GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 5, 2013

Fishtown Local: Rewriting local school history

Fishtown Local
Gordon Baird

---- — People ask me if I ever read the electronic and — until today — mostly anonymous online comments on the Times stories at gloucestertimes.com.

I don’t.

They have only told me that in that world, my columns make a certain group of people begin jumping up and down like ants in a hot frying pan. I love that image — here I come, there they go.

But last week (Fishtown Local column, “The moving game pieces at Fuller School,” Monday, July 29) I did see that I actually got Jason Grow, one of the regulars who at least has used his real name when posting, to postulate online that it was mainly I, Gordon Baird, private citizen, that caused the school department to paint its way into the corner they currently find themselves in with the West Parish/Fuller school maintenance and disintegration problem.

My mother would be so proud that Jason said: “Pretty rich irony coming from one of the architects of the tax-payer funded, colossal failure known as the Community Arts Charter School. The efforts by former GCA Trustee Baird and his cohorts to divert millions of education dollars to their own failed personal experiment is one of the reasons that the School Committee was unable to release full control of Fuller in the first place.”

Now I’m glad he brought that up. Because it might be news to the real architects of the charter, who, in truth would admit that I was the last person invited onto the board by a group of educators and driven parents who did the endless real work. I always wanted to be an architect, except I’m not. But about that money part ...

You’ve got a financial blooper there, JG. The charter hadn’t taken dime-one from the city yet because the state pays for the set-up and implementation phase over three years. And let’s not forget that the Gloucester Public School District received $444,000 in federal Race To The Top money that couldn’t have been awarded without a charter school.

In fact, the Commonwealth had to have an approved charter school in 2009 as part of their application to qualify for the $5 billion RTTT money the state landed, a scantily reported and exposed news item. Follow the cash, folks and you’ll see who’s blowing smoke at the state and local level. They took the Fed’s money and ran.

And as to that “colossal failure”, let us remember, it is established fact that, in Year 2, the charter whipped the Gloucester Middle School (Grades 6-8) in the English, Reading and Writing MCAS tests.

That’s right; they surpassed the state average, had a huge growth improvement rate and to repeat, the beat the scores in the district. So if that’s colossal failure, what dos that say about the home team ?

But back to the hopping ants in the frying pan online thing, I appreciate such attention from the local folks and will continue to lead where I know they’ll follow.

That’s the great thing about America. I can bring it up and they can talk about it.

Hoorah! I have finally amounted to something. I can finally tell my relatives to go stick it who said I’d never amount to a hill of beans or a hail of ants.

It’s great to have these people so tied to leash training that I can flick it and they will immediately respond. Just go on the web site today and see them jump up and down in that frying pan.

I say blue, they say it’s pink. I say it’s broken, they say it’s fixed.

I say there’s no plan and no vision, they say Gloucester schools are run by geniuses. And while most of Gloucester has moved on, you’ll continue to fight the old battles like summer reruns.

You can try and rewrite history, but, sadly, I’m not sure anyone is reading. I know I’m not.

Gordon Baird is a local actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine, and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the former Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.