The COVID epidemic will go down in history as a crisis of leadership. Elected officials don’t want to be the person who opens up their city or state and kills a bunch of people. This apprehension was understandable at first, but given what we know now it’s simply inexcusable for the lockdowns to continue in any form. In particular people are yearning for a leader with political courage to stand up for their children and reopen schools. That leader came in the form of Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella.
Two months ago Leominster became the first school district in the state to vote for full remote learning to start the year. All 5 of the members in the majority 5-4 decision had one thing in common – none of them have kids in the schools. One just graduated from Worcester State.
Leominster is a working class city. In the two family homes most parents work, and in the single Mom or Dad homes the breadwinners have had to lose their jobs to accommodate “remote learning.” More problematic is that remote learning is child abuse. We’ve been chronicling your stories and the effect it’s had on your children because no one else will report the truth. Last night at the Leominster School Committee meeting parents were invited to come in and tell their stories, and they were powerful. There was just one problem though – the School Committee walked out while parents were telling their stories because they had a “workshop” to go to.
That is a parent playing voicemails from other parents while the elected School Committee walks by her. They simply do not care about her problems, or the problems of any parents or children in town. They’re too busy living in fear and have a workshop to get to.
But Dean Mazzarella kept going anyway, by himself for two hours. He read aloud story after story from the taxpayers, all of them negative. The School Committee just couldn’t be bothered to hear them because that would require confronting reality. I have no idea what was going on at this “workshop” but it wasn’t as important as listening to these voices. Every single member who walked out should be voted out, especially Michael Stessen.
“I think part of the reason Leominster is doing well is because so far, we have stayed remote,” school committee member Michael Stassen said.
Leominster isn’t “doing well” if the children of Leominster aren’t in school. That’s like saying that your crime rates are down because the police stopped arresting people. If you quantify “doing well” as number of cases, then of course you’re going to be “doing well” if you stay in your homes and hide. The point is that achieving these numbers isn’t worth the cost it took from parents and children whose testimonials the School Committee refused to listen to.
Meanwhile, Mazzarella, who has been the Mayor of Leominster since the beginning of time, isn’t taking his foot off the pedal. He rightfully declared remote learning a public health crisis and is taking active steps to get around the School Committee.
But that didn’t stop the mayor from declaring the downsides of remote learning as a public health crisis and he is pledging to find places in the coming days — like the Boys and Girls Club — where kids can go and get their lessons — with adult supervision.
“If we have to rent space, we’ll rent space but help is on the way,” Mazzarella said.
He’s spent most of the day on Facebook, doing boomer version of live shows, sharing petitions, and pointing out the reality of remote learning on working families.
And by and large the parents are overwhelmingly receptive of this. Sure, you get some of this from teachers.
Boo hoo. I’m sick of hearing how hard this is for teachers. You’re getting paid your full salary. Parents aren’t. You don’t care about our problems so I fail to see why I should care about yours. The teachers I do feel bad for are the many quality educators out there who want to return to school but are being silenced by Merrie Najimy and the union that takes their money, throws it at Ed Markey, and gets nothing in return for it.
Over 70% of parents in Leominster voted to return to school months ago. It would likely be more now. All of the elected leaders besides the Mayor ignored them, forgetting who they work for when they walked out.
But the Mayor is incredibly popular for doing this and more leaders should have the courage and leadership he’s displaying. I’d even call his crusade heroic. He just showed Mayors everywhere that it’s OK to stand up for the kids. Opening the schools is a winning political issue, and one that cuts across party lines. Often it’s portrayed as if republicans have to favor reopening while democrats want lockdowns forever. But Mazzarella is a democrat and he just showed that doing what’s best for the kids and their parents is more important than allowing the teachers union to hold everyone else hostage.
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