Where do I begin? It has been an amazing effort to keep 21 school custodians in their positions in the town of Saugus. What gave hope, dignity, understanding and perseverance to this effort is the definition of community: “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”
What gave power and audacity to an elite group of officials is the definition of authoritarianism: “any political system that concentrates power in the hands of a leader or small elite not constitutionally responsible to the body of the people.”
Our community has been the victim of authoritarianism. It is sad, frustrating and frightening in so many ways.
The town is in the midst of watching the construction of a new high school/middle school. This momentous endeavor is being accomplished through the hope, dignity, understanding and perseverance of the community of Saugus. For some reason the School Committee and the superintendent of schools didn’t get the memo in this instance on what it takes to bring what they believe is a good idea to a satisfactory conclusion.
The current superintendent of schools has created a “punch” list of all that he would like to see done with the money that will be realized from the elimination of 21 custodians. The custodians have an average of 17 years of service — most of them with a lifetime of citizenship in Saugus, as homeowners, and taxpayers themselves.
My first managerial class made clear that any problem or situation that is solved by the creation of multiple other situations or problems is a false correction. This School Committee and superintendent have created 21 heartbreaking residual situations.
The dramatic statement Linda Gaieski made following her vote begs understanding in the face of all the harm she has done to Saugus citizens and their families. Marc Magliozzi can write all the letters to all the editors he wants, but he needs to pin a sticky to his fridge that simple says, “I interrupted the life of 21 fellow hardworking Saugus citizens (you might need two sticky notes, Marc).
There were so many bright spots through this destructive time … Corinne Riley, 16-year-old Olivia Tamagna, AFSCME Council 93, the former students of Saugus High and many current students and elementary school kids who made those amazing signs and spoke at a meeting, along with so many others who realized the travesty of this entire situation.
To the 21 custodians and their families, I want to say how sorry I am they had to endure this experience. Members of the School Committee, who think they have won, will be humbled on Election Day, Nov. 5. The superintendent of schools will add a couple of additional bullet points to his accomplishments on his resume. We will find some hope that he uses it to move on to another community worthy of his authoritarian credentials.