Dr. Carl Batchelder, Content Review Board Member

June 14, 2008

From Jim Metrock:

As reported before, one of the members of BusRadio’s Content Review Board is Dr. Carl Batchelder. He is the Superintendent of the Woburn School District in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Below is an email I sent to all Woburn school committee members.

I thought I would have heard from at least one of the seven members. What I am telling them is their superintendent is doing work, and apparently a lot of work, for a company that has a contract with their school district. I have no idea if he is getting paid or not, but one would assume a full-time school superintendent would not be on a "content review board" for BusRadio, reviewing ALL songs that are played on this national radio broadcast, if he wasn’t being paid. But then again, maybe Dr. Batchelder believes so deeply in BusRadio that he is volunteering his time to aid this start-up company.

Either way, Dr. Batchelder’s relationship with this school vendor should at least raise a school committee member’s eyebrow.

I live in Birmingham, Alabama. If Dr. Batchelder did what he did down here, he would, as we say in the South, be in a "world of hurt." If he had received any financial benefit from BusRadio, he could very well have violated our state Ethics Law.

Dr. Batchelder is a government employee. The taxpayers pay his salary. The taxpayers pay for all his health benefits. Taxpayers pay his expenses. The taxpayers pay a significant part or all of Dr. Batchelder’s retirement plan. In return, taxpayers expect Dr. Batchelder and other government employees to WORK FOR THEM.

It might be slightly different if Dr. Batchelder was serving on BusRadio’s Content Review Board as a PRIVATE CITIZEN, but he is always referred to as the "Superintendent of Schools, Woburn. MA." The people of his community have put him in this governmental position and he is using his title to not only endorse a product, but to become an adviser to the company that makes the product.

Notice below the Woburn Director of Finance Joseph Elia goes on record as saying that administrators are "untroubled" by BusRadio’s ads and content. That’s probably a safe thing for Mr. Elia to say since his boss, Dr. Batchelder, is on the BusRadio Content Review Board. Even though one explicit artist after another is played on BusRadio, I bet Mr. Elia and everyone else in Woburn’s school administration will keep giving BusRadio a "thumbs up" as long as their superintendent is an adviser to this company.

The Woburn school district has done much to advance the financial interests of BusRadio. Maybe it’s time for them to stop.



Email to Woburn (MA) School Committee members about their superintendent doing work for BusRadio



Subject: BusRadio – please pass on to School Committee members
Date: June 5, 2008 8:19:50 AM CDT
To: schoolcommittee@woburnpss.com
Cc: woburn@cnc.com, jgolin@jbcc.harvard.edu


Woburn School Board members,

Your school district has entered into a contract with a very controversial company called BusRadio. http://obligation.org/busradiohome.php

I write you because I run a small nonprofit in Birmingham, AL that researches and reports on companies that bring advertising into schools, or in this case school buses. Obligation, Inc. is opposed to the commercial exploitation of schoolchildren.

It appears your district was one of the first schools to sign up with BusRadio.

I had always been confused about why your school district would be an early adopter of such a controversial service. A document that surfaced in Florida two weeks ago has given me at least part of the answer.

A committee of parents, teachers and bus drivers in Seminole County, FL recommended to their school board that the contract with BusRadio be ended. http://obligation.org/busradioarticle.php?recordID=963 In a last ditch effort to keep the contract alive, BusRadio released the names of the members of their Content Review Board. (Up until then I had not seen any public mention of their names.) http://obligation.org/busradioarticle.php?recordID=969

Dr. Carl Batchelder is one of four members of the BusRadio Content Review Board.

This Board was evidently created more than two years ago because BusRadio has commented on it for at least that long. I do not know when Dr. Batchelder became a member, but I do know BusRadio has consistently mentioned that a school superintendent was a member of the Board.

This Board is suppose to review all songs that are played on the 3 versions of the daily radio show. That’s a lot of work. I would assume members of this Board are being paid for their time. (One member of the Board, a child psychologist, admitted that she hasn’t done any work for BusRadio in two years, so there is the possibility that this company is merely using the good names of its members for publicity and that the Content Review Board has never reviewed music content.)

I personally don’t believe a government employee should be on any advisory board for a company that has a contract with the school he or she is overseeing, but I’m not a school board member.

Your Board may have given Dr. Batchelder permission to work with BusRadio. If you did, I hope that you now may see this relationship in a different light. His presence on this Content Review Board gives BusRadio respectability that I personally don’t think they have earned. Other school districts may be entering into contracts with BusRadio because a school superintendent sees so much value in the service that he is actually advising the company.

I have written about Dr. Batchelder on our website. http://obligation.org/busradiohome.php I wondered aloud if he was working for BusRadio when your Board was given the recommendation to enter into a contract with BusRadio.

We live in a very connected world. A few years ago this email to you would be outright "meddling" in Woburn business, and indeed, you may still consider it as such, but local decisions sometimes have national impact. BusRadio has always prominently featured comments from Woburn in their sales literature. http://obligation.org/pdf/br5.PDF

From the Boston Globe 6/2/06: "A letter from Woburn school officials praising the Bus Radio system is posted on the company’s website.`The bus drivers loved it, the ability to keep the kids quiet and in their seats,’ said Joseph Elia, director of finance for Woburn schools. He said administrators were untroubled by the ads or the music. `We don’t think its a major issues from the standpoint of content,’ he said."

I hope your Board will review our website and read about the many problems with BusRadio.

Much Obliged,

Jim Metrock

Obligation, Inc.
P.O. Box 26270
Birmingham, AL 35260
Promoting What Helps Children, Changing What Harms Them.