'Calm Down,' School Committee Chair Tells Snow Removal Critics

Mike Tyler says it is an "injustice" to say city workers and contractors did an inadequate job during the cleanup.

For two full weekdays and two hours of a third day, Attleboro's public schools were closed as city workers and contractors removed snow on district property and the city's sidewalks in the aftermath of last week's blizzard. For many people, this was frustrating, and they expressed that frustration in emails to School Committee Chair Mike Tyler and by criticizing the recovery effort through various means, including on the comments section of Attleboro Patch and its Facebook page.

Tyler, who had to work on the recovery effort in Rehoboth where he is the highway superintendent, gave advice to the critics during the closing minutes of the school committee meeting Wednesday: "Calm down a little bit."

The school committee chair said he received several email from people that were "so off-base." He said people should wait for a period before they "push that send button." Tyler also did not like comments stated in public about the work.

"There area a lot of people doing a lot of hard work, doing the best they can," Tyler said. "And to see their department or names thrown out there in the public of doing an inadequate job is such an injustice for the work and the time that they put in."

He added, "They deserve our blessings as a school committee and as a community at large ... People really need to take a deep breath sometimes. I realize that a lot of people are stressed out, but to take that stress and put it on somebody else is just unjustified."

Schools closed Friday as the community braced for the storm. After more than two feet of snow dropped on the city from Friday through Saturday afternoon, schools continued to be closed Monday and Tuesday. They were reopened Wednesday, two hours after the regular start time.

Mayor Kevin Dumas wrote in a message on the city's website Monday that the closure for Tuesday was because it would be dangerous for children to walk to school.

"It has been declared a public safety issue for students to walk to school due to the large amount of snow at intersections," he wrote. "The city will continue to perform the required work to clear sidewalks and lower snow piles appropriately. Our students' safety is paramount and should be everyone's priority."

School district Superintendent Pia Durkin said at the meeting Wednesday there was a "smooth opening" of the schools earlier that day. She praised district facilities manager Jason Parenteau and others who worked on the recovery effort.

"Our custodians and our maintenance folks … have done an amazing job," Durkin said. "While we were sitting warm in a building, they were out there from early morning till late at night to get everything cleared."

Durkin said most people "kept their cool," and it was unfortunate that some people did not. She said she did not get many emails while the schools were closed. 

"That says a lot about our families trusting us and in many cases people appreciated the extra time and understood what was happening," Durkin said.

School Committee member David Murphy said Parenteau and his staff should receive a formal recognition for their work at an upcoming meeting. Durkin said she would schedule recognition.

Erin February 15, 2013 at 06:34 PM
I was frustrated that school was closed Tuesday, but my frustration is NOT with Attleboro Public Schools, it is with the citizens of Attleboro. Why do so many people NOT shovel their sidewalks here? We live less than three blocks from school and my daughter still cannot safely walk to her school because there are so many unshoveled sidewalks in front of private residences and businesses. Everyone needs to take responsibility for his/her own property, so the city can resume normal operations and functioning. I think we need a city ordinance requiring property owners to remove snow from the sidewalks on their property in a timely manner after a snowfall.
Gretchen Robinson February 15, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Thank you for your call for civility. This kind of over-the-top reaction is found in many areas of society today. It's a chronic anger and discontent that comes venting out whenever there's the slightest interruption to our rushed lives. We should have more respect for others and doing the best they can. How many of the critics would have done better after long hours of plowing? It's SO easy to complain and dump on the City or the mailman or your doctor or your child's teacher. Maybe take that pointed finger and turn it around so it points to yourself!! Snowstorms are a fact of life in New England in winter. Expect them. Erin. Good point. I just heard that several Walgreens pharmacies in Boston are being fined for not having their sidewalks shoveled. I saw on NE Cable news that youths were hired to shovel sidewalks and felt good about doing something for the city. It was good to see them doing physical work and 'giving back.'
Jerry Chase February 15, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Hold the phone! Mrs. Durkin said that she would "schedule" recognition?? THAT is NOT her perogative: the scheduling belongs to the School Committee Chair. The superintendent may certainly get the 'recognition' in motion, get it prepared for presentation publicly, . . . but "scheduling"? Absolutely not! Said statement of hers reminds me of an important question: just who runs the School Committee meetings, anyway? As a former school committee member and a parent of a member of AHS '97 diploma of academic distinction, I hereby remind one and all that the superintendent works for the Committee----NOT the other way around! Got it? There's still doubts that Mrs. Durkin has. I wonder if the New Bedford search committee is aware of her fascist style? Good luck to them!
SD February 15, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Let it go already. The people who wanted her out have gotten their way. Let the end of her tenure go smoothly. There is really no need for further attacks to Dr Durkin, it's overkill and in very poor taste.
Jonathan Friedman (Editor) February 16, 2013 at 12:15 AM
Her exact words were "I will have him come in." I didn't question her in-depth after the meeting to see exactly how the process will work.
Gretchen Robinson February 16, 2013 at 01:57 AM
SD, thanks for your request for some decency here. I don't know enough about her to have called her 'fascist.' Anytime I hear that term bandied about, I think the commentor doesn't know what real facism is. Let's save the big bad words for the real fascists.
Jerry Chase February 16, 2013 at 03:28 AM
The term I chose was strictly used to describe her personal style---nothing else.
Jerry Chase February 16, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Jerry Chase February 16, 2013 at 03:36 AM
You may be right in that the term was somewhat too strong. It is, however, accurate to describe her personal style. Poor taste? Well, she is one who evokes strong opinion on both sides as regards herself. So did Joe Rappa, I suppose. I do not, nor have I ever questioned her objective achievements during her tenure. But the sum total of her performance must include important things like attitude, style, demeanor: such cannot be ignored. So, I partially accept your critique, SD; but if the focus must be the whole truth, then even a majority of the truth is not the whole truth and is thus distortion by definition.
Gretchen Robinson February 16, 2013 at 03:48 AM
It's a red flag in some circles. But let us be at peace. I've talked to a couple teachers who say she is too 'directive' (my word) and dominates the process and wants everything her way. I, personally, like a more collaborative style and helping teachers and staff to help students to achieve excellence. The top-down leadership of old was an exercise in ego for the one on top--too often.
SD February 16, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Sometimes the end justifies the means. Her leadership style and direction may be abrasive but Our schools have had some significant achievements under her leadership.
Brandy G. February 16, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Gretchen Robinson February 17, 2013 at 02:32 AM
I agree. She was committed to the children of Attleboro and worked hard. Her style may not have been a good match but its good to see the full picture, good, bad, and in between.
Jerry Chase February 18, 2013 at 07:20 PM
OK. But to provide a little 'balance' from the facts: The Attleboro School Committee chose not to renew here contract. While this is not "firing", it is a rejection. Further, her two previous posts (one in Narragansett, R I ?), she was "bought out" of her contracts. This means that the contract was negotiated such that it was ended early, and thus rejection. Therefore, her last three jobs ended in a form of rejection, mild though it may be construed. One of the needful views is to look at the objective facts; and one of them is that she was rejected in her last three jobs. The only thing that I will conclude here about such fact is that such fact does not speak well of her. We're not talking about baseball managers and their normal dismissal rate. For a professional administrator to be rejected for three jobs in a row has to mean something significant. I leave it to others as to what that means here.
Gretchen Robinson February 19, 2013 at 12:30 AM
Jerry, the SC meeting where she her 'rejection' took place was botched. And that was the recorder's error. This 'rejection' was never properly voted on. Notes for the meeting were incomplete. Some members didn't remember it at all. What you do with this is construe your way into a supposition that doesn't hold water. You're really searching in vain for some reason to turn people against her. (If I were to construe your meaning here is you don't like this lady for your own reasons. But hopefuly I won't'). You can't make a fact out of an assumption. This is not a sound way to make an argument. Jerry both you and I could find people who don't speak well of us. That is a fact of life for anyone. What has that to do with anything? I wasn't rehired for a summer position I held years ago, and didn't take to be a global statement of my worth. No, people get up and begin again after things don't turn out. School Superintendent is a hotseat of a job and given the impossibly high expectations, it's no wonder that Supers don't last like they did in your and my day. Finally, that she was "rejected," is unproved as of now. This does NOT have to, as you say, "mean something significant." Your last sentence is pure innuendo. Please stick to facts and don't make assumptions about someone else's actions or motivations, unless you know.
SD February 19, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Gretchen I couldn't agree more! !
Jerry Chase February 19, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Was she or was she not bought out early from her previous jobs w/ contracts? Whether the decision by the locals here to "not renew" her contract was 'botched' or not done properly, it still does at least suggest that, because she is not being retained, there is some version of a rejection. I suppose it's semantics, or how one chooses to look at it. But neither I, nor SD or Gretchen, have a monopoly on the truth or a perfect view of the facts. I simply allege some stuff, which any and all can accept or reject. I don't think that I'm making stuff up, but c'est la vie. Peace. We can agree to disagree, and live in harmony, anyway. Fair? But, BTW, did serve a term on the local school committee, '08 & '09. Both then and for a goodly while afterwards, the SC was not in turmoil as it has been the last few years. You tell me and others why. As Bill Bowles told me, there is the school of thought that the voters are never wrong. We'll see what changes Nov. might bring.
Gretchen Robinson February 19, 2013 at 03:07 AM
I am on record for having problems with the conduct of the two sister School Committee members who say they only care about the children but make the SC dysfunctional. That is strictly my opinion. Barbara Craw came down my road and stopped and asked for my vote and I voted for her. But I won't vote for her again.
Jerry Chase February 20, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Gretchen, Does the dissent of a minority on a given board cause dysfunction by definition? Did the phenomenon of "turmoil" exist on the SC ten years ago, fifteen years ago? If not, then it is a latter-day thing. It's fair to ask why. Is it possible that any of it does not eminate from within the set of nine members? If so, then where could it be coming from?


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