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Thread: Selectman Alan J Reiss Memory of the Elementary School Closing Issue

  1. #1
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    Default Selectman Alan J Reiss Memory of the Elementary School Closing Issue

    First, this is Selectman Alan J. Reiss you may call me directly on my private line anytime you want 508 653 9411 - I will return your call.

    As your Selectman and for the past 35 months I have stayed off of the WaylandeNews Discussion Board and the Town Crier Discussion Board because I always felt that what I had to say officially should be said at the BoS table and in open meeting. I also have my own website www.AJReiss.com where I fully exercise my freedom of speech.

    However, I am must to tell you that it has been brought to my attention that I am being misquoted and misrepresented in my recollection of the events that I am aware of having to do with the subject of FinCom's pledge (via the SC) to the BoS on the subject of keeping Happy Hollow open as early as 3/5/07 which is when I first became aware that this decision had already been made.

    Its no longer just my memory, its backed up by audio and video which was recorded off of the public airwaves. If you look hard enough into what I'm about to tell you, you will get access to those broadcasts. You won't need to completely rely on my faulty human memory.

    In the past, Kim Reichelt has invited me to join this electronic community and I appreciated that. I have great respect for Kim and today I made the decision to take her up on that offer. I will do this very sparingly in the future, so here it goes...

    Selectman Alan J Reiss’s Memory of the Elementary School Closing Issue

    There was a comment that I had read which asked how the FinCom and Selectman were involved in this decision process. I can only answer for myself and I do not speak for the rest of my board or the FinCom or the School Committee (SC)... but what I will tell you is the truth as seen through my eyes.

    1. On 3/5/07 the FinCom came before the Board of Selectman in force and Cherry Karlson was the primary spokesperson. On that night I didn't have a lot to say to the FinCom but I listened intently. What I heard from Cherry was that there was a request for $735K to repair the windows of the Happy Hollow School and simultaneously it was offered by Cherry (with no coaxing from the BoS) that Happy Hollow would not be the school that would be closed due to a contracture of elementary schools due to declining enrollment. The pledge was offered by Cherry and the school committee was mentioned (by her) as being a credible source of this stated fact. Both my memory and reviewing the tape bear this out to be true. In my mind I was thinking that $735K was a lot of money and as a selectman, I wanted to make very sure that if that type of money was going to be spent it would be spent on an asset, which would be guaranteed to survive. That’s my fiduciary responsibility to the town. Call this incident Plus ONE.

    2. On 3/26/06 the FinCom did appear again before the board of Selectmen and I know that Barbara Fletcher was in the room, other members of the school committee were there but I cannot tell you who... I just don't remember. I know for sure that Barbara was there because the tape showed her walking into the room just before Cherry began to speak. After Cherry's presentation I asked two questions, the first related to the public safety building and its siding issue (which was answered by Fred Turkington) and then I asked a simple question of Cherry which was to get her to restate that 'verbal agreement' (first mentioned to the BoS on 3/5/07) as to what school would survive since I was being asked to vote on the spending of $735K on a debt exclusion override. I want you to know that I am usually for debt exclusion overrides especially when they address corrections in the infrastructure. They balance debt coming off the books and generally speaking they have minimal tax increases consequences. But again, my concern was that this sizeable sum of money MUST be used for an asset, which would be guaranteed to survive. If Loker was the FinCom/SC choice then that money should go to Loker else to HH. I, as a selectman, will only spend money where it best makes sense to do that.... hence I asked the question again and Cherry very clearly stated the Happy Hollow pledge that it was the 'chosen' school and the SC gave its agreement to that fact. The SC did not speak in that meeting and I assumed, that the pledge was for real and that the SC agreed. I do wish I would have asked the next logical question with Barbara in the room but I did not. So call this Plus TWO

    3. On 4/29/07 I stood at the PRO microphone at Town Meeting and stated something to the effect that "if the windows are broke you gotta fix em" so my understanding is that Happy Hollow (HH) would be the surviving school and therefore, I can support putting this type of money into fixing the infrastructure of that school. I also remember offering a challenge that "if anybody disagreed with this pledge then speak up now".... I looked at Cherry, I looked to my right at the SC and nobody said a word. Call that Plus THREE.

    There is a tradition in marriage to ask the attendees if “anybody objects to this marriage then speak now or forever hold their piece”. In a sense, that is what I did when I asked that question. The lack of an answer was, in fact, a very loud answer to the affirmative. No matter how you spin that one, Town Meeting is for debate, point and counterpoint... nobody made a counterpoint. So they agreed... PERIOD. We took the vote, the article was disposed by the Moderator.

    I did a THREE PLUS. In engineering a three plus is when you ask or get the answer to the same question 3 times and if the answer comes back the same in each of those times then you have a high probability of having the truth. I then voted for the debt exclusion override, which included the $735K. Turns out HH is the survivor and the 3-plus system predicted the answer properly.

    So on 4/29/07 I was pretty sure that HH would not close and LK would be the one to close or partially close (as the case may be).... so to the best of my knowledge there was no side deal or 'quid pro quo' between the selectman and the ( FinCom + SC ).... but there was an offered verbal statement by Cherry representing the Fincom and the SC that HH would survive under the conditions that we would spend this money on HH and that Cherry believed that the SC had ‘buy in’ on that point.

    I cannot state this any more precisely than I just did.. the tapes speak for themselves but what they don't tell you what I was thinking or about the 3-plus method that I was using. I really hope this clears up some of the confusion.

    I have to say now that my own personal confusion has to do with the hearings on the HH vs. LK decision. I can remember sitting in one of those hearing and thinking to myself... "What is going on here? This decision has already been made?"

    To understand any more than what I am saying to you ... you have to know what took place prior to 3/5/07 between the FinCom and the SC and that I have absolutely no knowledge of. So I am in the dark as much as you are on that point.

    If you want to talk to me directly then email me at: Alan@AJReiss.com or Visit www.AJReiss.com where you can also view the actual off air recorded tapes.

    The specific page is http://www.ajreiss.com/Happy_Hollow_vs_Loker.html

    I Really Hope this helps.
    Selectman Alan J. Reiss

    [/RIGHT][/CENTER][/RIGHT]

  2. #2
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    Default All 3 elementary schools expected to remain open for the foreseeable future

    Alan Reiss and I have had several conversations on this topic--his account above is consistent with those conversations. I'd like to respond with some facts and my opinion, the latter not necessarily representing that of other individual School Committee members or the Committee as a whole.

    At the Annual Town Meeting (ATM) on April 29, 2007, I addressed the question of Happy Hollow's status. After making a comment about Happy Hollow's benefits (a comparison that I've since concluded was not particularly apt), I indicated that an enrollment-driven closure was at least 3-5 years out and that if Happy Hollow were to be closed, that we would be wise to maintain it in any event.

    Each of the School Committee members (including one who was not on the board during the Happy Hollow window conversations in 2007) has stated unequivocally that they did not consider that an agreement had been struck to keep Happy Hollow open in exchange for the Board of Selectmen placing the window replacement project on the debt exclusion ballot voted on by the public in April of 2007.

    At recent meetings, members of the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen (the latter with the exception of Alan Reiss, his "quid pro quo" statement above notwithstanding) also stated that they did not consider that an agreement had been reached.

    In my opinion:

    = My 2007 ATM statement "were Happy Hollow to be a building that would be closed" was a strong and clear statement against the notion of an "agreement."

    = The lack of response to Alan Reiss' immediately subsequent "verbal commitment" statement is indicative of nothing, both because there is no obligation to respond (per the ATM Moderator's frequent reminder) and because I had just allowed for the possibility of Happy Hollow's closure.

    = The reconfiguration to the 2 1/2 school model does not remotely resemble a closure; the Wayland Public Schools expect to be educating children in all three of our elementary schools for at least the next 4 years, which is the "horizon" at which our reasonably confident enrollment projections end.

  3. #3
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    Default

    “It depends on what the definition of “is” is.”
    “Mission Accomplished”

    Anyone with any functioning grey matter and the ability to reason recognizes these two statements for what they are – spin. The first, to stretch and twist the language in order to present a different truth than most people would come to on their own, and the second to convince the masses that the worst was behind us in Iraq, even though there was plenty of reason to believe that this might not be the case.

    With the school reconfiguration issue, it is tempting for the SC and the administration to put forth that there was no "agreement" or "deal", simply because neither of those words was used. But however it might be spun, whatever words you choose to use, it amounts to the same thing. Call it a deal, call it an arrangement, call it Gertrude. It doesn't much matter what you call it - the tapes on Mr. Reiss' site say it all.

    But for most people I’ve talked with, that was never the issue anyway. In fact, if the SC or the Administration had come out in January and said, “We’re closing Loker because we just sunk all this money into HH,” I would have walked away and said “Oh, well. Makes sense to me”, and that would have been the end of it.

    But instead, they denied any deal or arrangement or agreement, insisting that both buildings would need to be kept up, and instead put forth the most ludicrous, most inaccurate data to support their “decision”. Everything about what they were saying seemed just wrong. As it turned out, much of it was, as they continually updated and changed the original data.

    I got the sense for what it must have felt like for Alice in Wonderland, where people were saying the strangest things, that made no sense at all and that completely flew in the face of common sense and reason.

    Whether it was the "deal" that made the SC vote as they did or an unwillingness to go against Dr. Burton's clearly stated wishes, either of these is infinitely more logical than the reasons given.

  4. #4
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    When Loker was closed last go-round the school was well-maintained so that it could be re-opened when necessary, as it was. I understood when I heard Jeff Dieffenbach speak at the last Town Meeting that the School Committee was making the same argument -- that regardless of which school was to close, it would be important to maintain the buildings. It was not necessary to answer Alan Reiss' question - Jeff had already addressed it.

    There have been a large number of accusations made at this School Committee, and as I know most of its members personally, I am bothered by it. It is clear to me that they did believe Happy Hollow would be the school kept open, not that they had made a commitment to that -- it was a decision they believed was several years off and had not thoroughly investigated. Alan Reiss himself agreed in a discussion with me that were the best interests of the children and people of Wayland to be served by closing Happy Hollow instead of Loker that the decision could be altered.

    Most of the "spin" I have seen has been done by those looking to malign a group of hardworking volunteers, who I firmly believe have nothing but the best interest of our school children at heart.

    I am truly sorry that this decision has been so divisive, and I wish that none of schools were seeing any kind of closure, partial or otherwise, this coming year. I am sure there are things that could have been done better in the process, but I am also sure that I trust these neighbors of ours, the current School Committee members. They are not lying, and the kind of words that have been tossed around are dangerous. Caught up in the emotions of this difficult transition, it is easy to misplace anger.

    We are neighbors, and we are a community, and we must work together as one.

  5. #5
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    Default Reply to Kim

    Hi Kim,
    I thought it appropriate to reply to your last post because you mentioned conversations that we had - which we did have and I'd like to describe them in my own words.

    Because such a large sum of money was asked for by the FinCom (and with SC in the room) and because I personally voted for that debt exclusion for the HH windows then I felt that the 'powers to be' had made an executive decision to go in that direction. I like to try to rely on the experts in education when I make the calculus of my decisions on debt exclusions.

    You asked me if it was hard and fast (in a sense) to me that HH would be the school that would remain open. My reply was more on the lines of dollars and sense. The hearings were taking place way after the decision was made and the money was voted on and spent so I was confused about that... and it was my hope that through these hearings a better justification could be devised to counter balance that sizeable investment that I just voted on. So I tried to keep an open mind on this and that is the essence of what I told you. In other words, show me that keeping LK open is of a greater financial benefit to the town to counter balance the vote I just made to allocate the money.

    My oldest child is 22 and out of college, my youngest child is going on 17 at WHS so there (wouldn't be and there) was no 'school bias' in my decision, just dollars and sense.

    Kim, thats precisely what I told you.

    However, I don't want to sound so cold as to not acknowlege that the LK + HH parents had other important matters on their minds that were much more important to them than just the money.

    However, it is my job to worry about the money and that is what I must do as your Selectman.

    As for Jeff's comment on there was no obligation to reply to my "forever hold your peace" comment... well technically he's right.

    But, there was more than Jeff involved here, there were 5 members of a school committee, there were 7 members of the FinCom plus a Superintendant at that Town Meeting. The BoS was listening to me intently before they voted too.

    Certainly, somebody could have come to the microphone (at least as a courtesy) to say, "Well Mr. Reiss we made that executive decision (already) to keep HH open and you are voting to spend the money wisely." That would have been nice. Not required... just nice.

    So that again, begs the question... Why the hearings?

    Why put those communities of parents through that. The SC could have just said upfront, "we made the decision and thats it... there will be no hearings" OR... They could have held the hearings first and then asked for the money second... that might have even been a better approach.

    Certainly that approach would have taken into account all of that expensive and hard earned data that was provided by the LK parents to justify their position.

    What happened, from my perspective was this.

    1. The FinCom + SC decided HH was the survivor prior to 3/5/07... when I do not know?
    2. The FinCom asked for the money on 3/5/07 to the BoS (Plus ONE)
    3. The FinCom + SC (present) restated the request for the money on 3/26/07 (on my Plus TWO)
    4. On 4/29/07 I tried to get somebody to tell me I'm wrong about this just before I had to actually vote on it for real. (Plus THREE)

    Then....

    5. The hearings took place.... months later??

    Doesn't this seem backward to you? It does to me and it seems to look backward to John Flaherty. (As I read above)

    Anyway, I do believe that the community should try to move on with this but, just as important, the community should know the truth and the order of events. This is important stuff too and thats why I chimed in on this one.

    It was just that important.

    Alan J. Reiss
    Member Wayland Board of Selectman

  6. #6
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    Alan, I wasn't asking if it was hard and fast that HH would be the school to remain open. What I asking was whether you agreed that if it turned out that Loker was the better facility to keep open, that the School Committee should feel free to partially close Happy Hollow instead. It seemed to me that you were arguing that HH should remain open because we had spent the window money, and I said: "Why should we choose Happy Hollow as the school to keep open if it turns out there are educational or financial reasons to select Loker? I mean, what if we found that Happy Hollow would not serve the needs of the students as well as Loker? What if we preferred the facilities at Loker for educational reasons, or because Loker has a newer gym, or because the school were to be found to be cheaper to run? There are a myriad of reasons why Loker might be a better choice over Happy Hollow (and vice-versa), and that is why a committee is being assembled to explore the options." My point was that the decision should not be bound by a sunk cost, and that we should make the best decision going forward -- and I would say that even if there had been some earlier agreement.

    And I think, Alan, you and others would agree this is the correct course -- and it is what the School Committee then did - investigate which was the better school to keep open.

    You seem to be arguing that the decision was made, and they should have just stuck with it. I disagree - I think it was wise to look at the evidence and consider the best option going forward. I do not believe the School Committee entered those hearings with their mind already made up, and as hard as it is to do so, I reluctantly thank them for making the hard decision.

    You yourself applauded them on your website, when you wrote: "I personally applaud the school committee for making this decision, it will save Wayland money, it may potentially decrease the size of the override and it is a movement in the right fiscal direction."

    I certainly wish that this discussion had not turned out to be so divisive and painful. But I think we both agree that difficult as it was, this was the right course for the School Committee to take.

  7. #7
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    Default So many other factors

    It would be fiscally irresponsible to make a decision about which school to close, years in advance. I don't see anything wrong with the discussions that took place in order to evaluate the issue at hand, whether to put $ into repairing a buildings windows. Surely people would be upset if our boards did NOT have these types of discussions when deciding how to spend our $. But there was clearly no decision about when/which/how etc. a school will close, simply examination of the POTENTIAL scenarios in light of fixing windows. Anyone who thought that was any sort of agreement would be foolish to let it occur. I certainly don't want to vote in someone who is ok with deciding the future of a building based soley on the fact that it would get new windows in a year! If they thought that is what was happening, I question the way they make important decisions. It's one thing to protect against unnecessary spending, but it's another to make community impacting decisions based soley on spending.

    I thank our SC and Admin. for their diligence, wisdom and leadership in making a very difficult decision, which helps ease the tax burden on all of us, and still maintains our teachers and class sizes. As much as I was against prolonging the process, I never once questioned that they have our kids as their top priority. Now let's do our part and vote yes for the sensible override ammt that has been achieved.

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