teachers.
Curious June 04, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Does anyone know if Pope met his deadline that the Mayor gave him to submit the list of the NEASC committee that is working on the progress report? If he has submitted it, please Mr. Mayor, check it twice because there is no such committee.
Emotosi June 04, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Hardy, Dwyer, and Heddiger must go . They cant see the forest through the trees . The damage this triumvirate is doing to the school district will take more than a decade to repair .
Suzanne June 04, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Pope told Mrs. Roy he wouldn't approve her contract if she didn't step away, thus, he forced her out. Plus you have the Special Ed Director, Principal of Richer School (took away her asst. principal which left her with no asst. principal at all and he did this deliberately making it an impossible situation), Mr. Bakr. He's lied. Ignoring NEASC deadlines??? Ridiculous! There is NO committee, you are right, Curious, he's full of himself. Patch, please call Mrs. Boniface and get her comments regarding the NEASC situation. Interview Mrs. Calson, too. I think they're comments, knowledge and insight will be enlightening for all.
Suzanne June 11, 2012 at 09:13 AM
Pope did not provide a list of his "committee" and your reason is correct, there isn't one. In fact, last week, he told Mrs. Roy to do what HE said he was doing and after telling us at the meeting that he thought Hardiman was better for the job and taking it away from Mrs. Roy. That happened in Nov. There WAS no Hardimon back then!! He told Mrs. Roy he wanted it on his desk the next day. After HE ignored the deadline in May after asking for it to be extended from Dec! Statement from Pope is to be read at the meeting Tues. 6/12. Even if he apologizes (although he has said everyone else didn't know what they were talking about and denied everything he's been accused of) it's too little, too late. He's a liar, a manipulator, a bully, but NO leader.
Proud Parent June 27, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Enough with Super Southborough Teacher Mom trashing Marlborough by way of sucking up to her employer. Maybe she can move to Southborough with Truly Embarrassed My Kids Attend Marlborough Schools Mom. We all have differences of opinion but cut the elite crap.
Concerned Mother June 27, 2012 at 01:48 AM
If you're speaking to my comment,what I wrote was I'm not embarrassed with my children's education, I feel they are doing good in MPS (there's always room for improvement but that is true everywhere), it's all the crap that we're in the paper for time and time again that makes me embarrassed to say my kids attend the schools as it appears we don't have it together. No elite crap here - you get what you pay for.

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