PulseLine, September 13, 2012

From the Governor: Please be advised that in accordance with President Barack Obama’s proclamation, Governor Deval L. Patrick has ordered that the United States flag and the Commonwealth flag be lowered to half-staff, effective immediately, until sunset on Sunday, September 16, 2012 in honor of John Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and American personnel killed in the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. This gubernatorial order applies to: 1. The main or administration building of each public institution of the Commonwealth, e.g. town and city halls. 2. Other state-owned or state-controlled buildings. 3. All state military installations.

Good evening. I came back from the 9/11 memorial service at the Sons of Erin. It was beautiful. Thank you. The attendance was fantastic. It was great to see the fire and police departments there to honor those lost. We will never forget.

“In my opinion, a write-in vote does not make you a candidate and is different from a write-in candidate who campaigns,” Onofrey said. “Scratching your own name does not constitute a nomination, which requires 50 valid signatures to get your name on the ballot.” I disagree with Onofrey 100 percent. The entire point of having a write in box is so you can, WRITE A NAME IN. If you have only one person to vote for in an election, you have to vote for that person or choose not to vote at all? That is not democratic. If you are from the ward and your name is put on the ballot, you should be able to serve, even if you have different views from a sitting councilor, he should be grown up enough to respect the law.

Mr. Onofrey – As a resident of Westfield, I am appalled that you would have the nerve to step in and deny anyone representation on the Westfield City Council. You stated that you had concerns over the definition of a true candidate. Once I finished laughing (“Depends on what the definition of “is” is”, after all…), I was able to look up that exact information for you, and it didn’t involve a phone call to the powers that be in Boston. Allow me to enlighten you: 1. “A person can seek nomination and election without filing nomination papers to have their name printed as a candidate on the ballot by conducting a write-in or sticker campaign.” 2. “To be elected in a general election, a write-in or sticker candidate must receive more votes than any other candidate for that office. There is no minimum number of votes required.” (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elestkr/stkridx.htm) And from the City charter, Subpart A, Sec.25.: “If at any time a vacancy occurs in the city council from any cause, …, the remaining city councilors shall choose, as city councilor for the unexpired term, whichever of the defeated candidates for the office of city councilor at the regular municipal election at which city councilors were elected for the term and office in which the vacancy occurs, who is eligible and willing to serve, received the highest number of votes at such election…” Mr. Winters fulfills the requirements set forth by both the state and the city. I would be very proud to have such a citizen step up, unasked, to represent my ward, and ask kindly that you stop blocking the way and allow him to get to work for his ward. Thank you.

****$200 REWARD**** For the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of “Thomas”, by beloved cat who resided on Deepwoods Drive in Westfield. Please help find who is responsible for committing this atrocity. I would ALSO like to thank this anonymous donor , and pet lover. Thank you, God bless.

Tomorrow is the first professional development day for teachers and a half-day for all the kids. Since I have to give up time at work so that teachers can get trained, could you please send some reporters around to the “development” activities so that they can tell us what we are getting for all this inconvenience and maybe answer some of the following questions: What are the teachers learning? How will this improve the education of our kids? How will this improvement be measured? Why can’t the teachers do this after school? Why can’t the teachers stay current with their profession on their own time like millions of other professionals? Why can’t they read books on the various topics or participate in remote educational programs? Can parents audit these training sessions? What happened to all those enrichment programs the kids were supposed to be offered? Are they posted somewhere on the school website?

My wife and I got the letter from the school department listing the 10 half-day teacher professional improvement days. Why in September and October are there three such days? Would it not make sense to have these days prior to the school year? This way the kids have a focused, well trained staff with the latest in teacher’s improvements. I think it’s reasonable to ask for an agenda for each of the days they have off. I hope that this is laser focus on learning for the children and not a union political meeting (big election this year). Educators, what did you really learn on your half day? How long was the conference, what was discussed and who was the professional leading the meeting? Where was the conference? These are all reasonable questions, especially when we see a letter saying, “Oh, by the way, we are letting the kids out early for the following 10 days.” We taxpayers deserve a syllabus, since we are paying the bill.

From Superintendent Scallion: During the Early Release Staff Development program, teachers across the city are attending classes related to their teaching responsibilities and the new Common Core Standards. Massachusetts is one of 45 states that have adopted these national standards in Math and Literacy. We must take the time to align our curriculum and instruction to the new standards. And, we must improve student achievement.  The Early Release model is growing across the nation as an effective way to deliver Professional Development. Westfield is a Level 3 district and the need to adjust our instructional program is urgent. The cost to run 30 hours of Professional Development under our current contract would be over $700k. Teaching practices need to be planned, discussed and critiqued. Teachers of common grades or subjects must develop curriculum guides and common assessments. Teachers do read books and they must have opportunities to gather to develop common practices, techniques and assessments.  As for enrichment, we are the only district in the state attempting to assist parents with their childcare. Today’s elementary offerings included College for Kids, Children’s Museum, Children’s Library, Wilderness Experience, Yoga Center, Roots Gymnastic and Red Door Theater. These programs will rotate through each of the elementary schools. In addition, the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club have increased capacity and the Y is coordinating a different enrichment activity at every elementary school for each early release day.  We wish to thank those who have supported the efforts to improve the academic program for the students of Westfield. And, we wish to thank those who have worked incredibly hard to get this urgent project off the ground. The primary purpose of our school system is to deliver the best possible academic program for the future of our city. While we realize this project poses difficulty for some families, we hope it creates opportunity for others.  We have reached out to districts across the state that are also holding early release staff development to determine common ways to measure the impact of the program. We believe the measure of our success will be evident in the achievements of our students in the years to come by measures including college acceptance, standardized test scores, graduation rates and comparisons with districts of a similar profile. As a community, we must do whatever it takes to develop the best possible program for our students based on the new curriculum standards.

I’m a little upset. We have a thief here in Westfield who embezzled money from City Hall and we can’t find out who that person is. It’s been about two or three years or longer. The politicians here in Westfield will try to sweep it under the rug but we’re going to organize a get-together and find out who it is. They owe it to us – the voters. I don’t care how many friends this person has around City Hall.

Westfield: What happened to the casino? I haven’t heard any talk about it or read about it in the newspaper. I think Barnes Airport is the best location for it in Western Mass. A casino, right off the turnpike, with all the hotels and shops and it will help the air service up there for sure. It would mean a ton of jobs and bring millions and millions of dollars into the area.  According to city officials, Westfield has “moved on” when it comes to pursuing a casino.

This is about the Spanish column in The Westfield News. My opinion is: If you choose to live in this country from anywhere else, English is the language. If you wish to come here and prosper, work and enjoy the life, learn the language. And that is English.

Just wondering if anyone had any ideas… Community paper shredding programs happen occasionally (which is such a great idea) but how about destroying pill bottles with labels on them that includes your name, address, phone number and personal medical information?

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