Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sara Hathaway is a woman scorned by the Good Old Boys of Pittsfield Politics
"Don't be fooled again by Ruberto"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters to the Editor, October 29, 2009
"What is my salary?" This was Jim Ruberto's first question to me when I met with him at City Hall right after the November 2003 election. To me, this question was clear but sad evidence of Jim's first priority as mayor-elect: himself. It also showed me that this was a man who had never looked at a city budget -- the mayor's salary is always the first line item on page one, and could hardly be missed by anyone who had taken the time to crack the front cover of this essential document.
Flash forward to 2009. At the debate on Oct. 26, the moderator asked a question about the "Jobs for Pittsfield" task force that Jim had put in place during his first term. The chair of this task force, Bill Hines, had indicated that 150 jobs per year was a realistic goal for the group, according to the moderator. "Mr. Hines' numbers are not mine," said the current mayor, attempting to distance himself from the claims of his appointee. Indeed. Jim Ruberto had constantly promised voters in 2003 that there would be 200 new jobs, not 150. Although he claimed that he had kept his promises to the people of Pittsfield, I know I am not alone in recognizing that Jim's "straight talk about taxes" and the suitcase he would take on the road to recruit new businesses have helped form a trail of broken promises.
I recognized Jim's hollow promises for what they were in 2003. After he took office, I know that many voters quickly became aware that their new mayor had sold them a bill of goods. Don't be fooled again. Please join me on Nov. 3 in supporting Dan Bianchi, the candidate for Pittsfield's mayor who will bring integrity, know-how and intelligence to City Hall.
The writer is a former mayor of Pittsfield.
"Arbitrator orders reinstatement of teachers"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, May 17, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Public Schools must reinstate four teachers and give them back pay for being unduly fired from Reid Middle School two years ago, a state arbitrator has ruled.
In a 63-page decision issued by arbitrator Tammy Brynie, she determined Principal Morgan Williams and his administration failed to properly evaluate a total of six English teachers before Williams let them go after the 2008-09 school year.
However, Brynie only ruled that Nancy Manes, Pam Farron, Sara Hathaway and Ramsey Stewart be rehired and awarded their salary for one year, less any earnings during that period, according to Pittsfield's labor attorney Fernard Dupere. The total amount owed the teachers has yet to be calculated, city school officials said.
The other two teachers, Susan Conklin and the late Blanche Mednick, were denied compensation and the right to reinstatement because neither had earned their teachers license.
All six educators had three years or less service with the Pittsfield Public Schools.
The school district has 30 days to challenge the ruling in Berkshire Superior Court, and an appeal is under consideration, said Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III.
Eberwein was "surprised and very disappointed" by the arbitrator's decision, while the city's teachers union was "pleased" an established teacher evaluation process was upheld.
Brynie wrote that the teachers were "significantly and substantially prejudiced" by the improper evaluations because the evaluations were in violation of the union contract between the United Educators of Pittsfield and the School Committee.
"The decision reinforces our firm belief that the evaluation process needs to be fair and consistent for all our educators," said UEP President Scott Eldridge. "We have an agreed upon evaluation process and it wasn't followed."
Eberwein disagreed, saying he's confident Williams followed the process "perfectly."
"The arbitrator listed several citations in her report of how well [Williams] wrote the evaluations," he said.
In addition, Williams pointed out that Brynie agreed with him that he found several deficiencies in the teachers classroom performance.
While the arbitrator's decision could prove costly for the school district, Eberwein is more concerned about the reinstatement order.
"We didn't renew the contract for six teachers because we clearly don't want them working in our system," he said.
To reach Dick Lindsay: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6233.
"City must rehire former Reid teachers"
By Jonathan Levine, The Pittsfield Gazette, May 19, 2011
An arbitrator has ordered the city to rehire and provide back pay & benefits for four former Reid Middle School English teachers.
The arbitrator sided with the United Educators of Pittsfield/Massachusetts Teachers Association, determining that the school department violated contractual provisions outlining how teachers must be evaluated.
The ex-teachers were, according to arbitrator Tammy Byrne, “significantly and substantially prejudiced by, among other items, the failure to provide required notice of performance issues and the lack of opportunity to meet [principal Morgan] Williams’ performance expectations.”
A concurrent complaint of discrimination — the teachers were all middle-aged women — remains unresolved under the umbrella of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
The arbitrator also determined that two other teachers were unfairly evaluated, but ruled that their failure to complete required certification provided cause for their firing.
The ruling prompted divergent reactions from the union and school department.
Scott Eldridge, president of the United Educators of Pittsfield, said that the union regrets that the case had to go to formal arbitration but has been vindicated.
“We would have been willing to work with the district on this but they felt they were right and we felt they weren’t,” said Eldridge. “Our contract has a set process for the evaluation of teachers without professional status and it wasn’t followed.”
Superintendent Howard “Jake” Eberwein III expressed disappointment with the ruling, which he feels could set a bad precedent statewide.
“The spirit of the evaluation process was absolutely followed,” he said. “This is going to have some real effect... I don’t think it’s the right thing for public education.”
Byrne’s 63-page ruling follows a hearing and the presentation of some 3,000 pages of documents.
The arbitrator outlined how the six teachers had received generally favorable evaluations under former principal Beth Narvaez including “constructive criticism,” “supportive” comments and “informal” observations beyond the formal evaluations.
Williams succeeded Narvaez with a different management style and much less informal contact with the teachers. The arbitrator describes Williams as “a principal with a different perspective and expectations.”
The issue, per the arbitrator, is that the teachers “were never given adequate notice about Williams performance expectations.” Williams allegedly provided less support and failed to attend follow-up observations, during which the teachers could show how they had addressed whatever issues he highlighted following the initial 45-minute observation.
Byrne did not fault Williams’ classrooms observations, but rather his communication regarding them and his decision to have another administrator conduct the follow-up sessions.
“A single observation and receipt of his critical observation notes does not fulfill the employer’s contractual requirement to make specific recommendations for improvement and to provide assistance,” writes the arbitrator.
The decision also highlights that the teachers seemed genuinely shocked to be terminated, suggesting that they did not receive adequate follow up or communication to know their fates had changed.
She specifically determines that the teachers were “substantially prejudiced by their inability to have Williams re-assess their performance.”
Eldridge noted that Narvaez had decided not to renew teachers “and we never fought them on it.” The difference, he said, is that she followed the contractual process and even went beyond the minimum, “giving them opportunities for improvement.”
Eberwein feels that Williams met the contractual process and said that administrators need to be able to terminate new teachers with subpar performance. “We have a very narrow window during which we can determine whether a teacher is of the caliber we require,” he said. “We need to be very critical and aggressive on teachers in the first three years of employment.”
Neither Eldridge nor Eberwein know the particular financial impacts of the decision, which calls for one year of back pay, less any other earnings during the period, as well as benefits compensation.
“To be honest, we don’t have any idea of what the damages are,” said Eberwein.
He added that the school departments’ lawyers will “be tearing apart this arbitration ruling” to identify any modifications needed in evaluation procedures.
Eldridge said it’s not clear whether any of the four former teachers — Nancy Manes, Pam Farron, Sara Hathaway and Ramsay Steward — will seek the reinstatement. However he stressed that the union will assist them if they accept the reinstatements to ensure they receive placement to a non-hostile environment and get a fair chance at future evaluations.
“The process was not followed,” he said. “Most of the time it never goes this far when administrators don’t follow the contract, but we knew this was a case that had merit.”
Union representatives indicated that no decision had been made whether to continue pursuing the MCAD complaint. That case alleges that Williams’ terminations of the female teachers represents age and gender discrimination.
"Pittsfield school district settles age discrimination complaints; costs unclear: MCAD upholds first allegation of discriminating based on age, rejects gender-based allegation"
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, May 14, 2015
PITTSFIELD - Complaints filed in 2010 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the Pittsfield Public Schools over the dismissal of six teachers — all middle-age women — have been resolved.
The school system has budgeted $200,000 this fiscal year in a line item titled Employee Separation Costs, which a source said is related to the complaints. However, officials declined to release details of any cash settlements, or whether other line items this year or in past years were related to the complaints.
What role the city's liability insurance may have played in the matter also remains unclear.
The six complaints alleged discrimination based on age and on gender, and the MCAD upheld the first allegation while rejecting the second.
Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless and others contacted cited confidentiality agreements preventing them from publicly discussing the complaint resolutions.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, an ex officio member of the School Committee, said, "It is my understanding that a claim like this is paid by our insurance policy."
Asked about the $200,000 line item in the school budget, he referred the question back to the school administration.
One of the parties to the action, Pamela Farron, currently serves on the School Committee, having been elected in 2013, while another is former Pittsfield Mayor Sara Hathaway, who served in that post from 2002-04.
Contacted by The Eagle, Farron said she would like to talk about the MCAD complaints but could not because of the agreement. "That was part of it," Farron said.
She also stressed that as a School Committee member since January 2014, she did not participate in any discussions among committee members concerning the MCAD complaints.
As a member of the committee, Farron said, "I have tried to just be an advocate for education."
Hathaway could not be reached for comment.
According to emails from an MCAD official, Hathaway's complaint and that of Susan Conklin were recently settled, and the complaints filed by Farron and Nancy Manes were settled in February.
MCAD documents obtained by The Eagle through a public records request show that complaints by Ramsay Stewart and the late Blanche Mednick, who died in 2010, both were resolved in 2013.
Mednick's estate approved a settlement in January 2013, and Stewart's case was closed in the same month, after a request on her behalf, according to MCAD documents. Stewart could not be reached for comment.
The six non-tenured teachers at Reid Middle School, who were not re-appointed in 2009 after receiving negative evaluations from then-Principal Morgan Williams, filed complaints with the MCAD in January 2010.
An investigation by the MCAD resulted in a split decision in 2012, which found probable cause for a finding of discrimination based on age but a lack of probable cause to support the claim of discrimination based on gender.
Reports on the six individual complaints were filed in 2012 by MCAD investigator and compliance officer Nomxolisi Khumalo. The investigator concluded in part in each that "there is sufficient evidence upon which a finder of fact could form a reasonable belief that it is more probable than not [the school system] subjected the complainant to unlawful discrimination based on age."
Regarding gender discrimination, however, Khumalo concluded in his recommendations that "allegations regarding discrimination based on gender fail ... ."
He noted that in some of the cases the complainant was replaced by a female employee, and that the school's workforce was "comprised of predominantly female employees."
In a disposition notice to the parties sent in July 2012, investigating MCAD Commissioner Jamie R. Williamson agreed with both recommendations in Khumalo's report.
All six complaints are similar in most respects in MCAD documents obtained. The women were in their mid-40s or 50s and had worked in the school for less than three years and had received prior performance evaluations of satisfactory in all or most teaching evaluation categories by Reid Principal Beth Schiavino-Narvaez.
In August 2008, according to the MCAD documents, Williams replaced Schiavino-Narvaez as principal at Reid. After an evaluation process that included observing the teachers in classrooms, Williams gave each negative evaluation reports in 2009 and did not renew their employment.
Williams has since left the school district.
A key factor was that the women were among approximately 25 teachers in the school and 10 in the English Language Arts Department, where the women worked, who lacked "professional status," meaning they did not have permanent employee status and could be dismissed by the principal.
In the district's arguments against the complaints, cited in Khumalo's report, Williams was evaluating the nonprofessional-status teachers with the knowledge that some, if reappointed, would attain permanent status at that time.
The investigator states that the school system asserted: "As a result Williams had to closely evaluate those teachers to determine whether they were good candidates for becoming permanent teachers."
Khumalo lists some of the issues raised by Williams or by John Vosburgh, then-vice principal at Reid, after they had observed the teachers in class. Their notations, upon which Williams based his negative evaluations and decisions not to reappoint the women, included the pace of lessons, confusion among students; students appearing off-task, students talking during an explanation or leaving their desks, or a lack of control over student behavior.
Shortly after the women were not reappointed in 2009, a grievance appeal was mounted through the United Educators of Pittsfield/Massachusetts Teachers Association that resulted in an arbitrator's determination in May 2011 in favor of four of the six women — Farron, Hathaway, Manes and Stewart.
They were ordered reinstated with back pay and benefits for one year, less any other earnings during that period.
The arbitrator concluded that the school system had not followed contractual provisions in evaluating the teachers, primarily relating to failure to notify the woman of performance issues and lack of opportunity to address the issues.
Reinstatement and compensation were not recommended by the arbitrator for Conklin or Mednick, because they had not yet obtained state teaching licenses.
Hathaway, Manes and Stewart later worked in the school system for a time, according to Alex Lomaglio, field representative with the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Farron returned to Berkshire Community College, where she currently is coordinator of the Disability Resource Center.
Then-Superintendent Howard J. Eberwein was quoted in an Eagle article in 2011 as disappointed with the arbitrator's decision, contending Williams had followed the teacher evaluation process, and he said an appeal of the ruling was under consideration.
However, no appeal to the court system was filed, according to attorney Fernand Dupere, of Westfield, who represented the school system in the arbitration matter. He also said it is his understanding that the settlements related to the arbitration ruling were paid out soon afterward.
Lomaglio said that also is his understanding. "All of the money owed through arbitration was paid at that time," he said.
Eberwein, now dean of continuing education at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, could not be reached for comment on the complaint resolutions.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association Division of Legal Services is listed as having filed the six discrimination complaints with the MCAD in 2010. The attorney who signed the complaints, Matthew D. Jones, could not be reached for comment.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. firstname.lastname@example.org @BE_therrien on Twitter
"Former Pittsfield mayor Sara Hathaway prefers 'Big Harbaugh' in Super Bowl"
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle, February 3, 2013
PITTSFIELD -- Former Mayor Sara Hathaway will have a definite rooting interest in today’s Super Bowl clash between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
That would be Big Harbaugh. You know him as John Harbaugh, coach of the Ravens.
"I think John’s girlfriend at the time came up with Big Harbaugh [for John] and Little Harbaugh [for his brother, Jim, who is 14 months younger]," Hathaway said. "Probably to bug Jim."
Hathaway and John Harbaugh are 1980 graduates of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Jim Harbaugh, who coaches the 49ers, graduated from high school in 1982 in Palo Alto, Calif., where the family moved in 1981.
Hathaway, Pittsfield’s mayor in 2002 and ‘03, said she didn’t have any classes with John Harbaugh but saw him a lot.
"It was a pretty big school," she recalled. "Maybe 1,200 kids. I saw him in the hall often."
"I think," she said, chuckling, "that if you took a poll, there would have been widespread agreement that both Harbaughs were hunks in high school."
Hathaway, 51, remembers when Big Harbaugh and his Pioneer teammates wore their football jerseys to class the day before a game, per school tradition. During her sophomore year, Hathaway even was the team’s statistician.
"I went to all the away games as well as the home games," she said.
The former Pittsfield mayor, now a proctor at Berkshire Community College, emphasized that while both Harbaughs went to Ann Arbor Pioneer, there is no doubt who she’ll be rooting for today.
"I think a group of us from the class of 1980 will be on Facebook while we watch the game," Hathaway said. "And there’s no doubt that we’re rooting for the Ravens. Everybody [in her class] loves John."
Seated from left: Former mayor Gerry Doyle, Mayor Daniel Bianchi, and former mayors Sara Hathaway and James Ruberto film a message Friday for Pittsfield’s Irish Sister City of Ballina, Ireland, whose town council will dissolve to join a regional government. (Jenn Smith / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)
"Pittsfield mayor, 3 predecessors unite for love of Ireland"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle, 5/24/2014
PITTSFIELD -- How do you get three former city mayors into the same room as the current one? For the love of Ireland.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi welcomed his predecessors -- James M. Ruberto, Sara Hathaway and Gerald S. Doyle Jr. -- into his office Friday morning to film, with Pittsfield Community Television, a brief video message of gratitude and solidarity for their fellow delegates in Pittsfield’s Sister City of Ballina, Ireland.
Ballina, located in North County Mayo, about 71 miles north of Galway, will hold its last town council meeting on Thursday. Ballina is one of the many councils that will be abolished as of June, and absorbed into a newly adopted regional governing system.
The sisterhood between Pittsfield and Ballina was established on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1998, through Sister Cities International. Ties and annual delegation visits have been maintained over the years with support from Pittsfield Irish Sister City Committee.
"I thought this would be a nice opportunity for us to come together and wish them well," said Bianchi. "Our hearts and arms will always be open to the people of Ballina."
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at email@example.com
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