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More Transparency Requested by School Committee Member

Now that Stoughton finally got invited into the MSBA process to rebuild or renovate our high school, we need to form a School Building Committee as required by MSBA.

During the February 11, 2014 meeting of the Stoughton School Committee, Chairwoman Joyce Husseini disclosed that she has been receiving communications from Stoughton residents volunteering to serve on this committee and she has been forwarding them to Ms. Deborah Sovinee.

I asked that these communications be shared with all school committee members. Ms. Sovinee and Mrs. Husseini refused.

It is hard to understand why Ms. Sovinee and Ms. Husseini would want to hide this information from the school committee, especially since these communications would be considered as public records. Yet, it is important to recognize that this was not the first time Sovinee-Husseini-Rizzi trio kept the school committee in dark. For example, they invited the selectmen and legislators to the SHS to lobby for a new building. They failed to invite school committee members to the lobbying event. Similarly, they failed to inform the school committee before the MSBA site inspection visit.

On February 26, 2014, by pure accident, I discovered a meeting in the Town Hall where Sovinee, Husseini and superintendent Rizzi were editing the school portion of the Master Plan Consultant’s report. Also present were SPS Public Relations Specialist Jeanne Ostroff, Assistant Superintendent Ford, Special Education Administrator Heather Tucker, Gibbons School Principal Jardin, Mr. Lou Gitto, Mr. Dick Fitzgerald, and attorney Joe Scardino. Much to my amazement, neither the School Committee nor public was informed about this meeting, too. I asked Sovinee, Husseini and Rizzi individually why they did not inform the school committee or the public. Sovinee and Rizzi chose to remain silent. Ms. Husseini responded “The email invitation to the meeting was sent out by Brown Walker Planners to the original participants.  It was not my place to invite anyone to the meeting as it was run by the Master Plan Committee and the consultant.” I find it hard to believe Mr. Scardino and Mr. Fitzgerald would knowingly compromise the integrity of the Master Plan project.

In her Stoughton Journal interview, Superintendent Rizzi “said that even with reimbursement from the MSBA, Stoughton still would need to seek a Proposition 2-1/2 debt exclusion override to raise property taxes above the levy limit until the project is paid off. Town Meeting and voters at the polls would need to approve a debt-exclusion before it took effect.” Estimated cost: a little over 2 million dollars per year for the next 20 years.

According to the same Stoughton Journal article, Rizzi also said: “The MSBA mandates that a school building committee include the school superintendent, town manager, school committee chair, school facilities manager, and community members with extensive knowledge in engineering, architecture and building.”

Town Manager says neither Sovinee nor Husseini gave him the copies of the aforementioned communications from Stoughton residents volunteering to serve on the School Building Committee. Instead, Sovinee asked members of the Feasibility Study Committee to apply for a seat in the School Building Committee. Town Manager is unaware of when the Feasibility Study Committee was formed, who the members are, who appointed the members and for how long.

We, as school committee members, should not act in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person.

People talk about Ms. Sovinee and Ms. Husseini’s ties to the school construction and engineering industry. Actually, this information is readily available on the internet. Both Mrs. Husseini and her husband work for Nitch Engineering, a company that provides engineering services associated with the design and construction of K-12 school buildings. See for example:

http://www.nitscheng.com/?t=1&DO=67&DI=2919&format=xml&stylesheet=NE_Project&p=5418

http://www.nitscheng.com/?t=1&DO=71&DI=2832&format=xml&stylesheet=NE_Principal&p=5424

Ms. Sovinee’s husband, on the other hand, works as an Executive Project Manager at Chapman Construction and Design, a company that provides sustainable construction management and consulting services to various sectors including the education sector. This company published its client list at:

http://www.chap-con.com/clients

At this stage, we do not know if Ms. Sovinee, Ms. Husseini, or their immediate families will be involved as a contractor or subcontractor for our project.

But still, this is all the more reason for us to practice impeccable transparency in order to earn public trust and support on this important project. It is inappropriate for the superintendent and two school committee members to withhold any information from the school committee.





Stoughton Parent March 12, 2014 at 09:55 PM
Jo, there is nothing dysfunction or wrong with either the school committee or the administration. The SC is with one exception both knowledgeable and hardworking. The administration is both smart and tough, and is well respected by both the state reviews and the SC. There is a small very vocal group of chronic complainers/haters that are just obsessed with Doctor Rizzi, they are led by "Dr" Erdem who cannot speak 2 sentences with going into a rant about her. He seems to have very little patience with any women talking back. Also as the parent of a 2014 grad, this is the same crew who chased the largest donor in town away. In 2013 he donated in the area of 150K to SPS, but his neighbor told me he just got sick of the personal attacks on him by the union and the hate Rizzi crowd.
Robin March 13, 2014 at 04:35 AM
No one is led by Dr. Ural. Those of us who know that Dr. Rizzi and her SC cronies are corrupt know for personal experience. It amazes me that some people can't take the blinders off to see what's really going on! Thank you Dr. Ural. This is very enlightening!
mom2qts March 16, 2014 at 11:16 AM
I love how if we are not on the Dr Ural bandwagon, we have blinders on. He has been asked many times what his plan is to help the SC, any plans or ideas, and each and every request has gone unanswered. Maybe I did have blinders on when I originally voted for him, trust me when I say, I do not have them on. Which is why I can see very clearly that all Dr Ural wants is to have his name in the spot light. I will most certainly make another choice when he is up for reelection.
Robert Bunker March 16, 2014 at 07:50 PM
Concerned citizen How outrageous of you, Dr. Ural, to besmirch the good names of some of our school committee members with unfounded innuendo with respect to your baseless corruption charges regarding their husbands' work. You must have attended the Ted Cruz School of Smear.
George Dyroff March 17, 2014 at 09:22 PM
Erdem Ural's implication that my employer and, by extension, my wife Deborah Sovinee and I could benefit from her appointment to the School Building Committee is just plain wrong. Chapman Construction/Design has never done and does not intend to do public work. Its education clients are private schools that do not engage in the open bid process that our town will follow when hiring a contractor for a new or renovated high school. Ural's attempt to smear my reputation can only be seen as a deliberate effort to undermine my wife's campaign to return to the School Committee. The voters of Stoughton should reject such political manipulation and decide the election on the basis of fact, and the facts are that my wife regularly works more than 30 hours a week for no pay on behalf of the schools and because of her leadership, dedication, and 3-1/2 years of hard work our town is now eligible for tens of millions of dollars of state money toward a new or renovated high school. George Dyroff Deborah Sovinee's husband of 38 years

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