By Rosalie Tirella

The new Doherty High School, a work in progress. Photo submitted.

A photo of Worcester’s new Doherty High School on Highland Street, one third completed … night time. In the old days, you could call the WPS school brass at Irving Street or the city manager in his office at City Hall on Main Street and get a basic update on a major school (City) project without having to jump through too many hoops. But this is the new Worcester. We’re polished professionals now. So all the “hoops” – attractive, polite, well spoken, not too helpful, unwilling to answer tough questions – are firmly in place. The Worcester Public Schools newish school superintendent, a Latina lady from California, has kept the WPS substitute teachers making poverty wages while she has hired herself a passel of professional assistants to protect herself from the press, from questions, from reality. Unlike the previous WPS superintendent, she has hired herself a press secretary (mid-$90,000 salary??) and a bunch of other support professionals (thousands of dollars per year???) to create her personal buffer zone. Our newish city manager, Eric Batista, also has a media relations person so he doesn’t have to get personal with the press. He issues statements rather than calling back a reporter to answer basic questions that Woo voters and taxpayers may want answered.

So it goes like this: Your reporter Jim wants to ask questions about the new Doherty High School, but the WALL goes up. Your reporter is a nice person, super polite and fancies that he has good relations with the secretary of the WPS superintendent and the newish city manager. You, at this since 1987 and not exactly enamoured with the human race, think: Bull shit…these over paid bureaucrats will never return Jim’s phone calls. To answer the most basic questions!

Twenty three years ago I could call the Worcester city manager’s office and ask for an interview with the city manager and get a sit down with then City Manager Tom Hoover or his second in command, an always sweet Paul LaCava – within a few days. We sat and talked and Hoover and LaCava answered my questions. Tom was blue collar real, Paul was a sweetie. So, of course, then city councilor Tim Murray set out to destroy Hoover, and he worked behind the scenes to replace him with an Irish bro, Mike O’Brien, who became as dictatorial as soon to be Mayor Tim Murray.

But I digress. Jim’s/CECELIA’s question: HOW MUCH IS THE LATEST COST $$$ for building the new Doherty High School?

Months ago it was $240 million. What is the price tag these days? Not really a gotcha question, just one question for a basic news story.

But everyone who’s anyone in Worcester city government clams up. Everyone issues statements through their press flacks. Emails from the Worcester city manager’s media relations poop are sent to Jim who sends them to me. Jim is nice about it all. I want to take these ridiculously self-important “public servants” and turn them on their stupid heads and just shake shake shake them by their spindly, weak ankles until the answers fall out like pennies out of a dime store piggy bank. I think: What are these a-holes hiding? The cost to build Doherty must have gone up up up by millions of dollars, and the city manager and the school superintendent don’t want to tell anybody…the taxpayer, the voter, the Worcesterite whose kid will be attending the new Doherty High School. It’s public record, but the ropes in Worcester city government will turn it into a knife fight. This is America. People have every right to know. Federal tax dollars, state money, city taxpayer dough have all foot the bill …

Please! We’re not against new, state of the art high schools to educate the next generation of Worcester leaders, doctors, nurses, teachers and entrepreneurs. We love our WPS students! As do many of our pols! Head of the Worcester School Committee, Mayor Joe Petty, is making Burncoat Senior High School his next big school renewal project. Burncoat – my alma mater – beautiful memories. It was almost brand new, recently built, when I graduated in 1979. Now it’s tired. We need another new high school for that part of the city.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we – any one in Woo – could punch the appropriate office numbers into our cell phones and get some nice personal time with a City or School Department poo ba who could speak intelligently, passionately about these mega school projects? Instead, they all hide. And collect their almost quarter of a million dollar paychecks, courtesy of the Worcester taxpayer.