School Committee plans increased cooperation, defends dialogue policy

Above: The Southborough School Committee discussing dialogue (Image from Southborough Access Media’s streaming video)

Two days after last week’s election, the Southborough School Committee met. Members addressed issues of dialogue and cooperation raised by candidate Tim Martel during the election campaign.

First, newly reelected Paul Desmond and Kathleen Harrigan Polutchko were named Chair and Secretary. Standing committee member Gerald Capra was named Vice Chair.

In the meeting, Capra addressed the issue of working with other town committees. He believed it was a good idea to increase cooperation. He suggested to have Board of Selectmen members put on the agenda for a meeting in the fall so they can work together.

Prior to that, members clarified policy for public dialogue at committee meetings.

They confirmed that Audience Sharing on meeting agendas is only for public comment, not dialogue. Later in the meeting if the topic is on the agenda, the committee will discuss it among themselves and school administrators.

Participating remotely, Desmond stated:

During the campaign there was some issue that the committee doesn’t want back and forth dialogue. And that’s not true. Because there is another avenue for that and that’s to get on the agenda.

So if you have a legitimate issue about a school related matter you, just make the request through the chair or perhaps through the superintendent.

I followed up with Desmond for clarification this week. I wanted to know, if people want to have an open dialogue on something already on the agenda, can they ask to be placed on the agenda for that?

Desmond’s response was:

if someone were to contact the Superintendent and asked to be put on the agenda to discuss an item that’s already on the agenda, my guess is he would tell them they are free to comment during Audience Sharing – that is the vehicle we have in place for such things. As chair, that’s what I would do.

Desmond then pointed back to the justifications made at the meeting by other committee members.

Mary Beth Strickland claimed that their committees are different than many others. Their meetings are where they “do their business” with the principals and the school administration.

It is a meeting that is not for the public. It is a meeting that is in the public due to [public meeting laws]. . . Where other meetings are considered public forums.

She pointed out that the committee follows the recommended procedures and standard format of most school committees.

Harragan claimed that the Southborough School Committee’s policy of allowing a second chance for audience sharing at the end of the meeting is rare.

In his email to me, Desmond pointed me to the Massachussetts Association of School Committees’ website. There, a random check of policy manuals seemed to confirm both Strickland’s and Harragan’s statements about other town’s policies.

Desmond also re-clarified the Audience Sharing as a little more open than it may appear:

speakers should not necessarily expect to engage in dialogue or debate with committee members. If a committee member has a question, they may well ask it. If an audience member has a simple question to which a committee or administration member has a ready answer, we will certainly give it. If not, we may well need time to fully examine the question or any information presented and prepare a response.

Finally, Desmond defended the committee and school administration as listening to the public and offering opportunities “to make themselves heard”.

He referred to public hearings, public presentations, and recent decisions based on public feedback. (After public criticism, the committee voted to scale back the iPad 1:1 initiative and continue observing religious holidays on the calendar.)

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Frank Crowell
9 years ago

These comments from Ms. Harragan and Ms. Strickland are rich. So let me see if I have this right from recent history: We can compare ourselves to other towns when it comes to policy manuals but we cannot compare student’s costs and why they might be different (Mr. Rooney’s questions go unanswered to this day I believe).

If school committee meetings are in public but not for the public, why not have a meeting that is for the public. Public discourse is important and should be allowed. What is the school committee afraid of?

9 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Couldn’t agree more and I don’t always agree with Frank.

William R. Cohen, M.D.
9 years ago

Please let us know if the curriculum for American History at every grade level is available for us to see?

Just which books are used for the children to read?

I have lived in town for 34 years and like many here had no child in the public schools but have paid taxes each year to support the public schools. We should have access to the curriculum.

Dick Chase
9 years ago

Current curriculum frameworks in the Commonwealth for all subjects:

William R. Cohen, M.D.
9 years ago

Thanks Dick Chase for that link.

I gave the portion on American History a once over. I was struck by the focus on our country being a “democracy” again and again in the introduction. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that we elect our representatives in government which sets us apart from those countries in which their elections are a sham, e.g. North Korea comes to mind, where only one candidate is on the ballot.

But as Benjamin Franklin is noted to have said, when asked what kind of government the Constitutional Convention gave us, “a constitutional Republic, if you can keep it!”

If I recall correctly, the introduction also asserts that, and I paraphrase, democracy is the best form of government. It was not true in Athens in ancient times and rule of the people, where 51% of the people could enslave 49% is ruinous. We never had a democracy here in America. It has been a limited constitutional Republic based on the Constitution.

However, despite the fact that the Constitution includes an oath of office taken by all elected politicians and other office holders, many government programs at the federal level were not authorized at all, but are presently responsible for the country being on the verge of bankruptcy.

For those who want to know the Founders, except for Hamilton who admired the British form of government with a King who ruled be divine right, wanted to ensure that their children did not ever have to endure living under a tyrant again. So they purposely granted only certain powers to the Congress which they enumerated in Article 1 Section 8 and all other powers were retained by the States, (unless prohibited to them) or to the people, as enshrined in the Tenth Amendment.

You will notice that there is no authorization in the enumerated powers for a federal retirement plan, a federal disability program, a federal housing program, a federal bank, a federal health insurance program, federal authority to print money or to debase the currency by such printing.

If you google Coinage Act of 1792 you will find that the dollar was properly defined as a coin containing 371 grains and 4 sixteenth of a grain of silver. That was roughly the amount of silver in the Spanish milled dollar which was widely used in the Colonies.

The Founders had just experienced a hyperinflation of the Continental, a paper currency printed to pay the farmers who stepped up to fight the British in 1775 and by 1787 had become worthless because so many Continentals had been printed. The promise to make the paper currency redeemable in gold or silver was never kept.

That is why one of the powers granted by the representatives of the former colonies, which became sovereign states after the victory at Yorktown in 1781, was for the Congress to “coin money and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin and to fix the standard of weights and measures”. In Article 1 Section 10 the states were prohibited from holding anything but gold and silver coin as tender for payment of debts.

Nothing could be clearer than that! If you read Richard Timberlake’s Constitutional Money: a review of Supreme Court Monetary Decisions you will learn that the Federal Reserve Notes you must deal with are diametrically opposed to the sound money that the Founders set forth. While you are supplementing the public school “education” you and I were exposed to, I suggest you read G. Edward Griffin’s The Creature From Jekyll Island to learn the details of central banking in America leading up to the secret creation of the Federal Reserve by J. P. Morgan who invited a handful of his banker friends to his duck hunting lodge in 1910 where they wrote the Federal Reserve Act signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

I’ll bet that juicy bit of history is not being taught to our children in the public schools. I should think they would benefit from such enlightenment in choosing their own future leaders given the egregious incompetence, ignorance and negligence of the current crop of politicians at all levels.

Not to mention Keynesian economics which prevails throughout the colleges and among the advisors to the politicians but which has been shown to be fallacious. Henry Hazlitt, who wrote the iconic Economics In One Lesson also refuted Keynes ideas line by line in his book on the fallacies of the new economics.

I could go on.

Fortunately there is a movement to restore our once limited constitutional Republic in the colleges Students For Liberty . org

Or Young Americans For Liberty

Yes I do object to being taxed to support the teaching of the younger generation in the public schools as they are being indoctrinated today. In that regard I feel like someone opposed to abortion who is compelled to support that through one’s taxes.

As Jefferson once said: “If you think you can remain ignorant and free, you wish for something which never was and never will be.”

When the wall came down with the fall of the Soviet Union (of socialist republics) Marxist professors were fired across Eastern Europe in newly liberated countries.

In America they remain as professors in our colleges in tenured positions.

They teach the teachers who “teach” your children.

That notion brings another important book to mind by Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels.


Frank Crowell
9 years ago

Dr. Cohen,

I appreciate your post. My guess is that American exceptionalism is not being taught either where a healthy debate about its exact definition would be worthwhile for all, particularly in these times.

William R. Cohen, M.D.
9 years ago

Frank Crowell,

I appreciate your feedback.

You know the story about how to boil a frog, by putting him in cool water and slowly heating it up until it boils. That comes to mind regarding the fact that the purchasing power of the “dollar” has been eroded so slowly since the creation of the Federal Reserve System that people are unaware it amounts to over 95% since 1913. Milton Freedman said that inflation is everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

But the politicians want us to think the rise in prices is caused by the businessmen who are seeking higher profits. People are not taught that inflation is caused by the creation of paper currency which is what has been happening under both administrations for decades. The process is obscured by the purchase of Treasury Bonds by the Federal Reserve which approaches one trillion dollars last year at the rate of 85 billion “dollars” a month.

Our government lies to us in many ways. We all know that the Consumer Price Index, the CPI, does not include the cost of food or fuel, which certainly are rising.

The national debt is officially over 17 trillion “dollars” whereas Lawrence Kotlikoff estimates that if you include off budget unfunded liabilities, meaning costs incurred to pay for the promises made to retired people or disabled people, the actual debt is about 211 trillion “dollars!”

Fortunately many young college students are becoming aware of this financial crisis which is not in the public view because the media choose not to dwell on such things for some reason. Even most candidates for office ignore it, but our children and grandchildren will have to pay off that debt which we have foisted upon them.

Actually once interest rates are allowed to rise to normal levels the cost of paying the debt service will become astronomical and will be truly unsustainable. This might lead to a hyperinflation and the Fed resumes its printing and in the process causes the loss of world reserve currency status and collapse of the “dollar.”

Until then life will go on as usual. Normalcy bias will keep most people from facing the inevitable crisis which will take most of society by surprise all of a sudden.

Theoretically it might be possible to avoid this crisis but only if enough citizens were educated about the failure of existing policies and programs and were aware and sure of the antidote.

There are quite a few books which would have to be read by a large percentage of the population in a short time. Trouble is most people are so attached to their own ideas or the ones they were raised to believe that it would be difficult for them to be objective or willing to check their premises.


William R. Cohen, M.D.
9 years ago


To help us to realize the nature and extent of our current situation it ought to be widely understood that from the time that consumer price information began to be recorded in colonial times in America in the year 1665 the cost of living remained practically flat for well over 200 years!

Now we all expect the costs of everything to go up except new technology which is reduced in price as it becomes mass produced.

The point is that the cause of this is that a private bank posing as a government agency, the Federal Reserve System, aptly named to hide the truth, is responsible for the loss of purchasing power of the “dollar.” The wording in the 1913 Federal Reserve Act enables this private bank to remain free of any Congressional oversight. Although they release some information from time to time there are many facts which remain secret. The presumed purpose of this lack of transparency is so that their policies can be free of political influence.

When former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was questioned about the 2008 banking crisis which so angered those associated with the Tea Party because of the “bailouts”
of banks and other institutions like AIG he said he didn’t have to answer certain questions such as to name the actual recipients of the Feds largesse.

Baron Rothchild once was quoted as saying, “Give me control of a nation’s currency and I don’t care who makes its laws.”

These private bankers don’t dig for gold and silver to back up the currency. Instead they used to print up paper currency and loan it to the government which must pay the Fed interest for it. Notice your “dollars” say Federal Reserve Note across the top.

They once upon a time said This certifies that there is on deposit twenty dollars in gold (or silver) payable to the bearer on demand. IN those days the paper was just a warehouse receipt for the real money which was the gold or silver coins kept safely in the bank.

A man who was an academic in Austria, I believe in the University of Vienna, named Carl Menger lived in the Nineteenth Century, and wondered what are the laws of the marketplace. He meant when the government saw to it only that all interactions and trade among men were by mutual consent with force or fraud and when the money used was sound and not debased.

Menger was the founder of the so called Austrian school of economics and one of his students, Ludwig von Mises, was a prolific writer on the subject. All of his works can be read for free online at the website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Also the works of other advocates of the Austrian school such as Murray Rothbard, Hans Sennholtz, F.A. Hayek, Bastiat, and others can be found there as well.

From the Austrian school perspective there should be complete separation of the Economy and the State. Our current financial mess, the exorbitant debt, the rising costs of so many things, the “bubbles” such as the stock market prices which do not reflect actual value of the businesses rather are a manifestation of the Feds flooding the market with its counterfeiting of the currency.

The longer it takes before the right policies are put in place the harder the correction will be. A course correction now would result in a harsh readjustment but that would be even worse if it is postponed while egregious policies continue to exist.

I just hope that when blame is called for that the true culprits assume responsibility. Ultimately it is the advocates of government interventions into the marketplace, the teachers of Keynesian economics which has been shown to be fallacious, and the Federal Reserve System for which there never was any Constitutional authority.


William R. Cohen, M.D.
9 years ago

“without” force or fraud.

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