Still No Investigation, No Answers on Atkinson Scandal
I am happy to reect on the fact that as a
young man I was in a number of what werethen called “advanced” courses. I excelledin English, history and social science andthe Philadelphia school system providedme with an opportunity to delve deeper and more fully in to the subjects whichreally captured my attention. Similar op- portunities were provided to students whohad passions for math, biology, chemistryand the like. Some of the school districtsin Pennsylvania referred to these courses
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as “honors” while some called them“advanced” or “accelerated” or “AP”.Whatever the name, the opportunity was presented for students to get additionaleducation and encouragement.
Fast forward about forty years, andI nd myself sitting in the library at
Swampscott Middle School listening tothe school’s principal and vice-principallecture parents on why the decision toeliminate the seventh grade honors mathcourse is somehow a very good thing.Two days before the start of summer va-cation, parents of students at SwampscottMiddle School were invited to this specialmeeting called by the principal.The reasoning behind this hastily ar-ranged meeting seems to be that studentshad come home from school and toldtheir parents that the seventh grade honors program in math had been eliminated.Students who had worked extremely hardthrough lower grades, consistently doingextra work in math and striving to achieveexceptional scores in both classroomtesting and the MCAS assessments werenow being told that their hard work wasfor naught. Students who were rightfully proud and happy knowing that they hadearned the right to be placed in the seventhgrade honors math class had those dreamssquashed as they were being told that theentire program was slated to be dumped.During the meeting, the principalrepeatedly told parents that he and hismath staff had discussed the eliminationof the seventh grade honors math programthroughout the school year. Why then, weas parents wanted to know, had he decidedto spring this on us just 48 hours before theend of the school year?Among the reasons stated as to why theseventh grade honors math class was beingscratched were: not all students get in toit, some of the students who do get in toit are not really prepared for it and havingthe higher achieving students kept in thesame class with lower achieving class wasactually good for both of them. Perhapsthe most surreal explanation came from
No Honors For You!
Jeff Katz is a for-
mer police ofcer, for
-mer talk show host onTalk1200AM and wonthe Associated Press Award for Best Talk Show In Boston two years in a row. He is now an exclusive columnist for The Valley Patriot. WEBSITE: vision-accomplished.net
When it was learned weeks ago thatMethuen City Attorney Peter McQuillanwas sending text and email messages toCouncilor Jamie Atkinson during a public
hearing to inuence his questions and his
votes, we expected a full investigation.At issue was Attorney RichardD’Agostino, who was applying to replaceMcQuillan as city solicitor after the councilvoted not to renew McQuillan’s contract.While D’Agostino was being questioned ata public hearing, McQuillan was feedingquestions and damaging information toCouncilor Atkinson in an attempt to stopD’Agostino from getting the job.
We expected ofcials to nd out all the
facts surrounding Councilor Atkinson’sadvocacy of McQuillan and his efforts todefame Richard D’Agostino, which taintedthe process of hiring his replacement.We expected the city council, the mayor and the chief of police to ask the questionsthat Methuen residents have been ask-ing since the Jamie Atkinson scandal was
all over again, so he could ght to get his
job back?Were laws broken? City policies? Ethicsviolations?It seems Methuen residents will never know the answers to these questions because the council refused to acceptCouncilor Tom Ciulla’s motion for a fullinvestigation into the shenanigans of Councilor Jamie Atkinson and Solicitor McQuillan.Whether you like former City of Law-rence Attorney Richard D’Agostino or youdon’t, whether you favored his appoint-ment to replace McQuillan or not, no ap- plicant for a city job should be treated theway Rick D’Agostino was treated.Everyone who applies and goes throughthe hiring process for any city job mustdo so knowing that the process is fair, andthere isn’t anyone stacking the deck behindthe scenes to favor or exclude anyone.We understand that some on the councilmay want to shy away from something ascontroversial as an investigation into an
elected ofcial in an election year.
However, the people of Methuen deserveto know the truth whether it’s an electionyear or not.We urge the Methuen City Council toreconsider investigating what really hap- pened in the Councilor Jamie Atkinsonscandal.We urge them to ask the relevant ques-tions, determine how deep this goes, and
how many other cases of conict of inter
-est Atkinson and McQuillan have beeninvolved in.
The public must be condent that their elected ofcials are making decisions
based only on the merits of the candidatesor proposals in front of them, not who theyare friends with or who they made dealswith behind the scenes.Methuen voters are not getting the an-swers they deserve. The city council owesit to them to get those answers. brought to light.Questions like:Since McQuillan was still on the jobawaiting a replacement, was a city cell
phone or computer used to inuence Atkin
-son’s vote?Was there collusion between Atkinsonand McQuillan to destroy Attorney RichardD’Agostino’s reputation?Did Councilor Jamie Atkinson knowabout McQuillan contacting RichardD’Agostino’s references to get them toretract their letters of recommendation?Did Atkinson participate in scuttlingD’Agostino’s application for city solicitor?Did McQuillan use city cell phones or computers to orchestrate Lawrence Mayor Lantigua’s letter to the council attackingD’Agostino the day before his hearing?Did Councilor Jamie Atkinson knowabout, or participate in, McQuillan’smisdeeds and further McQuillan’s agenda:which was to force the Methuen Council torepost the job and start the hiring process
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the vice-principal who stated that the sev-enth grade honors math class was actuallythe same curriculum as the regular class but was presented at an accelerated pace,so it was “not really an honors course”and therefore should be ditched. He thenfollowed that up by advising all of us thatthe eighth grade honors math course wasthe same curriculum as the regular class but presented at an accelerated pace andtherefore was “really an honors course.”Despite assurances from the principalthat he was listening to parents and thatall of these decisions would rest squarelyon his shoulders, the message was clear,at least to me, that the decision to scuttlethe seventh grade honors program in mathhad already been made long before thismeeting and that no concrete plans had been established on training teachers howto effectively teach a brand new curricu-lum (the so-called CMP3) or to properlymeet the needs of both under-performingand over-performing students in the sameclassroom.