Alternate Facts Don’t Cut It in Melrose
Carrie Kourkoumelis, Melrose School Committee member 2010–2016
Once again Melrose is enduring a divisive override campaign geared towards a large annual cash infusion for the schools in perpetuity. Those promoting this referendum are using the same kinds of fear-mongering tactics as they did in their previous failed attempt. Sadly, there is now even less reason to believe the claims as before.
The school administration is largely made up of the same individuals, even after the 2016 findings of the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights condemning the administration for creating a “racially hostile environment,” among other disgraces. Instead of holding those accountable for harming students (and the entire community), the School Committee chose to lavish praise and salary raises on the administrative team. They simultaneously voted to use taxpayer dollars from the school budget to hire a public relations firm tasked with whitewashing the unprecedented and deeply shameful state of affairs. Rather than address the chronic poor decisions of our elected and hired officials, the override proponents seek to reward them further. This is ludicrous and unacceptable.
Whether or not the school system needs more money remains to be seen. There is no reason to trust that the facts and figures as published are anything but “alternate facts,” since this city governance has become increasingly less transparent and less competent in its financial reporting.
The claims about the supposedly insufficient teachers’ contract are equally galling. One need only recall the statements made by city officials after the most recent two contracts were approved in order to understand the breadth of the hypocrisy and disingenuous claims of the override proponents.
From the October 13, 2013 Melrose Free Press:
“Robert J. Dolan called the agreement the ‘richest contract the city has ever given’ to the teachers union….
The union approved the agreement by a vote of 195 to 35 last month, according to Dolan.
’We’re very happy with it,’ said School Committee chairwoman Kristin Thorp.
School Committee member Carrie Kourkoumelis said she voted against the contract because the committee did not receive a full draft of the agreement. … ’We have yet to see a fully integrated contract,’ Kourkoumelis said, noting the committee only received copies of memorandums of agreement and the old contract. … ‘I am also concerned about the terms of the agreement. We didn’t really have a discussion about where the funds are coming from, or what impacts come next.’”1
From the Jun 29, 2016 Melrose Free Press:
“’The focus of the contract is to live within our means, but also to invest in teachers and in particular teacher retention in lanes and steps,’ Dolan said. ‘I think both parties targeted that, and it was a very successful conclusion for teachers, for students and for taxpayers.”
’Those adjustments [the “steps” and “lanes” that determine teacher pay based on professional qualifications and experience]’ said School Committee Chair Margaret Driscoll, ‘are intended to “more competitively attract and retain teachers.’
Mayor Rob Dolan said the contract balances fiscal responsibility with a desire to keep good teachers in the district.”2
Simply put, if Melrose teachers are unhappy with their contract, they could have insisted on more acceptable terms from their negotiating team; they could have demanded that the inequities for veteran teachers at the top end of the steps and lanes be corrected, among other concerns. Of course, they can’t legitimately demand more money if they aren’t willing to amend the contract to require more of them. If city officials are dissatisfied with the contract terms, they have only themselves to blame. After both the 2013 and 2016 negotiations Mayor Dolan, Superintendent Taymore, and the chair of the School Committee lavished praise on themselves for their superb negotiations. Current officials come whining now to the taxpayers about what they claim as a woeful state of affairs, and we do not hold them accountable.
Similarly there is hand-wringing about the supposed overcrowding and enrollment problem in which officials promised in 2017 would be addressed by the $6.3 million bond for the modular classroom project (not including the cost for the consultants hired to study enrollment). Citizens were told adamantly that this project was the only fiscally responsible solution; that reopening the Beebe School was not possible; and that approving this project would ensure adequate space for Melrose students for years to come. 2017 wasn’t very long ago. Are the officials really so cynical that they believe residents have such a short memory and care so little about the truth?
If you doubt the lack of transparency, ask the schools for a full accounting of how much taxpayer money they spent to fund their stonewalling of federal investigators, while protecting themselves and the teacher (who told a black student to "go back to the plantation") so that she could receive her full retirement pension and the public would be kept away from the facts of the matter. You won't get the requested documents without a fight, if at all. I, as a member of the school committee, was not even informed that we were being investigated by the federal Office of Civil Rights until the superintendent ran out of discretionary funds and had to come to the Committee for many thousands of dollars to pay the stonewalling attorneys.
As a school committee member (sworn to protect confidentiality), I was forced to seek school district invoices in redacted form through the state Public Records request process—invoices that itemized the warrants I was expected to sign without knowing the reasons for the expenditures. Even my emails, sent to my official School Committee email account were only released to me through Public Records request. Then the superintendent tried to charge me $40,000 to receive them. So don't let anyone tell you there is transparency where Melrose school administration is concerned!
Treating the taxpayers this way is abusive of the public trust. The citizens of Melrose deserve much better. Perhaps the school system needs more funds, more space, and more highly qualified educators. Writing a Five-Million-Dollar annual check in the form of this tax override to the same individuals who have so thoroughly botched up the district with shameful illegal conduct, a revolving door of administrators and teachers, and incompetently managed district resources would only compound the foolishness. There needs to be a sea change towards more respectful treatment of the citizens and the truth. Only when there is meaningful accountability and transparency can a real discussion about our city’s finances and vision be held with any credibility.
Now it makes sense why someone (Carrie) started posting articles from years ago....it was to get ready for the big throwback article to try to become relevant again. This - and she - is old news. She tried to grandstand, quit in a huff and the City moved on. No one (except MM) cares nor remembers; resigned to the dust bin of history. A martyr of Melrose Messages; the sewer of the City. Lauded by anonymous keyboard warriors which amount to the same five trolls repeatedly commenting on top of their own comments.
Your revolution is over. The bums lost. My advice is to do what the majority of great citizens of Melrose have done; get a job. The bums will always lose.
Correct 2nd citation:
By Aaron Leibowitz
"Makes sense" is obviously one of the city apologists, whose ugliness is only matched by the ignorance of the post. Shame on you! Your mother didn't raise you right!
We'll soon see who wins and who loses.
The people who stand to really lose are the citizens of Melrose if this money grab succeeds. The only way to clean up this mess is to keep saying no until they get the message and clean up their act, or get fed up and quit. I'll take either, but both would be nice.
Old news but same patterns of mismanagement and it is nice to get an opinion from someone who was involved with the schools and school committee.
Vote.April 2 2019 Tuesday .
How is it that the powers that be would not schedule or pay for a Special Election for something as critically important as replacing the mayor for two years, but suddenly the city can afford to do this for another override referendum?
My family is grateful to Ms. CKK, both for her many years of service and for continuing to care about our community. That she continues to give her time and effort even knowing that she is likely to be confronted by the vicious types like "Makes Sense" is even more laudable.
The points raised in Ms. CK's piece are well-supported with facts that are entirely timely and and unfortunately very relevant. She articulates the many reasons those in my circle are uncomfortable with all the hyped OneMelrose propaganda and aggressive types knocking on doors around the city.
Melrose used to be a community worthy of pride. People like "Makes Sense" are an embarrassment and proof that this override is a giant whitewash of a very bad mess that is due for a serious reckoning. Maybe if there were more honesty and less viciousness from the Yes camp, we might consider paying more as a valid thing. The nastiness and obvious cover-up only prove that there is no reason to support the override.
Right. Using a public facility that would be the prime beneficiary of passage to attempt to convince a bunch of kids to vote for their issue. How fast do you suppose the same people allowing this, the school administration, would allow an opposition group to do the same? Only you would see nothing wrong with that, because you are as ethically bereft as they are. The depths to which you and they will sink boggles the mind. Go away.
Comeback? Are you in third grade? Go away.
According to another post after the override vote there will be an order with BOA to increase our water & sewer AGAIN.
Ask Donald Conn how that revolution worked out for him.
Sorry, but I agree with Go Away. Using a school building to recruit kids to vote for the override is wrong. Who exactly is conducting this voter registration drive anyway?
No idea, but it does sound fishy. I wouldn't think so if it was done after the special election.
Do they hold a high school voter registration drive every October when the November election consists of voting for 3 alderman, a school committee member, and two school committee members for the Voke? If you can answer yes to this question then I’d say you’re right. But if your answer to this question is no, and they are doing this in hopes that the children will help pass the override then yes, the city officials are unscrupulous monsters.
And isn’t there usually a time people must register to vote by, before they can vote in an election? Or does that not apply for these special occasions?
The answer to your question is no, they do not.
The deadline to register for the April 2d election is March 13th.
That should tell you or anybody else all you need to know.
How about returning the central issue here, the truth?
All the pols and sycophants rushing in to defend the losing override want us to forget what's really at stake and go instead with what was accurately coined "Alternate Facts."
This is what is at stake:
"Treating the taxpayers this way is abusive of the public trust. The citizens of Melrose deserve much better. Perhaps the school system needs more funds, more space, and more highly qualified educators. Writing a Five-Million-Dollar annual check in the form of this tax override to the same individuals who have so thoroughly botched up the district with shameful illegal conduct, a revolving door of administrators and teachers, and incompetently managed district resources would only compound the foolishness. There needs to be a sea change towards more respectful treatment of the citizens and the truth. Only when there is meaningful accountability and transparency can a real discussion about our city’s finances and vision be held with any credibility."
Although I will be, of course, voting no, I will say that from what I see “around”, and on Patch, the yes people are pretty well organized!
Yes, they are impressively well-organized, as are many cabals and cartels.
Of course they are rushing to protect themselves and the status quo. Look at who is financing them:
https://www.cityofmelrose.org/elections/pages/campaign-finance-reports (and this is only up until 12/31/18!)--just a sampling....
If they did this annually that’s one thing. But doing it for a special election to push their agenda is another.
I hope it backfires. My child texted me a little while ago saying they just registered to vote. So that’s another no vote. They know how it is to listen to us ***** about taxes and water bill and worrying about college payments.
So there’s going to be a water and sewer increase and we’re supposed to be able to afford that on top of a tax increase?
The way I see it this override comes down to this, what’s is more important? The schools having money, or our household having enough money to continue to live here, eat, and pay the bills. The schools will always be there for the children no matter what. We’re not guaranteed a roof over our head always.
Thank you Carrie for your perseverance. Your contributions have more value than the words of those opposed or any of those folks in the committees that think they're doing a "great" job.
No money for Mayoral election. Wait hey let’s have an interim Mayor and spend 40K for a special election so we can push this through. Let’s rush before elected Mayor might have other ideas. Also One Melrose please stop knocking on my door. Enough ! If this town did what they should have and waited my vote might have been different. Really 30/40 thousand on this. WOW. GI was used to push this. She is a nice person and she has nothing to gain or lose by pushing this. Sad. Voting NO
Better go in that voting booth alone and vote "No". Tell her there's not enough room. Avoid nasty "pillow talk" later. You're still King of the Castle.
To HaHaHaHaHa's revisionist history:
city solicitor: Couldn't hack the private sector, lost Everett Mayoral election to a bumbling idiot, so he came here to f---up Melrose.
superintendent: Made the City of Melrose a laughing stock of the State with her pervasive discrimination, retaliation and cover-ups hitting the headlines all over New England. Over a million dollars meant for student education squandered on settlements, legal fees, spin doctors and mandated ethics and civil rights training for all staff through December 2018 per Civil Rights Division settlement agreement.
former mayor: The writing was on the wall. Ran uncontested in 2015 yet over 30% of voters would not check the box for him in the voter booth. Successfully pushed for a city charter changes preventing future competition from running against him because he was afraid of losing. Lost his override initiative by a whopping 2 to 1 margin. Looks like the educated voters of Melrose got it right to me.
You forget perhaps the biggest dipwad of them all - Dello Russo. Ask the people of Plymouth what he did to them.
Thanks to Melrose Messages, Melrosians were able to get timely information and opinion on these big stories.April 2 2019 Tuesday
She is correct: There is absolutely NO REASON to TRUST any of the figures, data, statements, etc. of any Melrose official, elected or hired, except Ms. M on the BOA. The rest are fully in the tank, all yammering the same bogus talking points, and all arrogant in their assertions. The CONTEMPT demonstrated by our city officials for the citizens they are supposed to serve, for the law, for common sense and decency, for the children this override is supposedly about, permeates every word they say and every action they are taking. They should be ashamed, but apparently they are incapable of this. Their contempt is only rivaled by their juvenile attitudes and sanctimony.
How are they not going to allow seniors to not pay taxes if they need the money so badly? That’s thousands of dollars per pmyear per senior household they won’t be collecting.
Like our taxpayers, our leaders need a panoramic view before they make decisions that affect individuals so significantly.
Once again Melrose is enduring a divisive override campaign geared towards a large annual cash infusion for the schools in perpetuity. Those promoting this referendum are using the same kinds of fear-mongering tactics as they did in their previous failed attempt. Sadly, there is now even less reason to believe the claims as before.Facts Don’t Cut It