In a series of emails, Harold Rhodes, slammed the Milford School Department saying students are not safe at school and that academic achievement in Milford lags behind other school districts.
MILFORD – A series of emails maligning the performance and safety of Milford schools has drawn an angry rebuke from School Committee members.
“I question the ethics of this negative campaign, and I would encourage members of this community to do the same,” School Committee Chairman Joseph Callery said. “This negative campaign has been intentionally misleading and deceptive, and should no longer be tolerated.”
The emails, sent to members of the public regularly since the beginning of October, are authored by Harold Rhodes, who serves on Milford’s Personnel Board and the state’s architectural access board.
“I stand by the information provided in the emails,” Rhodes wrote in an email Monday to the Daily News.
Subject lines of the nine emails so far have included “Education Gaps at Milford High School,” “Substantial Chronic Absenteeism Across the Milford School District,” and “Worsening Science MCAS Education Gap Deficits.”
Rhodes often uses data pulled from state websites, particularly the Department of Education. School board members said Thursday the data chosen does not represent a complete or accurate picture of the district.
“Ongoing attempts to systematically portray a negative image of our schools using select pieces of information cannot be tolerated, and quite frankly (are) not productive,” School Committee member Meghan Hornberger said Thursday.
The latest email, sent Dec. 5, focused on school safety, and claimed over 2,200 safety incidents have been investigated by the Milford Police Department since January 2017. Though he admitted it was a “gross generalization,” Rhodes wrote, given the total student population, each student has a 55 percent chance of “suffering” a police incident while on school property.
“I hope that you are as greatly worried about the safety of your child as I am,” he wrote in the email. “The numbers above, provided by the Milford Police Department, must be substantially reduced by the (school) District’s leadership.”
Police Chief Thomas O’Loughlin said Monday he did respond to Rhodes’ public records request with police response data at the schools. That data, however, is not limited to violent or crime-related offenses. It isn't even limited to school days or hours when students are on school campuses.
It included things like regular property checks at night to make sure buildings are secure, assistance with traffic control, medical calls, people locked out of their cars, and loitering.
Some, O’Loughlin said, were more serious. Tallying calls for things like juvenile offenses, suspicious activity, and vandalism, O’Loughlin said he counted 100 such incidents at the high school in the time period requested, 75 at the middle school, 12 at Memorial Elementary School, five at Brookside Elementary School, and nine at Woodland Elementary School.
Harold’s presentation of those numbers was a “clear misrepresentation of the data,” Callery said last week.
Characterizing police interactions as negative doesn’t reflect the “excellent working relationship” the department has with the school district, School Resource Officer Joe Gresian said.
“I interact with the kids all day, that’s what my job is,” Gresian said. “I say 'hi' to kids, or I talk to kids in the hallways, that's a lot of positive interaction.”
Gresian has been a school resource officer for 10 years, many at the middle school. He moved up to the high school this year. Sometimes he has to break up a fight, talk to parents worried about bullying, or go as far as taking a student to court.
The latter is not something he does often, he said.
“The positive interaction definitely outweighs the negative interaction with kids,” Gresian said.
Rhodes said he intends to release another email next week, focused on safety and accessibility issues. The following week, he wrote, he will “deal with the comments made at the recent School Committee meeting.”
Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or email@example.com. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.