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Thread: (Appropriately) valuing co-curricular activities

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    So yes, the school committee should ask for the money it needs to run the schools.
    That wasn't my question. Instead, I asked whether we should ignore override amount and frequency in asking for the necessary funds.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    Also, it is my understanding that we are busing all of Loker for less cost than we had prior to the reconfiguration. If that is the case, surely we could have identified the gross inefficiencies of the bus routes years ago, and avoided this scenio completely. Would you agree?
    Busing all of Loker (other than Kindergarten walkers) is not the only change. We're facing a smaller enrollment. We're also being stricter about the 1.5 mile limit. Note that even this limit is voluntary; by law, we only have to provide transportation for K-6 students living more than 2 miles from their school. For the coming school year, we'll be busing all students living more than 1.5 miles away.

    By your logic, then, we'll still have "gross inefficiencies." I don't agree with this characterization. In the past, and in the coming year, we'll have been/be providing a service to students to whom we're not obligated to provide a service. That service has real value from a safety, convenience, traffic congestion, and fuel consumption standpoint (all traded off against cost to the schools).

    Moreover, even if you dispute the value of any or all of these benefits, it's important to consider that we've been (and will be) filling empty seats on existing buses by providing transportation to those to whom we're not obligated. It's not as if we've been (or will be) adding buses unnecessarily.

  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Kim...come on! They saved us an average of $50 or so by rushing into the school closure/reconfiguration.
    The Finance Committee's number is approx. $440k in gross savings from the reconfiguration. Divided across roughly 5,000 households, that's closer to $88 per household, but that doesn't really rebut your point. The rebuttal is in the $440k number itself (net $340k after co-curricular programs were preserved), which had a demonstrable impact on the size of the override. I certainly concede that the override *might* have passed otherwise, but that was not a gamble with our school system that I was willing to take.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    That's not fiscal responsibility, that is politics.
    I'm a bit surprised that I have to break it to someone who's already campaigned (and quite well, as I've said elsewhere) for political office that, well, politics might be involved. Perhaps you mean "politics" in the sense of Random House Unabridged Dictionary's 4th or 6th definition (with its negative implication); I'm using it in its more positive 1st, 2nd, 3rd, ... meaning.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    I have not heard much discussion from the SC about the educational benefits of their decision to move to a 2 1/2 model for the coming school year. Jeff D, would you please weigh in on the educational benefits that drove your decision?
    Thanks,
    Sheila
    I wasn't expecting the reconfiguration to 2 1/2 schools to yield educational benefits beyond preservation of program. In my opinion, that's a fairly large benefit.

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Ultimately the SC did indeed submit a "reasonable" budget for FY 2009 with very few cuts (if any) from FY 2008, knowing that the override would be required to fund the operating budget. Wish-list items, such as the ones Jeff Dieffenbach noted, were generally excluded. So actually the result this year was a budget that the SC deemed "unreasonable" (according to the definition of this thread) without factoring in the savings from the 2 1/2 reconfiguration plan.
    I'm not sure that I follow, since you seem to be saying that the submitted budget was both reasonable and unreasonable. Or, are you comparing the original 3 school budget with the eventual 2 1/2 school budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    They felt that the town would not support the override for all the fixed and co-curriculars included unless it was offset by the estimated savings of making Loker a K-only school for FY 2009. I disagree with that mindset on its face -- I agree with Jeff Baron that this was more political than prudent -- and on the basis of the savings from the consolidation.
    So, if I understand you correctly, you are suggesting (by saying that you "disagree with that mindset") that the School Committee propose budgets without taking override frequency and amount into effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Elementary school costs that would not have occurred in FY 2009 in any scenario should not have been considered as justifying this decision,
    I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    and incremental transportation expenses should have been better defined. In situations where savings from fairly radical decisions like this one are undefined and/or minimal yet carry a significant qualitative cost, I think it is incumbent upon the School Committee to weigh its financial mission against its educational one. It seems strange that this decision was justified on a financial basis but all the other co-curriculars mentioned earlier should not have to be subject to the same cost scrutiny.
    To have done the level of analysis that you are suggesting would have forced us to miss the decision window. In effect, that's making a decision (the status quo decision), and making it with the same relative lack of complete or perfect information. This is an important point, I think.

    Unfortunately, in the real world (business, education, ...), it's necessary to make decisions without perfect information. That said, our financial information was pretty good. We may not have known everything to the nearest thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but we did have directional information/estimates that gave us sufficient financial confidence to go in the direction that we went.

  5. #65
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    Phew! (interesting, the message board requires posts to be at least 10 characters; by making them white, however, it's possible to at least visually dodge that constraint)

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    ... I have not heard much discussion from the SC about the educational benefits of their decision to move to a 2 1/2 model for the coming school year. Jeff D, would you please weigh in on the educational benefits that drove your decision?
    Hi Sheila- I realize you addressed this to Jeff, but I hope you don't mind if I add a comment too since I think that there is an important point to be made.
    Were it not for declining enrollment and budget shortfalls, I don't imagine the SC would have chosen this path (Jeff?). I think people may be viewing this change as something the SC believes is an enhancement, in and of itself. The "educational benefits" are things that DIDN'T happen. We sacrifice in the area of transitional/readjustment issues, more kids in each school and more classes "topped off" so as not too far below the max. We gain in maintaining programs, teachers and class sizes. If we didn't reconfig. there would have been other undesirable changes. It's not uncommon that reconfig./consolidations occur to save money and services. The unfortunate piece can be the changes which occur--I think they are short term and will only become slighter as fall moves along. Eliminating teachers or programs, though would surely continue negative impact.

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'm not sure that I follow, since you seem to be saying that the submitted budget was both reasonable and unreasonable. Or, are you comparing the original 3 school budget with the eventual 2 1/2 school budget?

    To have done the level of analysis that you are suggesting would have forced us to miss the decision window. In effect, that's making a decision (the status quo decision), and making it with the same relative lack of complete or perfect information. This is an important point, I think.

    Unfortunately, in the real world (business, education, ...), it's necessary to make decisions without perfect information. That said, our financial information was pretty good. We may not have known everything to the nearest thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but we did have directional information/estimates that gave us sufficient financial confidence to go in the direction that we went.
    I'm saying that -- in keeping with the spirit of your original question in the other thread that has morphed back into this one -- that the budget was submitted only became "reasonable" because it was partially 'funded' by consolidating the elementary schools sooner than advised by the Administration. Absent that cut, the budget was "unreasonable" as the SC didn't have the confidence it would've passed with the override.

    As for the "real world", please stop patronizing. I work in the "real world" with budgets and imperfect information. What we do to compensate for deadlines with imperfect information is NOT to assume the most aggressive scenario. In this case, it would not have been to assume all savings to be recognized with no incremental costs. Not only did the SC assume all of the $400-$450K of savings from the consolidation of Loker but it also added co-curriculars like Middle School athletics back into the budget. I appreciate the position that you felt you had enough information/direction to make the decision. I disagree with that position given the specific focus on each aspect of the savings and the uncertainty around bus routes even today. I feel that, after hedging the "real" savings that could be realized from the reconfiguration, the actual amount would not have justified either rushing to this decision or making it at all. There were enough data points in question at the time to defer this, and the decision window was biased too heavily towards the arbritary nature of what the most appealing override figure was.

    That said, I appreciate you explaining your decision criteria. I'm still very disappointed that the SC vote on this was unanimous. It doesn't seem that clear-cut to me.

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    Were it not for declining enrollment and budget shortfalls, I don't imagine the SC would have chosen this path (Jeff?).
    Tracy,
    I know I'm repeating myself, but I think the enrollment decline is a myth.
    Enrollment decline has been at a slow enough rate and in small enough numbers that an action of this magnitude was totally unwarranted.

    As to budget shortfalls, that's a myth, as well.
    Let's not forget that the money they cut out of the budget was COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY. No one made the SC do that. They took it upon themselves to make the override more palatable. There was no budget shortfall.
    John Flaherty

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

  9. #69
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    Default We'll see

    Tracy, I won't even address your comments until Jeff D. gets back to us with the numbers I have asked for. Jeff, being a member of the SC, I certainly hope you have the information I have requested or that you can get it for us.

    I'm asking again, can you please post for us the current numbers pertaining to number of students in each grade at each school and number of sections for those grades at each school.

    The line that keeps coming back is that you have maintained class size. Was that not one of the justifations of this whole thing? Please show us that you have done so. Give us the numbers. I understand there have been requests for this information and that the SC has not gotten back to members of the community with this information.

    I heard that some sections are now full (particularly in 2nd and 4th grades). With the housing market hopping in Wayland these days, what will you do if more students move into town? Surely there is plan in place. Please share it with us. Will you open more sections? If so, where? I did read that adding aids isn't really the answer. That smaller class sizes are better. Please share the SC plan with us on this issue.

    Thank you,
    Sheila

  10. #70
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    Default That doesn't cut it

    Sorry Jeff, increased class sizes are not what I call maintaining the quality of our educational system. As I pointed out to you, those who understand education are proposing 15 students per class. In my opinion, by cramming these kids into two buildings and increasing class sizes and not having any wiggle room to create new sections if the need should arrive, I don't think you've done that.

    Again, please provide us with the breakdowns as they stand now. I would assume you know them since you're sending the children to their new assignments before the end of the school year.

  11. #71
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    Default Town Crier Acticle

    The front page of the Crier today has headlined Town Faces Challenges in Growth. What? Enrollment declining? I get that the article talks about economic growth, a plan for Wayland to grow economically. But the underlying message was that growth brings people to our town. Our town is growing, getting bigger, attracting more people. Point is, population dips and rises all the time. I've seen the DOE numbers. Where are we going to put incoming children the next few years or next year for that matter? How about the children coming with the two 40B housing projects on the horizon? I've got a lot to say about "mobil classrooms". I remember Jeff D saying something about HH being more building friendly for such classrooms. (He then took back those statements.) I can understand why some folks support this reorg. ...After being told that there are less kids than previous years,,and hey, we'll save $300,000. But I can't understand how you can support a school that is tipping towards it's capacity? Another statement from Jeff D mentioned a school works best at what capacity? Was it 92 or 93%. What's HH now? 97%? Jeff can you clarify? The only reason the incoming 4th grade at HH is still 25 kids per class is because Dr. Burton has to call some families to switch to CH. Again, there are many factors that are unknown pertaining tothis reorg.

  12. #72
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    Default Capacity

    Stacey,
    I have heard Dr. Burton say more than once that schools run best at 85% capacity.
    Sheila

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    Stacey,
    I have heard Dr. Burton say more than once that schools run best at 85% capacity.
    Sheila
    Which begs the question, "How did we even get here?
    John Flaherty

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

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacey Adelman View Post
    The only reason the incoming 4th grade at HH is still 25 kids per class is because Dr. Burton has to call some families to switch to CH. Again, there are many factors that are unknown pertaining tothis reorg.
    Has something changed since the presentation the Administration gave on the reconfiguration? I thought there were going to be 69 4th graders at HH (in 3 sections, so below maximum class sizes), and that the HH capacity issue was with 2nd grade - and that it was 2nd grade that was the cause of a few families shifting to Claypit. The 4th grade issue I thought was at Claypit only.

  15. #75
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    Default numbers

    Kim,
    I understand that a number of families approached the school system and asked to be changed from one school to another and that many requests were granted.

    I also understand that many homes have gone under agreement as of late....That is why I am asking Jeff D. ,who reads these posts regularly, and who is a SC member, to get us the current enrollment figures with the breakdown by grade level and school.

    Sheila

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