|By G. Michael Dobbs|
Let me ask a personal question: so, how much money do you make? When was the last time you received a raise? How much was it and was the raise based on your performance?
This is none of my business, of course, unless you have a job in the public sector.
With the city of Springfield facing an $18 million deficit in the School Department's budget, I have to admit I was more than a bit surprised that only one member of the School Committee Antonette Pepe voted against School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram from getting a $12,000 raise to add to his salary of $190,000.
Now, in a time of sacrifice during which Mayor Domenic Sarno has spoken about the possibility of layoffs and furloughs on the city side of the budget, how could this action be justified?
Ingram has a tough job. He is charged with increasing graduation rates and test scores. Ten of our schools are described by the state as failing. The city just hired a consultant for $800,000 to help turn around the High School of Commerce.
Graduation rates have decreased and dropout rates have increased. So how does Ingram deserve a raise for performance?
I have nothing personally against Ingram. I've spoken to him a bit and he seems like a sincere and dedicated professional. The School Committee's vote, though, won't help Ingram's image and Ingram's acceptance of the raise won't win him any popularity contests with the rank and file.
To put this issue into another perspective, consider the following: Gov. Deval Patrick is the chief executive of the state of Massachusetts with a population of 6,593,587 people. After a Constitutionally mandated pay decrease, he now earns a salary of $139,835. As superintendent, Ingram is responsible for about 25,000 students and now earns $202,000.
I broke several of my own carefully developed rules the other night while at a watering hole not my usual haunt.
Here are my rules: first, stay away from those who have gone over the limit and never engage in any argument with them.
Also, never talk with them about religion, sports or politics.
These constraints were developed when I tended bar at Kelly's in Holyoke back in the 1980s. Nothing screws up a tip faster than an unwanted opinion.
I was with a friend who introduced me to a friend of his. This gentleman proceeded to speak about the issues of the day. He also described himself with a smile in terms that I will paraphrase for a family newspaper as "obnoxious."
All righty, then. I shortly learned that his self-description was accurate.
By watching a basketball game on a large TV, I was able to withstand and ignore his ranting and posturing about a wide range of issues until he said he needed to see the photos of Osama Bin Laden's corpse in order to believe that he is indeed dead.
That was it. I, like my role model Popeye, "couldn't stands no more!"
I asked him if he believed Adolph Hitler was dead. He looked at me through squinty eyes as he held his drink.
I explained to him the architect of the Third Reich and the man behind millions of deaths was someone whose corpse was never seen by American troops. The Soviets beat us to the partially burned body and took it. To this day, apparently only one former KGB agent knows where the remains were buried.
And yet, I said, the world accepted other than some silly tabloid rumors of Hitler living in South America that he was dead.
So what is the difference between Bin Laden and Hitler?
There are two differences today. In the era of instant news coverage, Twitter and YouTube, people have become used to having immediate "evidence" of some sort, rather than just a reported account.
One should note, though, that with computer manipulation, video and still photography can be easily altered.
The other is that some of President Obama's critics the same folks who questioned his birth, whether or not he is a Marxist (that's just laughable), and if he is a Muslim simply have trouble accepting that he did something he said he was going to do during his campaign and did it decisively and without apology.
My new friend had little material for a comeback and switched topics to local politics of a town I do not cover.
I sighed a breath of relief, as I hate it when I break my own rules.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper
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