SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 10, 2014

McGeney: Mitchell Chester needs to go

By John Castelluccio
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — The School Committee is asking state officials to investigate whether state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has a conflict of interest with the new educational standards he’s promoting.

Committee member Dave McGeney, an outspoken critic of Common Core, believes there is a major conflict and Chester should be booted out of office. He said he’s had it with Chester, who’s been “utterly” disingenuous during the rollout of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) trial test, and who, in fact, has a vested interest in Massachusetts jumping aboard the Common Core bandwagon. McGeney also says there’s no evidence to back up many of Chester’s statements on the benefits of PARCC.

Chester is the national chairman of the PARCC Governing Board for the third year and was instrumental in developing the standards.

“He’s been running around the state portraying the PARCC test as a two-year trial, and there’s all kinds of literature with his name attached to it and statements that it’s a trial ... but his actions belie that,” McGeney told The Salem News prior to Tuesday’s committee vote.

McGeney said what “pushed him over the edge” was when he learned Chester was due to speak to executives in Washington, D.C., on “how to handle Common Core dissenters,” according to McGeney. “That’s what we are now; we’re labeled as ‘dissenters,’” he said. “The deck is stacked, the game is rigged, and I don’t like it. We have the least to gain and the most to lose.

“When we took the Race to the Top money ... the federal government said, ‘We’ll give you this money, and you have to agree to adopt the Common Core standards’” McGeney said. “The standards hadn’t been written yet. It’s the same deal as Obamacare. We signed on to the deal and didn’t even know what it was.”

The committee unanimously agreed on Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials that says that the MCAS has led to “unprecedented improvement in student achievement in Massachusetts” since 1993, and to consider abandoning it in favor of a still “unproven and theoretical” test that may hold promise is a “monumental decision” that “demands objectivity, fairness and the impartial scrutiny of empirical data to determine the outcome.

“We believe that Mitchell Chester, by virtue of his role as National Chair of the PARCC Governing Board and other actions, represents a serious breach of trust, which is at odds with his primary duties and responsibilities, and at the very least gives the impression of bias towards PARCC and compromises the decision-making process,” the letter reads.

“There are some very intelligent people who think it’s (Common Core) great, and there are some very intelligent people who think it’s going to be lousy, but there are 90 percent of the people who don’t have a clue,” McGeney said.

Live and learn

Seniors at Brooksby Village just started their third semester of Live and Learn courses at the retirement complex, with classes on writing short stories, how to make over lamp shades, digital camera basics, beading, researching family roots and more. Community Resources Coordinator Fran Gerrior says a group of residents and staff collaborated on ways to increase educational opportunities at Brooksby, and this was the result. The classes, which are free with minimal charges for supplies, are even taught by fellow residents.

A real gas

If you’re in favor of tanking those automatic gas tax hikes, this might be the event for you. Tomorrow, WRKO’s Jeff Kuhner will be a special guest at a fundraiser for Tax the Gas Tax held at SpringHill Suites on Route 1. The group is a coalition of Republican lawmakers, including Peabody Rep. Leah Cole, and others opposed to automatic tax increases that are tied to inflation. That’s on top of a 3-cent tax hike. The group has collected 100,000 signatures from Bay State residents in an effort to repeal part of the law by ballot question this fall. Proceeds from tomorrow’s event will help purchase bumper stickers and other promotional materials. There’s a VIP reception from 6 to 7 p.m., which costs $100 per ticket, and a general reception from 7 to 8 p.m., which is $35. You can purchase tickets at www.tankthegastax.org.

Nothin’ like a good sweeping

Street sweepers deployed Monday in the East End to brush away winter’s leftover sand and debris from city streets and sidewalks. Work began on the side streets off Margin Street. Residents are asked to lend a hand by not parking cars on the street and sweeping sand and debris off their stretch of sidewalk into the street gutter. That being said, don’t sweep sand into piles or push debris into catch basins. Questions can be directed to the Department of Public Services at 978-536-7109.

Turning over an Orange Leaf

Peabody’s newest frozen yogurt shop held its grand opening celebration last Friday after opening its doors just over a month ago. Orange Leaf is located in the shopping plaza at 79 Lynnfield St., right next to Dunkin’ Donuts. Activities for the occasion included a raffle to benefit Haven from Hunger, a DJ to spin some tunes, a meet-and-greet with storybook characters, and of course, there was free fro yo. In the past year, four different frozen yogurt shops opened up across the city. As for the Orange Leaf chain, there are also locations in Salem, Danvers, Marblehead and Saugus.

A new look for a new century

The Century House, a Peabody dining institution on Route 114, recently remodeled its bar and tavern for a new look. Regular patrons had to go elsewhere for a week and a half; the main restaurant also closed for a day. The Linden Tavern was back open as of March 28 with new seating arrangements, new lighting and a new design for the bar. The management shared some pictures of the remodel via Facebook, and the feedback was all good.

“It’s so bright and airy! It’s lost its ‘Bar Grunge’ look! Cant wait to try it out!” replied one excited fan.

You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, jcastelluccio@salemnews.com or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.