I’ve sat through numerous City Council and Finance Committee meetings over the years, especially during budget season. I’ve witnessed a pattern of berating and scolding of our superintendent/School Committee by our now mayor, Mike Foley. In the past, he was on the council (16 years) and this tactic is not new, but very disconcerting to me.

Do we have serious issues with our current deficit, yes –  that is clear if you read our recent audit. However, Foley knew about this prior to the School Committee (very odd) and had more than 45 days to work with Superintendent Peter Lancia and his team to come up with the plan and resolution that would meet the concerns of the auditors, resolve the deficiencies and be ready for presentation to our Finance Committee last evening. Plenty of time. Instead, he chose to pontificate and chastise, berate and degrade not only Lancia, but his staff as well.

As I sat next to Lancia and watched his expression, I was embarrassed and upset. There was no need for this display, but unfortunately, I have witnessed it many times over the years. Jim Violette, former chairman and longtime member of the School Committee, received such treatment annually.

Councilor Victor Chau chimed in with his scolding and compared the audits of the city, stating that when “we had findings, they were dealt with and not repeated, unlike the school audits.” Well, Mr. Chau must not have done his homework, because that is a totally false and inaccurate statement.  I reviewed our audits dating back to 2009 and went to numerous council meetings pointing out the repeated “materially significant findings” regarding no reconciliations of many of our accounts, no oversight of journal entries and more.  I stated for several years that this can lead to missing money and it was not acceptable.  Guess what happened in 2015/2016?  $118,000 stolen over a period of more than a year because these checks and balances (basic accounting principles) were not implemented, so before Mr. Chau chastises others, he should look at our history.  Thank goodness this was resolved after the theft, but it was resolved, and our city audits have come in with minor issues since then.
Why Foley chooses to always make the school department and staff the enemy says more about him than any of the issues our School Department staff has.
Deb Shangraw
 Westbrook