September 1, 2006

More Dysfunctional Behaviors by the East Greenwich School Committee: Why Citizens Don't Respect Politicians

The dysfunctional behavior of certain members of the East Greenwich School Committee continues. Some things never seem to change and this is getting old, very old. Our kids and town deserve better.

When I served on the School Committee, I butted heads more than a few times in public with then Town Council member and now School Committee Chair, Vince Bradley. I thought then and I think now that he loves the sport of being political too much - doing it whether it advances good policy considerations or not.

But Vince is predictable in his behavior and that means you can often work with him - as long as you understand he will gravitate constantly toward the contact sport aspect of politics.

So when the previous superintendent, Mike Jolin, tried a nasty substance-free political manuever against Vince several years ago, I thought Jolin's action was very unfair and spoke out publicly on Vince's behalf.

Recently, in late March, some of the ongoing unacceptable behaviors by the NEA and certain members of the School Committee were highlighted in Local Town Drama in East Greenwich.

Shortly thereafter, a posting about a broader subject, The Beginning of a Tax Revolt in East Greenwich: Senior Citizens Take the Lead, touched on my personal experience with the over-the-top behavior of Vice Chair Merrill Friedemann:

...Right before I left the meeting, I had the honor of joining a growing list of East Greenwich residents who have received a public tongue lashing from School Committee member Merrill Friedemann. All because she thought my earlier posting was too critical of her. Talk about thin-skinned! The real problem here is that she appears not to tolerate any advice or criticism - even when offered in a constructive manner from a one-time supporter.

People see her behavior storming out of meetings, telling people off - and realize that she has made herself the issue. Her behavior is having some adverse consequences: She is playing into the hands of the political opponents of reform-minded East Greenwich residents. (And I hope the rumor in town about her and Steve Gregson's possible effort on April 25 to toss out Vince Bradley as chairman of the School Committee turns out to be just that - a rumor. Proceeding down that path would reflect personal vendettas more than policy goals and only invite more unnecessary political turmoil. Plus Vince would then really clean their clocks, something he is more than capable of doing.)

Unfortunately, Ms. Friedemann seems to operate from the misguided notion that having lots of people upset with her is a sign of effectiveness. Such thinking means she is politically tone deaf as nothing could be further from the truth...

Well, it must be payback time.

And that means Vince now deserves a severe dose of the same criticism because the action he has put on the agenda for next Tuesday's School Committee meeting, as noted in No-confidence vote sought for Friedemann, is a completely unnecessary move. There are only 4 more School Committee meetings left before Vince leaves the Committee due to term limit restrictions and the reconstituted Committee elects new officers - including a Vice Chair - after the November elections. This ploy is nothing more than a last-minute vengeful move by someone trying to get his jollies.

It was appropriate to criticize Merrill and Steve for their public behavior and what ended up being a rumor-only plan to replace Vince as Chair. And now it is more than appropriate to criticize Vince for an actual action he has publicly announced will happen next week, using Paul Martin as his stooge.

Get a life, guys. This is yet another example of why citizens get disgusted with politicians. You are wasting time and energy fighting among yourselves instead of just staying focused on your job of doing right by our children.

This is ridiculously petty politics. Our fine town deserves better.