Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Amherst TM takes action on elementary schools

Source: Scott Merzbach, Daily Hampshire Gazette, May 4, 2017

Town Meeting unanimously agreed to $15.5 million as the town’s share of a $31.3 million budget for the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools and $22.5 million budget for the elementary schools. … The budgets also include money to bring the food service program back in-house, which Hazzard said will mean better tasting, less processed, more organic and locally sourced foods. …

SAVED: School Committee votes to keep nutrition services in-house

Source: Bryan McGonigle, Wicked Local Georgetown, May 4, 2017
 
In a striking twist of irony, Georgetown’s school cafeteria workers spent School Nutrition Employee Week – meant to honor and highlight their value to the community – fighting for their jobs.   … After three hours of discussion and debate, the School Committee unanimously voted to keep the district’s current program and not outsource food services to Whitsons Culinary Group – a national school lunch and catering corporation. … Under the Whitsons proposal, most employees would be invited to stay and work for that company at the same hourly rate. But benefits would only be offered after a 90-day probationary period – meaning employees would have to wait 90 days to get something they currently have.   And benefits would only be offered to full-time employees, with 30 hours a week being the full-time benchmark. Only a couple of employees currently work 30 hours or more, however, so most would not even qualify.  “The jobs they hold now will be gone, and they will be replaced, only with an offer to do the same job for less,” Jim Durkin, representative from the AFSCME Council 93, said to the committee. “Less money, less paid time off, a reduction in retirement benefits through the loss of pension eligibility, and a loss of eligibility for health insurance for them and their kids.” … If improvements aren’t seen and participation doesn’t rise, the committee will likely send out another RFP for outsourcing the program next year.

Saugus School Committee supports privatizing cafeteria staff

Source: Neil Zolot, Wicked Local, April 19, 2017

The School Committee unanimously voted to send a proposal from food service provider Whitsons Culinary Group to the town Purchasing Department officer that includes provisions for privatizing the cafeteria staff.  Bids for a Request for Proposals were due back by March 13 from companies looking to  manage and operate the food service program from this July 1 to June 30, 2018. … After the vote, AFSCME Council 93 Assistant Director of Legislation, Political Action and Communications Molly Maloney told the School Committee members they showed “a complete lack of respect” to the employees and union members.  At the outset of the April 13 meeting, Maloney asked the School Committee to delay approval of the food service contract in order to be able to fully review and process information she provided.  “I have prepared a packet of information for all of you with stories where privatization of food services has failed,” Maloney said. “This is a large packet of information and because AFSCME has not been granted an opportunity to review the bid submission from Whitsons, I am requesting that you delay approval.” …

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Saugus school cafeteria workers concerned about possible privatization of food service program
Source: Mike Gaffney, Saugus Wicked Local, April 6, 2017

As the School Committee prepares to review a request for proposals for the management and operation of the Saugus Public Schools food service program, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union is raising concerns over a potential move to privatize the school cafeteria workers.  Bids were due back by March 13 from companies looking to manage and operate the food service program from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Whitsons Culinary Group, which currently manages the Saugus Public Schools food service program and oversees 18 cafeteria workers who are school system employees, was the only company to bid for the contract. … Jim Durkin, the director of legislation, political action and communication for AFSCME Council 93, said the union’s concern is that school officials appear to want a private company to take over the entire food service operation — including the workforce.

… Last summer the New England School Development Council completed a review of the district’s food service program that recommended cutting staff, replacing the food service director and instituting new menus as just a few of the strategies to combat waste and increase student participation. … Markland emphasized that nowhere in the report did NESDEC recommend privatizing the cafeteria workers. She also questioned the logic of awarding a bigger contract and more responsibility to a company, Whitsons, that was criticized by NESDEC. … Cafeteria workers in other school districts that privatized the food service program have seen their salaries slashed by as much as 30 percent, Durkin said. … Durkin questioned why the school lunch program is looked at from a profit/loss standpoint when it was established because research shows that students learn better when they have a healthy meal in their stomachs. …

Expanding the Fight for Education

Source: Michael Fiorentino & Jessica Wender-Shubow, Jacobin Magazine, March 24, 2017

Except for some pockets of suburban activism around standardized testing, education policy debate in recent years has centered on cities. In places like Chicago and Boston, grassroots coalitions of teachers’ unions and community organizations are struggling to wrest control of their public schools back from the privatization program backed by hedge-funder owners and their lackeys. Suburbs have distanced themselves from those debates. Even in the recent successful campaign against charter school expansion in Massachusetts, the suburban districts often limited their arguments to protecting their funding. In Brookline, Massachusetts, however, the discussion around schools has been changing. A campaign for fair contracts has drawn attention to how corporate education reform is seeping into the day-to-day operations of affluent schools. …

… More striking has been Brookline’s growing awareness of the composition of its school committee, which is dominated by employees of Bain Capital’s pro-charter, pro-privatization venture philanthropy arm, Bridgespan. Bridgespan’s flagship “Billionaire Dollar Bets” eschew local democratic oversight of family intervention and community development, preferring to enlist billionaires to address poverty directly. Meanwhile, wholesale economic and political dispossession of marginalized communities continues. …

Haverhill contractor settles allegations of overbilling MBTA, prevailing wage violations

Source: Eagle-Tribune, February 25, 2017
 
A New Hampshire-based general contractor with ties to Haverhill and one of its subcontractors have agreed to pay more than $420,000 for submitting false and inflated payment requests in connection with their construction of the Assembly Square Station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Orange Line in Somerville, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Friday.  S&R Construction Enterprises, its president Stephen Early of Haverhill, subcontractor A&S Electrical and its manager Gregory Lane agreed to resolve allegations they violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false and inflated pay estimates to improperly front load payments under their contracts. In addition, S&R Construction, based in Newton, New Hampshire, and A&S Electrical are barred from bidding on and accepting new public contracts in Massachusetts for five years and one year, respectively. …

Privatizing destroys the American Dream

Source: Paul Jampol, Wicked Newton, November 3, 2016

At this moment a battle is raging in Newton, pitting the School Committee against the school custodians. Essentially, the committee wants to privatize custodial work, washing its hands of the current custodians and their union. In this manner, custodial work, argues the committee, will be cheaper, leaving more money for improving education. This is a devilish argument, its premise a cruel fact: privatized workers earn much lower salaries and get few if any benefits and protections. Their companies are almost always non-unionized; the employees lie at the mercy of their managers’ whims. Typically, workers in such companies have a much higher rate of turnover and a much grimmer future. … Remember the disastrous results when many states decided to privatize their prisons. The idea: private corporations, being more efficient than public institutions, would run prisons at lower cost, saving the state money. The result: prison mismanagement, including the hiring of unqualified and untrained prison personnel, and mistreatment of prisoners. After a decade, most states have returned to managing prisons themselves. A parallel process is occurring in the privatization of American schools, led by the Charter School movement. Some charters, of course, are technically “public” in that they are nominally under the supervision of local school boards. Usually, though, the teachers are non-union and the administrators armed with nearly arbitrary power to hire and fire. Due process? Grievance? They are often thrown out the window in this brave new world of education. … In the meantime, Newton ought to keep its school community intact, without creating different tiers of workers: city employees who receive ethical treatment and proper remuneration, and privatized workers on a much lower salary scale. At the same time, both government and the private sector must consider more than the bottom line: do we want a country of haves and have-nots or a nation with a strong, secure middle class? Beware of cost-cutting measures that also place the American Dream beyond the reach of millions of Americans. …

Town Of Mashpee To Probe Privatizing Ambulance Service

Source: Sam Houghton, Cape News, November 3, 2016

The town will investigate the potential cost savings of hiring a private ambulance company to provide emergency services in Mashpee instead of the Mashpee Fire Rescue Department. The move has prompted concerns among firefighters. The Mashpee Board of Selectmen on Monday, October 31, unanimously granted Town Manager Rodney C. Collins’s request to pursue a feasibility study into the operational efficiency of the Mashpee Fire Department in an effort to investigate where spending could be reduced across the town’s operating budget. … The approval of the study has elicited a response from the local firefighters union and arrives only weeks after the town and fire union settled a long-standing contract dispute. On October 17, Town Meeting approved the appropriation of $404,000 to fund a firefighters union contract settlement effective July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017. The agreement marked the end of a dispute that went through arbitration and pitted the firefighter’s union against the town. … Much of the service local firefighters provide is through ambulance services. According to fire officials, emergency medical service (EMS) calls compared to fire-related calls have remained consistent at around 65 percent EMS and 35 percent fire for the last 25 years. All of the local firefighters are certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics. Mr. Collins was clear at the October 31 meeting that besides starting the feasibility study, selectmen were taking no action to hire a private company. …

Adams Looking to Privatize Wastewater Treatment Plant

Source: Jack Guerino, iBerkshires, September 17, 2016

The town is looking to enter into a public-private partnership agreement to operate the wastewater treatment plant.   Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco told the Selectmen at its Wednesday workshop meeting that by October he would like to send out an request for proposals soliciting bids from private companies interested in running the plant. … Mazzucco said the town really can’t take any action until it has selected a vendor. Once one is chosen, officials can decide if it will be beneficial to the town and to build out a contract.   He said there are only a few vendors in the state that can handle a plant as big as the one in Adams. … Mazzucco said the town has been in contact with Veolia North America, which runs a number of wastewater plants in the state, about what private contracting might look like.   He said once a vendor is chosen, the Selectmen can tour other plants the vendor runs.   Mazzucco said the town would not be selling any assets but paying a company to run the facility, much like how it pays a custodial service to clean town buildings. He said the town can negotiate a deal where the vendor would have to hire all current employees at the same pay grade.   He said there should be savings because they would agree to a longer-term contract, he said this would also add stability to the budget. … Mazzucco said ultimately the town will be responsible for big capital upgrades but with the stability of a long-term manager, it can continue to pay off current debt and prepare for some future capital improvements.   The town could do this now but it would only add to the debt from the 2004 upgrade. Also, the town can look at upgrading the plant so more of its functions are automated, however, this would mean reducing staff. …

MA Pay for Success Worth Watching

Source: Deborah De Santis, Huffington Post, August 17, 2016

Much remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting an important milestone achieved by a PFS initiative in Massachusetts that aims to reduce chronic individual homelessness through the creation of supportive housing. The PFS partnership there has successfully placed over 250 individuals in stable, supportive housing, exceeding the minimum goal set for its first year and paving the way for cost savings in emergency rooms and inpatient care. This PFS initiative is being implemented by the Massachusetts Alliance for Supportive Housing (MASH) for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and it is providing supportive housing to long-term homeless individuals who would otherwise rely on costly crisis-care resources, enabling them instead to focus on their often complex health issues more effectively than would be the case if they are on the streets or in shelters. MASH is a partnership of the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and CSH. …

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Patrick announces $3.5 million to reduce chronic homelessness
Source: Katie Johnston, Boston Globe, December 8, 2014

Governor Deval Patrick launched a new effort Monday to reduce the state’s chronically homeless population funded by $3.5 million from private investors, the state’s second “pay for success” program.

State Seeks ‘Social Bonds’ To Aid Homeless
Source: Associated Press, December 6, 2014

State officials hope to leverage private-sector funding to help reduce the number of chronically homeless people in Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick plans to unveil the initiative on Monday. Known as Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success contracts, they rely on upfront funding from private capital investments and charitable donations. Investors are repaid only if an outside evaluator determines the program has achieved a goal that benefits society and saves taxpayer dollars.

Blistering report details nursing home deaths

Source: Kay Lazar, Boston Globe, August 12, 2016

Braemoor Health Center nurses and aides lacked the training to revive a dementia patient suffering an apparent heart attack, and the patient died, according to a blistering state report released Thursday. The troubled Brockton nursing home then failed to report the death to the state health department because, nurses told investigators, the patient “had no family.” Braemoor’s administrator, meanwhile, told investigators the nursing home’s clinical team decided against reporting the death because of recent “bad press” about the nursing home’s parent company, Synergy Health Centers. The 70-page report into the deaths of that patient, in April, and another in March, paints a picture of a nursing home in chaos, with scant staff training in basic life-support care, machines needed to deliver life-saving oxygen standing empty, defective equipment used to restore a regular cardiac rhythm during a sudden heart attack, and missing alarms needed to protect dementia patients from wandering out of the building. … Braemoor is one of 11 Massachusetts nursing homes owned by Synergy Health Centers of New Jersey, a problem-plagued company that was slapped in April with what regulators characterized as unusually steep federal fines after two deaths at the company’s Wilmington facility, Woodbriar Health Center. …

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Nursing home owners profited as complaints rose
Source: Kay Lazar, Boston Globe, December 23, 2015

Braemoor Health Center is a modest nursing home in Brockton, licensed to care for 120 residents. But Larry Lipschutz, who owns the property, was able to wring $1.8 million in pay out of it last year, according to state records. His son, Avi “Zisha” Lipschutz, who holds the state license to run the nursing home, extracted nearly $900,000 from Braemoor as payments to a realty company and four management firms he owns. As the owners were taking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of Braemoor, the nursing home racked up three and a half times as many health and safety problems as the state average, federal documents show. … Over the past year, a portrait has emerged of substandard care in many of the nursing homes run by Braemoor’s owner, Synergy Health Centers. Poor treatment of patients’ festering pressure sores. Medication errors. Inadequate staff training. Now, a Globe investigation shows that as father and son were paying themselves handsomely, Synergy apparently provided false information when applying for nursing home licenses. The Globe’s review also found that Synergy and its affiliated companies assembled a string of 11 nursing homes with little state scrutiny of the backgrounds of top executives, including Larry Lipschutz, who faces tens of thousands of dollars in fines because of previous business dealings. …