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Thread: (Appropriately) valuing co-curricular activities

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Actually, as the School Committee has explained, the bulk of the savings occur with the change from 3 to 2 1/2 schools relative to the change from 2 1/2 to 2 (the latter netting another estimated $100k).

    I would change the word “explained” to “stated”.
    Yes, I remember the SC stating that.
    I also remember scratching my head wondering how that could possibly be, because virtually everywhere else in life, half of ANYthing always costs more than half.

    • A half gallon container of milk is more than the cost of ½ of a full gallon of milk.
    • A photographer’s ½ day rate is more than half of a full day rate.
    • A new 10x20 kitchen costs more than half of that of a 20x20 kitchen.
    I could go on.

    The SC’s assertion seems counter-intuitive. The fact that it was not questioned at the time in no way implies that it was accepted or understood. It’s just that so many of us were scrambling around trying to make sense of so many other examples of funny math, that we just never got to that one - this was at a time when we were still trying to make sense of:
    • Why they were claiming Loker had only 61 parking spaces when it has 77
    • Why Dr. Burton had stated that HH’s cafeteria was only “slightly smaller” than Loker’s when Loker’s is actually 2 -3 times larger and will hold 66% more kids at a time than HH
    • How they could say HH’s traffic flow was safer when a quick visit to both schools so clearly shows otherwise (http://waylandtransparency.com/schoo...Comparison.asp)
    Again, I could go on.

    There were so many examples of bizarre explanations coming from the SC at that time that there was just no way to keep up and pursue all of them. So this is one that slipped through the cracks.

    However, now that you’ve brought it up, this would be a good opportunity to explain exactly how that works. How is it that most of the savings to be had here happens in going from 3 to 2 ½ schools, rather than all the way down to 2 schools?

    To be fair, it would be best if you did not include the savings from the principal’s salary, as even Dr. Burton finally admitted that having one principal for two schools has been done in other communities and could be done here. So, the savings of the principal’s salary could be realized whether or not we went from 3 to 2 ½ schools.

    Thanks.
    John Flaherty

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

  2. #17
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    The savings in going from 3 to 2 1/2 schools is documented here. While I don't have the details handy, my recollection is that the additional savings of $100k that comes from the 2 1/2 to 2 change results from a secretarial position, a custodial position, and utilities. I'm not sure whether that's a statement, an explanation, or both.

    I'm happy to let others judge which of the various cost savings are "allowed to count." I have a hard time believing that the School Committee would have approved of 3 K-5 schools being served by only 2 principals, however.

  3. #18
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    Jeff,

    The chart in that document lists 8 FTEs and 4 other numbers as savings.
    None of the numbers listed matches the number that represents the Loker Principal salary of $112,650.

    I thought we weren’t laying anyone off, anyway. What are all of these FTEs?

    Could you give me a specific breakdown, please so that we know what each of these numbers represents?

    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I have a hard time believing that the School Committee would have approved of 3 K-5 schools being served by only 2 principals, however.
    Sadly, I fear you are right about that.
    John Flaherty

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

  4. #19
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    The principal salary of $97,650 is the amount that would have been budgeted for Sue Abrams' replacement had the School Committee opted to remain with 3 schools for the 2008-2009 school year.

    I don't know which of the staff members currently holding the positions listed here will (a) move to other positions in the district (replacing retirees), (b) move to a position elsewhere, or (c) be laid off.

  5. #20
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    I don't understand.
    I thought there would be no layoffs with this 2 1/2 school model.

    Yet there seem to be several listed here.
    Who are these people?
    Where is this savings coming from?
    The only one that is clear is Sue Abrams' salary.
    Surely people moving to other positions in the district can't be counted as a savings.
    Please give us a specific breakdown.

    Thanks.
    John Flaherty

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

  6. #21
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    Jeff,
    Thanks for moving my last reply over to the salaries thread - much more appropriate over there.

    So, let's get back to Ultimate Frisbee, shall we?

    Like I said, I have nothing against frisbee, ultimate or otherwise, and in a perfect world with oodles of money would like to see lots of such programs.
    But when you closed down a school, that tells me we don't have oodles of money and that we ought to be watching every penny, and that we ought to know what every single line item is costing us, so that we can make some better informed choices when it comes to what we choose to spend our money on.

    How much does this cost us?
    Where can we get an accurate breakdown of what this and MS golf and other specific programs are costing us?
    John Flaherty

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

  7. #22
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    I don't have the specific numbers for Ultimate Frisbee, but if it has a paid stipend, that stipend is probably in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.

    To my knowledge, there is no MS golf program. Golf at the HS was about $9,700 for the FY07 school year.

    If you are interested in numbers for other athletics and activities, your best bet would be to make a request through the Superintendent's office.

  8. #23
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    Thanks, Jeff.

    What I'd really like is a line by line breakdown of every individual expense over $1,000 for the entire $30 million school budget.

    Does such a breakdown exist in a single document?

    If not, how would you suggest I go about compiling the data I'm after?

    Thanks.
    John Flaherty

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

  9. #24
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    I don't know for sure, but I would be surprised if what you ask for is available in a single document. For something of this magnitude, I definitely recommend that you make a request through the Superintendent's office. Note that the Public Records Law allows the schools to charge for time and materials, which might be done if the task is sufficiently large in scope.

    Also, you might contact Wayland resident Kent George. Several years ago, he undertook a detailed effort to understand the school budget.

  10. #25
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    Let's get back to the subject at hand - (Appropriately) valuing co-curricular activities - with a specific example culled from the discussion above:

    Are we (Appropriately) valuing co-curricular activities by favoring Ultimate Frisbee over, say Spanish or Arabic for first graders?
    Which is more important?
    Which will have the greater impact, the longer lasting value to the individual, to Wayland and to society at large?
    John Flaherty

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

  11. #26
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    I suspect that the schools (myself included) might choose an elementary school foreign language (FLES) over Ultimate Frisbee in less time than it takes Google to complete a search. If only the cost of UF came remotely close to being able to fund such a language program.

    It's been a while since the School Committee considered FLES in detail, but my recollection was that the projected cost was on the order of $300k. So, the tradeoff isn't UF for FLES, but rather 1/3 of the entire athletic program at the MS and HS levels for FLES. Knowing that we have a rich language program beginning in 7th grade, and having seen first hand the value of co-curricular programs including athletics, I'm not so sure that I would make that tradeoff.

    By way of additional information, it's important to note that FLES isn't a program that you simply "drop in" to the ES curriculum. Rather, it requires you to completely redesign that curriculum from the ground up. I'm not saying that such a reinvention isn't worth doing, just one that needs to be carefully considered and thought through to ensure that it aligns with the mission of the schools.

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    If only the cost of UF came remotely close to being able to fund such a language program.
    Ultimate Frisbee is but one example.
    As discussed in this and the Salaries thread on this forum, there seem to be multiple examples of us spending money we don't have to, i.e., $8000 for a technology study we could have done for free & $9000 in ski lift tickets for the ski team, as well as more money than we need to, i.e. a greater % of our annual school budget on Administrative costs than any of our peer communities, with that % rising over recent years, instead of dropping as it is in many of our peer communities.

    i think our priorities are a mess.
    Not that it necessarily started out that way. I believe you are correct that the schools would "choose an elementary school foreign language (FLES) over Ultimate Frisbee in less time than it takes Google to complete a search. "
    But over time, through neglect, oversights or whatever, many questionable expenses - each of them relatively small, with seemingly little impact on The Big Picture - have added up to be what is probably a significant chunk of change.

    In the days after 9/11, I was appalled to discover that the computers at the FBI and the CIA couldn't talk to each other. Like most people, I just assumed that there was this streamlined network of communication running through our Intelligence Community.

    Similarly, to discover (at a time when our SC has voted to close a school) that an annual, ongoing expense of $9000 in ski lift tickets was not even known about by the same Committee that writes up and approves our school budget, was a big revelation for me.

    The question is not, what difference would $9000 make in the larger scheme of things within a 30 million dollar budget. The question is what other seemingly small expenses have been overlooked so that collectively, we now have a large amount of money that is being spent on things that are perhaps not nearly as valuable as some other programs might be to our students.

    FLES isn't a program that you simply "drop in" to the ES curriculum. Rather, it requires you to completely redesign that curriculum from the ground up. I'm not saying that such a reinvention isn't worth doing, just one that needs to be carefully considered and thought through to ensure that it aligns with the mission of the schools.
    Sounds like a lot of red tape to me.

    You could spend the next 5 years putting committees and subcommittees together and closely examining what our peer communities are doing OR you could hire some teachers and build a program tomorrow.
    John Flaherty

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

  13. #28
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    Without a doubt, there are small areas of the budget about which the School Committee is not aware. In any budget of our size, that will certainly be true. We tackle it from the top down, the only way that's practical.

    As we've been examining athletics cost over the past few years, we've compared sports on a cost per athlete basis. Even with lift tickets included, that cost for skiing fell well within the range of our athletic programs in general. Getting up the mountain is a necessary condition of alpine skiing. It's not at all clear to me why public school athletes should have to pay that expense. Remember, we aren't talking about "resort" lift tickets at Stowe, Killington, or Stratton, we're talking about a small training facility. When I learned that athletes in peer communities fund their own tickets, I reluctantly agreed to transfer that expense in our case. That may make it fair, but it doesn't make it right.

    With respect to foreign language in the elementary schools (FLES), are you really serious in suggesting that we might "hire some teachers and build a program tomorrow," even giving you the benefit of the doubt that your "tomorrow" might mean September of 2008?

    What are the benefits of such a program? Does it fit our mission? What are different high level options: for instance, immersive or "add-on?" The day is already full, so what will we drop to make room? Which language or languages? How will the MS and HS programs need to change? Who will teach? How many teachers will we need? What professional development will be required? What will the program cost? Where will the funds come from? What are valuable lessons learned by other communities that might benefit us?

    I don't know how long our educators would estimate that it would take to put a FLES program in place, but I suspect that it's less than your without-basis "5 years" and more than your exaggerated "tomorrow." I will be interested to see if others, especially those with an education background, have thoughts on the necessary time frame.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Getting up the mountain is a necessary condition of alpine skiing. It's not at all clear to me why public school athletes should have to pay that expense.
    It is to me.
    The reason is that skiing is an elective.
    Out of the entire student population that is eligible or interested, how many students are actually on the ski team? Why should the rest of the population be shortchanged because money that may have gone to programs meaningful to them is instead directed to covering ski lift tickets for a handful of people?
    Do we provide resin for the cellists? Strings for the violists?
    Do we provide running shoes to the track team?
    What about hacky sacks?
    Or luges? Or transportation to the Louvre for art students?
    Or scuba trips to the Galapagos Islands?
    I’m sure if we looked hard enough, we’d find at least one student with an interest in some rare species of spider that lives in the Amazon.
    There is no end to the nice things we could do for our students to make their educational experience more broad and deep and comprehensive if money were no object. But it is.

    So, how do you pick and choose?
    Why choose ski trips over sending art students to view masterpieces around the world?
    Why choose ski trips over hang gliders? Or Rollerblades or skateboards or rock-climbing equipment?
    Why choose ski trips over creating our own luge team (don’t tell me – we already have one, right?)

    I guess at some point it’s a judgment call on the part of the School Committee. But I think that it is more than appropriate to question that judgment once they start closing schools to save less than 1% of the school budget. It seems our School Committee still doesn’t get it - that closing a school is a extreme measure to take, and should only be done under the most dire circumstances.

    By closing a school, you've put yourself in the unenviable position of needing to defend how the school budget is being spent.

    Things like ski lift tickets, Dr. Burton's town-provided car, a golf program all start to look questionable at best, if we're closing a school. Even if as you say these are not ski resorts, but a small training facility. Dr. Burton's car may not be a Cadillac. Maybe it's a Pinto. But that's not the point. It doesn't look good to be spending any amount of money on things that to some will seem like frills, in hard economic times.

    The question should be, do the number of people desiring ski lift tickets justify the district-wide cost of providing them?
    John Flaherty

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

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I don't know how long our educators would estimate that it would take to put a FLES program in place, but I suspect that it's less than your without-basis "5 years" and more than your exaggerated "tomorrow." I will be interested to see if others, especially those with an education background, have thoughts on the necessary time frame.
    Please don't get bogged down with logistics and timeline.
    Maybe it would take 5 years. I don't know. But that's not my point.
    I'm speaking in very broad strokes here.
    I know you can't shut down the ski team over night and launch a brand new, comprehensive FLES program next week.


    That said, it shouldn't take years.
    When you say we need to figure out if a FLES program would fit into our mission, I'm not sure what you mean.
    Are you saying that ski lift tickets do fit into our mission?
    What part of our mission would a FLES program not fit into?
    How much does it take to determine whether or not it fits?

    My point is that our priorities are all screwed up and we need to reexamine them.
    John Flaherty

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

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