Left In Lowell

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June 27, 2013

All In The Family

by at 9:30 pm.

Sometimes I feel like Edith Bunker, bewildered and confused…at how the blindingly obvious problems in our city are a shock, a SHOCK! to everyone.

The appearance of nepotism - no matter the circumstances, or whether there real nepotism exists, whether or not qualified candidates have been passed over for family members of people in power - must be addressed, especially when taxpayer dollars are at stake…don’t you agree? Apparently, this is controversial, if you listen to the always-angling Lowell Sun’s “blog” page (I use that term very loosely) or certain other bloggers.

In case you don’t care to donate a pity click to either the Lowell Sun or to that other blogger (and in either case, who can blame you? we do the dirty work so you don’t have to…), School Committee member Kim Scott (and yes, a friend of ours) is raising the issue as a future motion, after a second close relative of a person in power in the Lowell School system managed, somehow, to be the best candidate for supervisory roles above up to 40 other candidates. (Specifically, in this case, the sister of Jay Lang, Deputy Superintendent, became the high school’s Director of the Freshman Academy. This after wife Lori Lang became the Assistant Principal at Pyne Arts last year.)

If this is not the definition of “appearance of impropriety”, I don’t know what could possibly qualify. (Of course, the same people lamenting that this is somehow not at least appearing improper also complain about one of a gazillion non-related campaign workers of the Governor’s becoming a part of his administration. Funny that.)

Gerry’s absolutely immature take is that “Lowellians need not apply.” Like Scott’s motion is somehow to ban Lowell residents from becoming staff members at the school. I won’t even *facepalm* that one, it’s so bad.

Here’s what the Sun managed not to report on their “blog,” which I got from Kim, both from her comments on the BTSNBN’ed (points for working out that acronym), and from her directly tonight, when we both attended Fred Bahou’s fundraiser for GLTHSC (another management clusterfuck if there ever was one): Kim Scott is not aiming at any particular member of the leadership of the school department. She is addressing an issue which is so blindingly obvious, Edith Bunker herself would be able to see it. If certain people in the administration see this as aiming at them…well, maybe said persons are defensive for a reason. Perhaps they have actions that require defending?

Runon sentences and parentheticals aside, the ridiculousness of the Sun’s “reporting” (that this is directed at Jay Lang) and the jumping to redonkulous conclusions from that other link, defy all reality. Honestly, it’s enough to make this very busy girl start blogging regularly again.

Where are the freaking adults? Do they still exist? Since when do we let our taxpayer dollars go unwatched? Suddenly, this kind of stuff is all right? I’m flabbergasted.

I’m sick and flippin’ tired of the whole “hire Lowellians” phraseology, which is simply a euphemism for “hire my friends and relatives.” But when someone hires someone else’s friends and relatives, oh, ho! All of a sudden, that’s bad!

Um, no. It’s always bad. This is why I support people like Kim, who operate under rules of fairness, not what they can get out of it for them and theirs. It’s how I pick my friends…by their honesty and above board behavior. I know I won’t be embarrassed by my friends. I know that when we disagree, it’s on the merits, and when we support each other, it’s also on the merits. And when hiring practices look sketchy - whether they are actually sketchy or not - I am glad that they are there to ask the right questions.

And you thought the School Committee race was gonna be boring this summer…

45 Responses to “All In The Family”

  1. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I really wish I could give credit to wherever I first heard this, but someone once mentioned that the city motto, rather than being “Art is the handmaid of human good”, should really be “I went to school with your sister.”

  2. Taxpayer Says:

    All department heads including City Manager should have to live within the City of Lowell. Police have residency restrictions under Civil Service. I think it is good for employees to work where they live. Nepotism will always and continue to go on as long as employees keep asking for “Letters of Recommendation”!

  3. Lynne Says:

    Please tell me that comment was a parody.

    Elsewise, you basically have become on the List of People Whose Points to Ignore Entirely.

    If you can’t tell the difference between networking (legitimate) and hiring your WIFE, then I think you have missed the boat entirely.

  4. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Some ordinance examples regarding nepotism:

    http://www.generalcode.com/codification/sample-legislation/nepotism

    http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/personnel/nepot.aspx

    https://www.google.com/search?q=example+nepotism+ordinance&oq=example+nepotism+ordinance

    No time to brows them myself right now, but feel free to look around and supply suggestions.

  5. Mr. Lynne Says:

    One other thought - next time you’re on the connector and see the Wang building, take a moment to reflect on how cool it was that Wang was in Lowell and how that made our future look. Then take a moment to reflect that the father put the company into his son’s hands and he ran in into the ground.

    There’s a landmark to nepotism and many of us drive by it every day.

  6. Taxpayer Says:

    Conspiracy theorist?

  7. joe from Lowell Says:

    Credit that to someone very clever, Mr. Lynne. Clever, and devastatingly handsome.

  8. daughterofdoom Says:

    In Texas, when you take over daddy’s company and run it into the ground you become gov’ner then President.

  9. George Says:

    Is there a French phrase for putting forth a decent idea at the worst possible time? Ms. Scott just lost the vote of every LHS teacher when she dragged Jill Lang’s name through the mud. Jill’s promotion was met with near-universal approval at the school and a standing ovation in the FA. She is one of the best people we have there and anyone questioning her success is going to come out looking foolish. We all know Ms. Scott is simply carrying the water for super Dave Conway anyways, one of the worst LHS employees in recent years, who throws a tantrum whenever he can’t jam a handpicked non-relative into every job–in this case a caveman from Dracut. To paraphrase Mr. Gignac: worry about the performance of the system as a whole and don’t try to micromanage things you clearly don’t understand.

  10. Lynne Says:

    First, that’s assuming teachers are a monolithic group. They are not.

    Second, that’s assuming a good lot of the teachers aren’t applauding. I bet they are.

    Third, who gives a fuck? It’s the right thing to do.

    Shill much?

    Also, the idea that Kim Scott carries water for Conway…OMFG are you clueless…LMAO.

  11. Mr. Lynne Says:

    So here’s the thing. If there are teachers that are looking askance at the promotion, you’re not actually likely to hear about it through regular channels. That’s why even when qualifications are good, the appearance of impropriety itself can create a morale problem.

    Note that in the example ordinances I’ve linked to, there are still ways in many of them to hire family - it just takes extra scrutiny.

    If there’s evidence that places that do operate with rules that guard against nepotism operate badly, then maybe there’s a case that our adoptions wouldn’t work. So make a case.

  12. Lynne Says:

    Note: we have started to have the predicable drive-by meat puppets come out and defend the nepotism. Note that our friend “George” here, his IP address has never been used on this blog, meaning it’s highly likely he’s never commented here before. (By highly likely, I mean I feel pretty safe saying he hasn’t.)

  13. Jack Says:

    There is a fairly long running feud between the teaching labor pool and the political appointees that are anointed into the school admin. Anyone with the slightest notion of what a pyramid looks like, knows the top slots are coveted. Any connection will be exploited to over come merit. It gets really dicey when those with decent resumes are also connected to powerful insiders.

    All things being remotely equal, the connected gets the gig.

    Let’s take care not to suggest that anyone mentioned in the Blog of Record is a bad pick. By all accounts, they are very much qualified for the positions they attained. Most likely they will acquire the qualifications that are need for their next promotion, as well.

    What Kim Scott aims to do, is place safeguards against impropriety or the appearance of such. That should help to diffuse grudges and low morale when hiring decisions are made.

    Finally, the notion of Kim Scott colluding with Dave Conway is astoundingly ill informed. Should this motion come to pass as some sort of litmus test amongst the teachers and other labor pools on the school side, I would not bet that there is a clear break, one way or another.

    Though, past being prologue. …

  14. George Says:

    1) I have commented before. I seriously don’t know where an ISP comes from. Since the last time I commented, I have changed my router and modem, and have bought a new computer. Would any of those have made a difference? Not that it matters, but I would usually be inclined to agree with this blog on most issues. This is not one of those times. I also don’t think that anti-nepotism sentiments, and perhaps even legislation, are a bad idea. It is the timing of this that makes it hideous, and very personal.

    2) You are correct, I cannot speak for every teacher. I can only relate what I have heard from two different summer school programs, in various email chains, and in conversations with the MANY Lowell High School friends I speak with on a regular basis. If we were in session right now I would promise you that a signed letter of support for Jill would be forthcoming. I wouldn’t be surprised if one started even now, but we will see. To be honest, I don’t know anything about Ms. Scott or her politics. For my own mental health I don’t really pay attention to the pit of despair that is Lowell politics save for times of crisis. As a result, I have no reserve of goodwill for her and would now like to see her lose her next election. I have seen (emails) and heard this sentiment from more than a few people.

    3) Many teachers know that Dave Conway (and more than a few GOBs (your bete noires)) favored Robert Fitzgerald for the post. I can assure you from my time seeing him in the teacher center reading a Michael Savage book that you would not like “Fitzy.” Dave Conway, and again I can only speak for the teachers you might wat your son or daughter to have at LHS, has very little respect from anyone who had the distinct displeasure of working with him. He was a bad teacher and an even worse Housemaster. We also know that Dave throws temper tantrums when his picks get ignored.

    4) I have known Jay Lang for a long time. Anyone who grew up in Lowell in the 80s and 90s does too because he ran everything we were involved in–St. Margaret’s, baseball, etc. Whatever activity it was it seemed that Jay had a leadership role in it. It surprised exactly zero people when he moved very quickly up the LPS ladder.

    5) Jill Lang is cut from similar cloth. She is a tireless worker and the overwhelming pick among FA teachers (and Ms. Durkin) for the job. I don’t care how many applicants there were. Do you honestly think that it is suspicious when a very successful, and very hard working, second-in-command gets a vacated post on the very next rung above her? Unless Geoffrey Canada slipped his application in without any of us noticing, I think she was easily the best person for the job. Sweeping generalization alert: anyone who is “whispering” that Jill got the job because of nepotism is a crackpot. Full disclosure: I applied unsuccessfully for the job Jill had before her promotion; she deserved that one too.

    6) There are many Lowell teachers with relatives in the system– most certainly including me. This is not a coincidence. I didn’t get a job here because of someone’s influence. I was influenced to love Lowell and want to get into teaching through the tireless dedication of many of my friends and relatives. My story is not uncommon and it does sometimes, and perhaps frequently, lead to tangled webs of familial connection and overlapping influence. There are ways of working around the thorny issues. Does it lead to abuse? I’m sure it does, but I personally have had better experiences working with people who have administrators working as relatives than I have had with those who got jobs through political influence (*cough* Dave Conway *cough*.) I have also worked it bigger cities where this phenomenon is less prevalent and I honestly think the good outweighs the bad and that Lowell education is better off for it in many ways. It is perhaps a worthwhile debate.

    7) Again, I’m not sure that Ms. Scott’s proposal is a bad one. It is the timing of it that make’s my, and many of my colleagues’, blood boil. Jill does not need to work in Lowell. She would get the next administrative opening in a town like Westford or Lexington in a heartbeat and do a great job. In this particular case, the concern is catastrophically unfounded. The school is certainly stronger with Jill in an administrative role. I don’t really want to hear that this was not supposed to be about her. It most certainly is now. The story in the Lowell Birdcageliner stunk to high heaven and was an embarrassment for everyone involved, intentionally or otherwise. This may have been bad luck for Ms. Scott or naiveté. That’s her problem now. Many (ha!) teachers vote and nobody I know, at least, is happy.

  15. Kim Scott Says:

    So all decent ideas should be saved until after an election? duh….Some people may worry about timing for re-election or their personsl aspirations for higher office, but I will do the right thing every time. Making the right choice has also led to overwhelming support. I never put down Jill or Janet Lang’s abilities or even mentioned their names to the Sun. I told the Sun reporter several times that this was not personal. The performance of the system as a whole is clearly broken when there is a perceived sense that people need not apply. After this story, many teachers and residents (atleast 40…not 1-2) have been in contact with me about their nepotism concerns, about jobs being taken prior to posting, and not having the right last name.

  16. Jack Says:

    I am impressed with George’s follow up (#14). Detailed and rational. I would suggest that George and Co. seek Kim Scott out and acid test her intentions. Knowing Kim as I do, they will surely see her sense of public stewardship shine through.

  17. Lynne Says:

    Well at least you have the balls. But you are still pretty clueless.

    And you are mistaken if you think THIS IS ABOUT JILL LANG. You obviously are missing the ENTIRE point. Jill Lang could have the sun shining out of her ass, and make rainbows every time she steps. This is NOT about any one hire, or any ONE person. This is about adhering to best hiring practices that pretty much the ENTIRE private sector uses.

  18. Lynne Says:

    (Though, Kim said it better above, thanks Kim.)

  19. Lynne Says:

    And the second post might have been “detailed” but I debate that it was rational.

  20. Jack Says:

    The argument was cohesive within itself. I don’t have to agree with it to recognize that it is a honest perspective, shifting in places, as new information is presented.

    Taking a dump on it accomplishes what?

    PS. Kim’s post(#15) is not a response to #14. They were both moderated at the same time.

  21. Lynne Says:

    You know, George, the fact you are here defending Jay Lang tells me *volumes*. It reminds me of the city employees who used to post here in support of John Cox. If Jay Lang is so awesome, his work ought to speak for itself, right? Why does he need his buddies to come on here and defend him?

    You wanna talk about GOBs, but honestly, I think you need to look in the mirror at how you are a little too close to this yourself. Look at what you wrote (bold mine):

    4) I have known Jay Lang for a long time. Anyone who grew up in Lowell in the 80s and 90s does too because he ran everything we were involved in–St. Margaret’s, baseball, etc. Whatever activity it was it seemed that Jay had a leadership role in it. It surprised exactly zero people when he moved very quickly up the LPS ladder.

    “I went to school with your sister.” ‘Nuff said.

  22. Kim Scott Says:

    I appreciate George’s opinions, but I must say that they are not shared by everyone. The only way it was about the Lang’s is that her hiring raised a red flag that this could be a perceived conflict for people. I shared that concern with the Superintendent. I then received emails from residents asking me to start a state ethics investigation or they would, telling me there are jobs that they know not to apply for, and even talk of lawsuits on our hiring practices. I thought a nepotism policy and conversation with the city solicitor was a legitimate place to start and that will continue. The Sun then CALLED me and asked me questions about Ms. Lang’s hire and I honestly answered the questions that yes I thought it was a conflict and yes Jay is in charge when Jean is out. The reporter then made my yes responses in to my quotes. It gave the perception that this was about the Lang’s for me and it was not. Other people got that ball rolling…..hunt them out if the Sun’s timing does not pass the smell test. The bashing of others for political gain is not my game.

  23. Kim Scott Says:

    One more thing- Let’s not forget that Jay Lang is in charge of personnel. I am not suggesting that anything was done wrong, but we need to worry about public and staff perception. The director of HR is Jay’s direct report. Who determines the amount of recruitment for any position? Who chooses the screening committee? Who does the initial screening of the applicants? Jean Franco doesn’t need to be out of the office for Jay Lang to have considerable power over principals, because he also oversees budget, payroll, contracts, student assignment, and purchasing. This proposed policy is in the public and students best interest.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Wilfredo Laboy, convicted felon, knew better. His wife was an excellent assistant principal, but she worked in Lowell. Annual promotions of friends and relatives of people in power creates a toxic, demoralized work environment. Direct reports to family members create a toxic and hostile workplace. If Jay wants to be in charge, his immediate family should make their career moves in other districts.

  25. Lynne Says:

    I’m horrified and shocked, SHOCKED I SAY, that the Sun warped the story. /sarcasm

  26. Kim Scott Says:

    While I am troubled with the way the quotes were warped, I am grateful that it has brought to my attention the many concerns of residents and staff through their numerous emails and calls.

  27. Taxpayer Says:

    Sorry if you just moved here and were sold a pipe dream but people who have lived here for awhile know one another and that’s just how it is!

  28. Jack Says:

    Taxpayer,

    Are you corrupt or just weak?

    Because, from your words, you are either co-signed to the pact of cronyism, nepotism & hackery; or, you have proven to yourself that you are impotent to change anything, even incrementally.

  29. Taxpayer Says:

    I am all for trying to elude nepotism as possible but you take it too far and make it an issue which is not really relevant. Who were the other applicants what where they accolades, experiences and resumes? Do you know or do you just make assumptions because you think you know everything? I’d like you tell me the details of the whole hiring process for this issue since you know much of which you can’t know because it doesn’t have to be public knowledge! All your really doing is trying to but things in your way which is actually the same thing you area arguing over in the first place you just want control!

  30. Jack Says:

    I’m going to need a minute to figure out how such a policy, as understood in the Sun driven kerfuffle, would enable “Jack’s clan” to render an advantage?

    Actually, I may need the rest of my days.

    The whole, ‘you’re just the same as us’ accusation is a proven failure. The efforts to paint Lynch as a suave, sophisticated Cox has gotten your folks, how far?

  31. Mr. Lynne Says:

    If there is an anti-nepotism ordinance with a path for exceptions and safeguards for such a path, then that would just mean a hiring choice with the appearance of nepotism that passed such safeguards would enjoy all the confidence building that such safeguards would entail. If someone beats out dozens of applicants and but appears vulnerable to the appearance of nepotism, the safeguard of a well designed ordinance would only enhance the legitimacy of the hire.

    In the interest of good governance I want the best qualified candidate. In the case of something that looks nepotistic, I want safeguards to ensure that the decision was right in spite of such concerns.

  32. Taxpayer Says:

    Again I support Lynch you put people in groups and don’t treat as individuals. So I will ask again what are the specifics in this issue about other candidates ie: their accolades. resumes, letters of recommendation, and experience. You claim to know all and jump to your conclusion and at least I can make an honest decision on the matter knowing all the facts because as right now none of us do. You never sat in the interview process did you?

  33. Mr. Lynne Says:

    You’re right, we didn’t sit through the interview process. So since we don’t already have an anti-nepotism ordinance, all we have to go on are appearances. What we claim to know is nothing but how things look - but that’s enough to want to address how things get done.

  34. Jack Says:

    Why would I sit through an interview process? Don’t I, as all other Lowellians, delegate such tasks to others. Our elected folks have raised a question about the process. That will be addressed and worked out.

    I’m doing my due diligence. Anyone else want to jump in? Have at it. We can’t have too many folks watching the watchers, can we?

  35. Taxpayer Says:

    OK that’s is fine but your tone makes it sounds like it’s this major conspiracy when in actuality its really not an issue. It another item that can be explored on the agenda. You have 3 threads on it jut thought it was lil overblown that’s all. See we agree

  36. Lynne Says:

    There appears to be (from anecdotal evidence anyways) a high level of frustration within the staff of the School Dept, that moving up is at least perceived (and if perceived this way, probably is) about WHO you know, not WHAT you know.

    The fact that people within the system are expressing such a high level of relief that this is even being discussed, tells me that this discussion is EXTREMELY necessary. This is what cronyism and nepotism does…keeps a lot of talented people from moving up or doing well, just on the basis of the fact they are not “connected,” and destroys moral and confidence in the administration.

    So if this is being systematically perpetrated within the school dept, I sure as shit wanna know about. Don’t you? They’re you taxpayer dollars too.

  37. Lynne Says:

    # 24, Anonymous, please pick a nickname of some sort.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    Taxpayer, I guess you are correct. A nepotism policy will be presented to the School Committee and we will decide whether to approve it or not. My guess is that it will be approved 7-0 after the solicitors input. The Sun pushed news, people that don’t want Lang to be Superintendent got their punch in, and some people will love me for the anti-nepotism policy, some will think it was personal, and others just won’t care. Now I have spent too much time of my vacation not playing with my kids so I will end this with just saying that I still don’t agree with managing relatives and It was not personal for me. I wish Jill Lang success!

  39. Lynne Says:

    But RE Anonymous’ comment: “Annual promotions of friends and relatives of people in power creates a toxic, demoralized work environment. Direct reports to family members create a toxic and hostile workplace. If Jay wants to be in charge, his immediate family should make their career moves in other districts.”

    Exactly right, and there is no reason why family members cannot pursue their careers in other school systems…unless they seem to be getting a better result here in Lowell because they ARE family to someone in power. This to me is the heart of the problem.

  40. Lynne Says:

    (Note: Anon’s and my comments crossed midstream, but just a reminder, please fill in a nickname.)

  41. Lynne Says:

    Wait, is that Kim? LOL

  42. Jack Says:

    #38 Must be Kim Scott.

    There was another Anonymous comment that I left for you to moderate, Lynne. I didn’t like the personal nature of the point, re: Lang’s career, under an anon. The point is valid, but it should be made under, at least, a handle.

    So, to be clear, the two Anon comments are not from the same person.

  43. Kim Scott Says:

    Yes, Jack #38 is me. I cleared my browsers. I have no other comments pending moderation.

  44. Taxpayer Says:

    two words “DAMAGE CONTROL”

  45. Jack Says:

    Two better words, “fabricated crisis.”

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