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Today’s Lowell Sun has a letter from Mayor Jim Milinazzo answering the barrage of editorials critical of the School Committee as well as the overall favorable coverage the Superintendent has been receiving in the pages of the paper. Mayor Milinazzo, I would assume speaking on behalf of the majority of his colleagues, writes:
Despite the standards of ethics in journalism as they relate to principles of “detachment” and avoidance of partiality when dealing with matters involving personal relationships or friendships with various newsmakers, such principles do not appear to have met here. It would be difficult to argue by any standard that the committee has been treated fairly and respectfully. When the committee issued two brief public statements, in each instance, The Sun’s editors provided readers with only excerpts. By contrast, when counsel for the superintendent issued public statements, they were printed in full. Moreover, when the committee issued its public statements, both the superintendent and her counsel were contacted for comment prior to publication. Again, by contrast, neither the committee nor its counsel (with one minor exception) were ever provided with such an opportunity.
Perhaps the most disturbing instance of disparate treatment has been The Sun’s efforts in perpetuating a position favorable to the superintendent, which it knows to be false: the timing and circumstances surrounding the release of the superintendent’s public message. Unbeknownst, at the time, to committee members, the superintendent and her counsel met with Sun staff members on the morning of Jan. 18, 2011. During that meeting, the superintendent and her counsel relayed her reasons for ending negotiations as later set forth in her “public message.” Despite statements by the superintendent’s counsel to the contrary, committee members learned of the superintendent’s public message after the press — a fact that The Sun has been well aware of throughout the coverage on this story. Such actions stray far from the scrupulous practices of disclosures or recusals readers should expect from their newspaper and its editors.
I thought that perhaps with the passage of time, things would be clearer but that will not happen; the discussion is getting muddied, as a result of the efforts of the Lowell teachers’ union leadership and of the editorial pages of the Lowell Sun. Here is the link to last Saturday’s editorial that prompted the Mayor’s letter.
At times, it read like rants of an angry, bitter man who is not shedding any light or providing any solutions besides telling all of us that the School Committee is “unscrupulous” and “untrustworthy.” And speaking of the Sun, I am not sure why Kendall has not weighed in on this issue but he has not. So I am going to take this silence to mean he does not agree with the editorial position of the paper and does not want to start an internecine battle of the words.
I do believe that one of the problems with this School Committee is not their commitment or work-ethic, they are principled individuals who care but I do agree they are not quick to build consensus; they lack a much needed floor leader.
Part of the problem with this entire controversy is that most of us did not start paying attention until mid-January. Really, how many people follow School Committee meetings besides the few activist parents? Even the Sun, who is eager to tell us what this School Committee is all about, did not have staff, either a reporter or correspondent, covering many of the meetings this past fall. Remember for a few months, they had only one person covering all of Lowell.
Now we have the paper, and to a certain degree the radio as well as special interests trying to shape the narrative of a School Committee that irrationally and without warning to the rest of us came to the conclusion that they had some concerns with the Superintendent performance and attitude. If we really had been paying attention, we would have noticed that little by little trust and communication had become an issue.
The debate on the SCs’ judgment and decisions should take place in the fall, not now; whether they acted in the public’s best interest or not, needs to be argued at election time. I am not sure what is gained by this continued barrage against the School Committee members; maybe this is a part of a campaign to get candidates to come forward to throw the incumbents out. I do not see how anyone who will be perceived to be under the influence of Campy or Paul Georges will win. But for now, if we really do care about the school system, we need to put our immediate efforts into searching and selecting the best available candidate to lead the Lowell School system.
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