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Thread: A dubious "Top 10" list

  1. #1
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    Default A dubious "Top 10" list

    In a Town Crier discussion board post (4/7, 21:19), John Flaherty outlines a series of what are at best opinions and in most cases outright mischaracterizations of the School Committee's 2 1/2 school reconfiguration decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    1. Giving in to the pressure from the FinCom to come up with $300,000 of savings.
    The Finance Committee never gave the schools a $300k cut target. Members of the Finance Committee were just some of many people who began expressing increasing concerns towards the end of last year regarding the size of the override. I also heard these concerns from members of the Board of Selectmen and from residents around town.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    2. Agreeing to close half a school in order to accomplish this.
    The net savings of $300k (based on my rough analysis, the total is a bit more when municipal savings, utilities, construction, and transportation are factored in) was a result, not a goal, of factoring in the ability to maintain curricular and co-curricular programs while reducing the amount of the override. In my opinion, and in that of the administration (which did not favor the 2 1/2 school configuration for the coming 2008-2009 school year), this was the best way to accomplish the Committee's educational and financial objective.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    3. Accepting that the one to keep open was HH because of the windows, without every doing any real comparative analysis until the parents started doing it for them
    The Committee set the comparative analysis in motion back in November, well before any input from the community. Certainly, the community's input was valuable, coming as it did in parallel with the work conducted by the Committee.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    4. Thinking that the Loker parents would quietly accept it and move on.
    I never thought for a second that members of the Loker community would "quietly accept" the decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    5. Thinking that this would help the Override
    There won't be any clear way to know whether the reduction in the override amount from $2.6M to $1.9M had a stronger positive impact than any negative impact of the school reconfiguration. One lesson that can be drawn from Sudbury's recent failed overrides, however, is that override size may have a strong impact on the quantum of vote. In my opinion--and it's just that, an opinion, just like anyone else's on this subject--is that override reduction is the right move for the schools and for the town.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    6. Letting the Loker parents jump through hoop after hoop to prove their point, all the while having no intention of changing their minds because it was never about # of classrooms or cafeteria size anyway – it was always about the windows
    I took the comparison very seriously, and after the initial premature (in hindsight) decision in January, did not make up my mind until the final weekend before the vote. Three members (a majority of the Committee, I might note) *did* change their mind and their vote.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    7. Not changing their vote, in spite of the overwhelming outcry.
    Outcry is a ridiculous reason to change a vote. Imagine what a horrible precedent that would set.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    8. Not apologizing
    I apologized for our ending up divided. Both Barb Fletcher and Louis Jurist did the same on at least several occasions. I don't have a specific recollection of Deb Cohen or Heather Pineault apologizing, but knowing them, it would not surprise me at all that they are sorry with how the decision was received.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    9. Not telling us from the beginning that this was about the windows
    At the beginning, this was not about the windows. In the middle, this was not about the windows. At the end, this was not about the windows. None of the School Committee members considered there to be a deal. None of the Finance Committee members considered there to be a deal. And four of the five Board of Selectmen members did not consider there to be a deal. The windows didn't play into the School Committee's thinking during the decision-making process because there was not a deal.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty
    10. Denying, even after compelling evidence to the contrary, that there was no side deal. The video tapes clearly demonstrate that in spite of what words they choose to use or how they choose to spin it, that there was indeed an “agreement”.
    Most of the video tapes don't even include the School Committee. To my knowledge, I'm the only School Committee member who's been shown on video (at last year's Annual Town Meeting) discussing the Happy Hollow windows, and I clearly allowed for the possibility of Happy Hollow closing, although I didn't expect it to happen for 3-5 years, and I still don't expect it to happen in that time frame.

  2. #2
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    Jeff: I took the comparison very seriously, and after the initial premature (in hindsight) decision in January, did not make up my mind until the final weekend before the vote. Three members (a majority of the Committee, I might note) *did* change their mind and their vote.


    The words still ring in my ears " I personally will not recommend taking a vote until the transportation numbers are in." That was the statement you made to Louis Jurist at the February 11th school committee meeting. On February 25th, Joy Buehler stated that the transportation costs were far too complex to deliver and you voted without them. That was the point I knew it was a foregone conclusuion that Loker was closing come hell or high water.

    I resent that the SC pitted us against Happy Hollow in the first place, that should never have happened. We played right into it because we had no other choice. I am sorry to our friends and neighbors at Happy Hollow because I now realize that it was completely unnecessary that a school close, and it was completely inappropriate for the SC to make a "contest" out of it.

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    "That was the point I knew it was a foregone conclusuion that Loker was closing come hell or high water."

    For me, that point came when I showed satellite imagery of HH and Loker to both Deb and Heather (and separately walked Barb through the same over the phone).

    The images clearly made my point which was that at Loker you can fit about 47 cars on the driveway for pick up and drop off, where the cars are safely off the public street and on school property, whereas at HH you can only fit about 10 or 12 before the line of cars spills out onto the busy street and up the hill about 20 or 30 car lengths, as other non-school related cars come whipping down the street on the wrong side of the road to get around the line up.

    Any rational person looking at these photos would come to the same conclusion - that Loker could easily and more safely handle the additional traffic resulting from 100 extra students. It's not even close. The difference is so substantial that it would be irrational to suggest that they were equal.

    Their response was basically, "Yes, but...." (fill in the blank)
    Yes, but safety doesn't matter that much?
    Yes, but nothing bad has ever happened, so therefore nothing ever will?
    Yes, but our own town officials have said they're equally safe, so we're not going to have an opinion of our own?

    It was at that point that I knew there was no reasoning with these people.
    Their minds were made up and no matter what we did or said to point out the illogic, bad data, mistakes, misrepresentations on their websites, they were just not going to budge.

    It was also at that point that I realized there must be something else going on here because these people are not stupid, yet they behaving as if they are.

    Later, when I heard about the side deal on the HH windows, strangely it was almost a relief! Nothing up to that point made any sense as they put forth inaccurate data, ignored logic and talked their way out of every issue that was put before them in ways that made no sense at all. At least with the side deal, there finally seemed to be some logic to their decision. But then, of course, they denied that there ever was a side deal. Even after 3 video tapes clearly prove that there was.

    So, what about you?
    At what point did you realize this was all hopeless?
    I'd love to hear different peoples' experience with this.

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    Default There was no deal

    There was no deal. My account of the 2007 Happy Hollow window discussion is here.

    Yes, at the time of that discussion, there was an assumption by at least some members of the School Committee (myself included) and the Administration that Happy Hollow would be the school to remain fully open as enrollment declined. And, yes, the Chair of the Finance Committee conveyed that assumption to the Board of Selectmen.

    As outlined in my account, however, none of the three boards considered this assumption to constitute a deal in exchange for putting the window request before the Annual Town Meeting. And none of the School Committee members based their 2008 decision-making on the non-existent "deal."

    The Committee's comparison document outlines nearly 70 attributes describing the two schools. Both have sunk costs (attribute 46). I for one considered those sunk costs to be essentially a wash and not in any event relevant to the decision based on forward-looking factors.

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    That's the best you can do?
    Out of everything in my post, the one thing you chose to respond to is to defend yourself about the deal?

    I'll get back to your posts later. I have some things to say to that and to your first post in this thread.

    But right now, I'm more interested in hearing what others have to say about at what point they realized this was a hopeless cause.

    You should be, too.

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    "as other non-school related cars come whipping down the street on the wrong side of the road to get around the line up."

    Hi John,

    As someone who has been picking up and dropping off kids at HH since the 2003 school year, I can tell you that I have never encountered a vehicle operating as you have described. I think that is a very unfair scenario.

    I don't want to incur your wrath, but I also think it is perfectly appropriate for the School Committee to defer to town safety officials when assessing school traffic safety concerns.

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    David, no wrath, I promise.
    But,
    a. I witnessed exactly this scenario with a pizza delivery car.
    b. It could happen any time.

    Whether you've ever observed it or not, I find it hard to believe that it doesn't happen on a daily basis - it's a moderately busy street that people use to cut through to 126. Drivers are NOT going to sit and wait, they are going to pull out and around the line of cars to continue on their way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    The words still ring in my ears " I personally will not recommend taking a vote until the transportation numbers are in." That was the statement you made to Louis Jurist at the February 11th school committee meeting. On February 25th, Joy Buehler stated that the transportation costs were far too complex to deliver and you voted without them. That was the point I knew it was a foregone conclusuion that Loker was closing come hell or high water.
    Mary, I very much wish that a full transportation analysis had been available by 2/25. On 2/11, we thought that we would be able to have such an analysis ready. Obviously, that did not come to be.

    What we did have on 2/25, however, was a preliminary indication that the "Happy Hollow as 1-5" scenario would require either an equal number of or one fewer bus than the corresponding Loker scenario. Moreover, I knew at the time that the total transportation cost for FY08 was budgeted for somewhat more than $600k and had estimated that most of this budget was for ES, MS, and HS transportation that was going to be replicated in FY09 regardless of the elementary school model.

    I therefore concluded that the 2 1/2 school transportation cost delta (versus the 3 school model) was not going to consume much of the $400k personnel savings (about $340k after adjusting for co-curricular program preservation as well as municipal-side personnel reductions). I've since calculated that the 2 1/2 school transportation cost increase should be roughly on the order of a few tens of thousands of dollars.

    In retrospect, I should not have made the "absolute" statement I did about not voting until the transportation numbers were in. While it would have been better to have had those numbers, I maintain that not having them was not sufficient reason to put the 2 1/2 school reconfiguration on hold.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    That's the best you can do?
    Out of everything in my post, the one thing you chose to respond to is to defend yourself about the deal?
    Your right, John, I *can* do better. I only responded to your "deal" point since you didn't show me the satellite photos (I'd seen them, just not from you). But upon further reflection, I should also have noted that your satellite photos point undermines your "foregone conclusion" assertion.

    Specifically, for reasons that may have included your conversation with her, Deb changed her mind. Louis also changed his mind. And Heather changed her mind. For my part, my mind wasn't made up until the 2/25 meeting. Hardly foregone.

    Or stupid, but thanks for sharing.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    But right now, I'm more interested in hearing what others have to say about at what point they realized this was a hopeless cause.

    You should be, too.
    I too am interested to in hearing what people have to say to this. People may rightly take issue with the way that the process unfolded and/or the way that the decision came out. But the charge of "hopeless" simply isn't true, no matter how much you want it to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Your right, John, I *can* do better. I only responded to your "deal" point since you didn't show me the satellite photos (I'd seen them, just not from you). But upon further reflection, I should also have noted that your satellite photos point undermines your "foregone conclusion" assertion.

    Specifically, for reasons that may have included your conversation with her, Deb changed her mind. Louis also changed his mind. And Heather changed her mind. For my part, my mind wasn't made up until the 2/25 meeting. Hardly foregone.
    .

    It is a leap to say that anyone changed their minds because of those images. This would be true in any case, but in this case I know they didn't, because Deb & Lou had already "changed their minds" by the time I'd shown them to the 3 people (which did not include Lou, anyway)

    I'm not sure what you mean about Heather changing her mind. She never changed it to favor Loker. Do you mean when she went from abstaining early on, to voting against Loker ultimately?

    So, you've seen the photos. Tell me, how do you explain concluding that Loker does not appear to have a substantially better layout and arrangement to more safely handle 100 extra kids?

    If you're going to "do better than that", that's how you could do it - addressing some of the issues of substance here, rather than picking up on the minutia and running with it.

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    Refuting false accusations of "foregone conclusion" hardly qualifies as minutia.

    As to the substance of the Happy Hollow/Loker decision, I've said plenty. Interested readers may be interested in the School Committee's comparison document, how I reached my 2 1/2 school decision, and the "closing statement" that I wish I had been able to articulate at the 3/10 School Committee meeting.

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    Yes, you've said plenty.
    But you haven't answered my question.
    Would you do that, please?

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    John, I wonder if there might be simple things that could be done to alleviate some of the "line-up" problem at Happy Hollow.

    I am concerned that we could well have the same problem at Claypit next year -- with more designated as walkers next year, we know that translates to more drivers (there are many homes which will become walkers next year that have no safe walking route). And there will undoubtedly be some Loker children coming by car as well. Even now, the backup extends nearly to the end of Adams Lane, meaning that with more cars and nothing new done to alleviate the problem, it will undoubtedly extend onto Claypit Hill Road, creating the same kind of "drive around" scenario you expect to see at Happy Hollow.

    I emailed Debbie Bearse about this, and suggested that perhaps a longer drop-off period could be created (right now, drop-off doesn't begin until 8:30, and the kids need to be in the school by 8:45, leaving only 15 minutes for all the cars to run through). If drop-off were permitted (and doors opened) just 15 minutes earlier, that would double the drop-off time period and the throughput capacity.

    This is just one idea, I'm sure there are others.

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    Kim,

    That's actually a very good idea.
    If they're not going to do the right thing and re-open Loker, then your suggestion is one small step that might make this hare-brained idea of having only 2 elementary schools more palatable. (maybe YOU should run for School Committee!) Thanks.

    BTW, here is a link to the comparison photos of the 2 schools:
    http://thedepartmentofcommonsense.co...Comparison.asp

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    Jeff, you disappoint me.

    You pleaded for weeks over on the Wicked Local site for people to join you in dialogue over here on WaylandeNews.

    I finally did, and now you've stopped participating in these discussions.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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