“As Council President, I would like to address the inaccuracies that some had spread throughout the community. First, let me make it clear – This is not about the “City Council President” or “City Council” verses the kids. Some in the community want to pivot and dismiss the facts that the Superintendent is dealing with MCAD complaints, an unsatisfactory review by the School Committee in his recent evaluation and hinge to the headlines that make it look like the City Council President and some Council members do not care about kids. – That is the furthest from the truth and is a mere deflection of the real issues before us.
“The City Council has a responsibility to advocate and represent all taxpayers. Are we not suppose to ask questions? We still do not have the answers to the questions:
“- The City Council is committed to Net School Spending – 163 million to satisfy Net School Spending requirements. In addition, 9 million per year in debt service for school projects + 11 million per year in school transportation – Fall River and its TAXPAYERS pay 183 million dollars towards education –
“- Councilors can’t ask questions about capital projects or how we are spending taxpayer money to pay for these projects?
“- Regarding Timelines: In May of 2019 – We had a presentation with the School Department and City Side. It was told to the Fall River City Council at that meeting in May of 2019 that we had two years on the ADA waiver for Watson. Phase 1 was a little over 7 million dollars – During that presentation, it was told to the City Council that ADA ( Current Project pending approval) will be coming to the City Council “in early 2020 mid 2020” The TAXPAYERS deserve to hear why the project took so long in Phase 1 . It is March of 2021. ( In addition, Phase 1 is still not completed)
“- Why did it take them 10 months to pull a permit? A permit for Phase 1 – was issued in June of 2020. What took so long? Don’t you think the taxpayers and City Council should hear from the Superintendent?
“The City of Fall River is getting 75 million from the federal government and 40+/- million for schools. Can we use that money to pay for some debt payments? What is the long-term plan for capital projects on the school side?
“This is not about egos; this is not about holding up projects for the kids. The Fall River City Council – which represents the entire City has an absolute right and obligation to make inquires of City Departments, Officers and Employees. Those employees have a professional and ethical obligation to answer those inquires, in person and in public – regardless if the Charter states that the Superintendent is “not required” to attend a City Council Meeting. The continuing conduct by the Superintendent defies governmental norms and common sense. The solution is simple; top splitting hairs, show up, do your job and answer the appropriate questions. What is so hard about this?
“For example: If the Council was to talk about water or sewer – Would it acceptable to for that department head to ignore the Council and it’s taxpayers? The answer is NO!
“The invitation remains open to the Superintendent to attend our meeting on April 6th and I will be prepared to add this to the agenda for that meeting.
“To be honest, I do not understand the hesitation from the Superintendent to not attend meetings. The Fall River City Council is not the only meeting he has refused to attend. The Superintendent refused to attend meetings of the South Coast Education Collaborative and his failure cost the Fall River students and teachers 250,000.00. I hope that the Superintendent does not further delay the funding for this project any longer and answers Council and Taxpayer questions.”
Cliff Ponte Jr.