By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

South Hadley school superintendent returns

It’s not much, but at least South Hadley school superintendent Gus Sayer is back from vacation and defending the school system’s response to the bullying of the late Phoebe Prince. And, unlike school committee chairman Edward Boisselle, Sayer manages to do so without making it worse. Here’s Sayer, in Peter Schworm’s Boston Globe story:

No one turned their back on this. I think we did everything we could. If I thought I had done something wrong, I would resign. But I think we did our best.

We’ll see whether that’s the case. But Sayer is saying the right thing.

Meanwhile, Boisselle, whose sneering dismissal of District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel’s report that teachers and administrators knew Phoebe Prince was being bullied but did nothing has touched off a firestorm, appears to have taken the wise course of action and kept his mouth shut since talking to the Boston Herald on Tuesday.

Sadly, the Springfield Republican reports that no one is running against Boisselle as he seeks re-election on April 5.

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  1. Really, Dan, you don’t think Sayer made things worse? Seriously?

    Let’s just look at the optics of the situation. There’s a burning issue in his school system that has received negative national attention, and this dude goes on vacation … wow. Think of all that time he can take a vacation while kids are out of school.

    Okay, let’s give this guy his vacation while the walls are burning all around him; why doesn’t he give Scheibel a phone call to check-in and ask her to hold off on any announcements until he’s back? Scheibel is from South Hadley, why wouldn’t she be helpful and productive in trying to improve the situation in the schools?

    Sayer wasn’t prepared for the results of the investigation, no matter what they were.

    Sayer’s judgement has been suspect since day one of this incident.

    Onward to the embarrassing article the Springfield Republican wrote (in comparison to the Globe article today). Dan, what do you think? I would like to know what you’re seeing in this coverage, because I’ve lost my objectivity, I’m seeing red every time I read a Republican article.

    Here are the two articles:

    Today my problem is that the Republican doesn’t put the Sayer comments (post-vacation) under scrutiny based on his earlier comments when it appeared that he lied to the public. And there is no mention that Scheibel’s investigation came to an entirely different conclusion, in that the bullying was mostly done in real life, not cyber.

  2. Michael Pahre

    Too bad we still don’t have any substantial details from DA Scheibel, since now we have heard some from Supt. Sayer.

    Sayer points out that two staff members at the school knew about the bullying for a week and took immediate action. Sayer sounds specific and its hard to argue against him without more evidence.

    The DA says that the bullying was common knowledge at the school but doesn’t say for how long school staff knew about it. Could it be that the DA’s story and Sayer’s are (now) consistent on this point? We don’t know until the DA tips her hand by showing some of the evidence and time line.

    The big media loser in this: the Boston Herald. Dan, I think you jumped the gun — got ahead of the story — by declaring Margery Eagen’s column “terrific”, when, it now appears, Eagen’s column is factually incorrect. Eagen wrote:

    “Now we know: The adults knew, and did nothing.”

    If Sayer is correct that two “adults” at the school learned about the bullying the week before her death and took action, then those two South Hadley staff members may have grounds for a defamation suit against the Herald. Eagen doesn’t say the adults didn’t do enough; she says they did “nothing.” Reckless disregard for the truth? What do you think?

  3. Michael Pahre

    That two members of the school faculty intervened was public knowledge three days ago, on Monday, March 29th, long before Eagen wrote her article. See this article in The Republican.

    Was it lazy reporting by the Herald to ignore this piece of information? Or did they ignore it because it didn’t fit into their preconceived opinion on the story? Major dailies ignore smaller, local news media at their own peril.

  4. Al Fiantaca

    Was he on vacation, or was he “out of town”, that famous euphemism for “I don’t want to talk to anyone”, aka unavailable or in a meeting.

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