Will things really change with Mayor Joe O’Brien at the helm? (he also heads our school committee)

By Rosalie Tirella

After reading all the pieces on Joe O’Brien’s inauguration day festivities (I wasn’t invited to the ball and InCity Times was emailed no public announcement about it to post in the paper so our readers could attend – unlike two years ago, when Konnie Lukes became mayor and I got ALL the info and a beautiful invitation to boot), I ask: Will things really change in Worcester with Joe at the helm? Will O’Brien really be any different from a pol who rewards his pals and punishes anyone who doesn’t agree with him? More important: Will things really change/improve in the Worcester Public Schools now that Mayor O’Brien says he wants to make the WPS system the best urban school system in America?

Actions speak louder than words, my momma always told me. This is what I have to go on so far:

* After the election, after O’Brien won, I called Distrcit 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller, a close friend of Joe O’Brien – and an InCity Times pal/booster/even contributor. Barb knew I supported (whole heartedly) Konnie Lukes’ re-election to the Worcester mayor’s office. I thought (and still do) Lukes was the real agent of change. InCity Times endorsed her. I wrote a cover story about Konnie – put her on page 1 and blogged like mad about her – and her opponent, Joe O’Brien. Some of my postings were not the most genteel of postings. I also ran a critical piece or two about O’Brien penned by InCity Times’ newest (and very smart) columnist, Monsieur “Cheez Wiz.”

I said something like this to Barb Haller: Ya, know, Barb, I wanted Konnie for mayor, but Joe O’Brien won, and truth be told, we agree on a lot of issues – me and Joe. We lived in and are passionate about the inner city. InCity Times broke stories on lead paint, featured urban gardeners and our public schools multiple times, believe in saving the environment and all the progressive things that O’Brien says he stands for. Maybe Joe and I should talk, I told Haller. That way I can support the things I am still passionate about – like moving the inner city way forward!

Barb said: I was thinking the same thing, Rose. I’ll call Joe and get back to you.

Well, I never got the call from Barb – meaning O’Brien said no. Meaning O’Brien is just as petty as his pal l.g. Tim Murray, meaning O’Brien can’t bury the hatchet and move forward and work with people who may not always be thrilled by him but who are a hell of a lot more progressive than the clowns at the T & G or Blow Mag.

I think Konnie Lukes – if we had been at odds during the election – would have smoked the peace pipe with me.

So now InCity Times, the paper that has an inner-city school column written for parents of inner-city kids by a former inner city school principal, a paper that has featured articles galore about the inner city and its people and problems, will not be included in any of O’Brien’s reindeer games.

Suits us fine. Let the battle lines be drawn!

We can agree with the ideas – but loathe the man. And stay on him. And dig for (legit) dirt and report (legit) dirt/dirty deals done dirt cheap. I’m sure the other papers in town will stay clear of controversy.

Which brings me to my first important point about Mayor O’Brien and the Worcester Public Schools:

Our first African American, female, “unconnected,” school superintendent – Dr. Melinda Boone.

IF JOE O’BRIEN HAD BEEN HEAD OF THE WORCESTER SCHOOL COMMITTEE LAST YEAR (LIKE MAYOR LUKES), HE WOULD HAVE MADE NONE OF THE IMPORTANT CHANGES SHE DID. HE WOULD HAVE HIRED HACK/INSIDER STEVE MILLS AS WORCESTER’S NEXT SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT – NOT MELINDA BOOONE. He would have done what a Tim Murray or Ric Rushton or Joe Petty would have done – only covered his deed in progressive b.s. O’Brien would never have hired a BLACK, FEMALE from NORFOLK, VIRGINIA. He would never have been as bold and creative as Konnie Lukes – even though he knows our school system is a minority majority school system. (more kids of color than white kids) Konnie Lukes championed Melinda Boone and we are proud of her for doing so!

Poopy puss O’Brien would have ushered in the era of Mills – another white, connected, milquetoast Worcester pol.

What a drag.

And what would all the Latino and Black families who send their kids to the WPS think of the new superintendent Mills? Business as usual.
3. And is O’Brien gonna follow through on Konnie Lukes brave stand as mayor: to fire all the hacks in our public school system who are teaching subjects/classes they are not certified to teach JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE POLITICALLY CONNECTED AND CAN GET AWAY WITH IT? Fire these uncertified folks (just as Konnie Lukes would have urged)! And hire some fantastic, certified Black, Latino, Vietnameste teachers.

2. There are many schoools in the Worcester Public School System with ZERO people of color – professionally speaking. No Black, Latino, Vietnamese, Brazilian teachers or principals. This matters and sends a powerful message to kids. Can you imagine being a little black kid and coming to your school and seeing no one with your skin color in a position of authority? No one black or brown teaching a class, reading your favorite book before you, writing on the chalkboard you face day in and day out – for years in the WP Schools.

PATHETIC! But true.

Joe O’Brien will not change a thing.

If he wants to be a true agent of change, O’Brien should hire a recruiter – some bright person who will go South to Morehouse, to some of the best African American colleges in the country, AND FUCKIN’ LURE THESE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK TEACHING STUDENTS TO WORCESTER. We had such a position – for a few months after ICTimes ran stories and pushed and pushed four or so years ago, but then-Mayor Murray cut the part-time (around $20,000) a year job. SHAME on The Pillsbury Dough Boy (that’s what The Boston Herald – and probably Deval Patrick’s staff behind his back – call Murray). So the goal of hiring more minority teachers fizzled.

Shame on O’Brien and shame on Murray!!!!!! And shame on WPS Human Resources Director Stacy Luster, an African American who has obviously better things to do (like not make waves/preserve her $100,000 a year job) than make our school system an equitable place. Have you forgotten your color, Ms. Luster?

And don’t give us the bullshit, Joe, about how teachers of color just aren’t around.

Find them. Now.

And you just might find yourself.

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