To the editor:
The upcoming city elections give this community a golden opportunity to take stock of the state of our public school system.
The Gloucester Public Schools, ranked 241 out of 325 in the state of Massachusetts (bottom 25 percent), are failing our children. It’s no wonder that 265 children have choiced out for this academic year.
The children and teachers in Gloucester are as capable as in any community. The failure to improve is simply a failure of leadership, and unfortunately, the leader of the GPS, Dr. Safier, constantly misrepresents facts to this community.
When my daughter, Amanda Kesterson, advocated for placing an armed resource officer in our city schools, Dr. Safier wrote two “My View” columns in the Times explaining why that measure was not necessary and assuring the public that our schools were safe. We later discovered, through School Committee member Roger Garberg’s letter to the editor of April 5, 2013, that Dr. Safier, at the time that he made these claims, was working to put an officer at the high school. Despite the fact that he apparently agreed with Amanda that there was a need for this type of security, he told the city of Gloucester the opposite.
When my daughter, Lisa Fornero, expressed concern that the GPS were in violation of the minimum standards for instructional time, Dr. Safier again wrote a “My View” column explaining why we were in compliance, with one hour and 12 minutes to spare.
He failed to mention in his piece that he did call the Department of Education to look into the instructional time in Gloucester because Lisa’s calculations did appear valid to him, nor did he admit that he fudged his calculations by only factoring in 11 half days when his school calendar has 13 for the 2013-2014 school year.
We need school committee members who will challenge the superintendent’s representations, question him on behalf of parents, and recognize that they are the elected body to oversee every aspect of the schools, including the administrators.
Towards that end, in collaboration with my daughters, Amanda Kesterson and Lisa Fornero, we endorse the following candidates for School Committee:
Joel Favazza has expressed that, in its current state, the Gloucester Public Schools is cheating the taxpayers and students of this community, and he is absolutely correct. We need Joel on the School Committee to act as an independent thinker who will challenge the status quo to aggressively improve our schools.
In light of the above, it would seem surprising to endorse any sitting members of the school committee, but Melissa Teixeira, Tony Gross, and Kathy Clancy, have shown themselves to be open to parental input and have committed to be more vigilant.
Unfortunately, the other candidates express nothing but praise for the GPS and Superintendent. We don’t need School Committee members praising what is failing; we need leadership to insist on improvement and accountability.
In the end, the members of the School Committee must remember that the Superintendent and Principals of the GPS work for the taxpayers of Gloucester.
If our schools remain in the bottom 25 percent of the state, then the leaders are failing and must be replaced.
I believe our superintendent has shown disrespect for the parents in this community by intentionally misrepresenting what is actually occurring in our schools.
It is our hope that the new School Committee will recognize this, and take the appropriate steps to hold all of our administrators accountable.
JOSEPH M. ORLANDO
LISA O. FORNERO
AMANDA O. KESTERSON