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Thread: Should the School Committee be in the "override business?"

  1. #31
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    Hi Mary (et al), I am attempting to respond to some of your thoughts, not sure if I am using the quote thing correctly. My green comments are interspersed with your quotes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    What is good about the 2 1/2 model? Let's start there.
    I don't think anyone is saying that the 2 1/2 model is "good". If there weren't economic pressures, I can't imagine anyone would support reconfiguring schools. For those of us who have only ES kids, it may seem like John says, "crazy", "mysterious", and a "no brainer". But if you listen closely to those who have older kids, and therefore a broader perspective, it may not be so "crazy". The SC does not win anything by doing this--- they are smart, thoughtful, and dedicated neighbors and are only trying to do what is best for all our kids.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    If the pros of the model were overwhelming, why did Dr. Burton himself not want to consolidate?
    Why WOULD Dr. Burton WANT to consolidate??? It makes his job alot harder! I'm sure if you asked him he'd recommend hiring more teachers and adding new programs! Unfortunately, the SC, has the unenviable duty to balance our kids needs vs. funds available. It makes the SC look like the bad guys; but they are elected to vote these types of decisions. If they had cut somewhere else, I'd imagine they'd be hearing from a different segment of people who would feel just as concerned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    I believe there is a right and wrong, and it can be seen by collecting all the facts and truthful data we can. What I think is unreasonable is to forge ahead without all the knowledge possible. That's fine if you are just going on a quick trip, or buying an inexpensive gadget...but we have alot of kids to be concerned about here, and this is a long term plan.
    I don't believe there is a right or wrong--it depends who you ask. I think it can feel very disrespectful to tell someone they are wrong about their opinion, especially in the case of a "long term" decision. To disagree seems far more mutual.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 06-04-2008 at 08:05 AM. Reason: fixing quote formatting

  2. #32
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    Default Larger class sizes

    There are many people in our community with many different ideas and opinions...that's what make our town great! However, mostly all decisions that have to do with our schools rest solely on the SC. Why? Does the SC know that when a 3rd grade teacher teaches a lesson that 1/3 kids already know the material, 1/3 are making connections and learning the material, and1/3 doesn't get the material all all. Teachers teach to the middle tier in a classroom. Dr. Burton mentioned closing the achievement gap at the last SC meeting. Well, adding more kids to an elementary level classroom further widens this gap. Going from a class of 19 kids to 25 means more kids not getting it. There are also many kids who hover at grade level in reading and math. These children may be receiving extra support in these subject areas. What happens when you add more kids to a classroom? Well, these particular kids may lose this support giving this support to those under grade level. There are many moving pieces in the makeup of classroom. I'm a huge opponent of larger class sizes as a teacher and as a parent. Where do the kids on IEP's fit into this model? I haven't received any answers yet. Does the SC know how many kids are on IEP's? Did they take class size and makeup into consideration? Do they realize the dominoe affect this change can cause? The numbers are still too big for such a small savings. I did not want to pay more taxes to have higher class sizes.
    There are a lot of numbers floating around out there, but I'm afraid the kids who need the smaller class sizes the most were not considered!

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacey Adelman View Post
    There are many people in our community with many different ideas and opinions...that's what make our town great! However, mostly all decisions that have to do with our schools rest solely on the SC. Why?
    Most decisions that have to do with our schools are made by our professional educators. Most of the remaining decisions made by the School Committee are informed by those educators, and often by members of the community as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stacey Adelman View Post
    Did [the School Committee] take class size and makeup into consideration? ... There are a lot of numbers floating around out there, but I'm afraid the kids who need the smaller class sizes the most were not considered!
    Like so many aspects of education, class size is a trade off of educational value (often difficult to quantify) against available funding. Class size and the School Committee's class size policy were certainly factors front and center in the Committee's thinking.

    I've copied this part of the question and my response to a new class size thread, since it's a topic that's getting attention across several threads.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    ... class size is a trade off of educational value (often difficult to quantify) against available funding.
    Let us never forget that the funding to keep three schools open and maintain smaller class sizes was available.

    The SC voluntarily chose to cut $300,000 out of the budget and close a school, increasing class size in the process. This was not done for lack of funding.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
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  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Let us never forget that the funding to keep three schools open and maintain smaller class sizes was available.

    The SC voluntarily chose to cut $300,000 out of the budget and close a school, increasing class size in the process. This was not done for lack of funding.
    Given that duplicate posts run the strong risk of confusing the conversation, I won't duplicate my reply here.

  6. #36
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    Jeff Dieffenbach, from the WSC website thread:

    The School Committee (again, not Jeff) has created nothing convoluted. The publicly-funded WPS site legally links to the privately-funded legal WSC site that the School Committee uses (perhaps in an overly-cautious manner) to do its job: advocate for the Wayland Public Schools. That's pretty straightforward.
    "Straightforward" is not the term that comes to mind when I think of the SC's recent advocacy for the Wayland Public Schools. I'll disclose (unsurprisingly) my disagreement with the Loker consolidation and the elementary school reconfiguration decision. But more important than the ultimate decision rendered by the SC was the means by which it was reached, and what the real effects of that decision are shaping up to be.

    Jeff, you have defended the decision criteria, the data, the future enrollment estimates, the future savings, and the effect across the Wayland schools that were used to reach the 2 1/2 model for FY 2009. I and others continue to disagree with the decision and its bases; you disagree with us. Fine, but since the decision is made, it is now the SC's responsibility to prove that it actually will result in the same high level of educational culture and services for less cost. That's what this decision was "sold" as -- both to better advocate a successful override vote and in your fervent belief that operating three full elementary schools was an inefficient use of budgetary resources. After attending and absorbing the most recent SC meeting this past Monday, I remain unconvinced that the specific promises (now referred to as "committee guidelines") around this decision will be met.

    There is significant concern that some elementary class size limits will be exceeded both at Happy Hollow and Claypit Hill. There is also concern that, to accommodate the increased number of students at each school, areas and rooms previously used for technology, for one example, are being converted to classrooms. While this was discussed during the SC forums last winter when this issue was still supposedly undecided, it appears the effect of capacity utilization at the two full schools is greater than anticipated. In terms of cost, it was quite clear that we are far away from understanding what actual busing routes and numbers will actually be in use when the Schools reopen for FY 2009. It is obvious that the transportation budget will be exceeded as fuel costs are much higher now than when the budget was compiled. Of course neither the Administration nor the SC are at fault for underestimating that. However, if the redistricting from the school consolidation actually results in an increase in the demand for fuel and buses over last year, I would hold the SC directly at fault for it.

    At Monday's meeting it was asked if there had ever been an analysis to see if past bus routes and numbers of students bused was as efficient as it could have been. Have we used too many buses in the past and paid too much for it? The question was met with silence. There was much discussion of restricting access to busing based on how far students lived away from the specific schools. There was an increase in maximum time spent on the bus (40 minutes has become 45...). It was clear that now -- in mid July -- the details of what exactly these bus routes for the entire kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school populations are actually being defined. In the past the assurances of little or no increase in transportation cost which would offset the $400K of savings from consolidating Loker were based on big numbers of total students divided by total buses. "See, no additional buses needed. Nothing to see here, move along." There have been several unanswered questions posed to the Superintendent and top the SC regarding very specific numbers of students, including kindergarteners who were essentially overlooked in Monday's meeting, who don't seem to have been factored into the estimates provided to date. The efficiency question of the past is now the realistic question of the very near future: have we underestimated the number of buses needed next year, and have we budgeted too little for it?

    The motion I made at Town Meeting to restore the funds for Loker for FY 2009 to fully evaluate the financial basis of this decision and to better plan for it if it was justified was deemed "irresponsible" by the SC and its expert witnesses. I think what I was doing (and speaking on behalf of a large community) was advocating for the Wayland Public Schools. Although a failed override would have been damaging to the schools, the means used to sell its success were a sort of advocacy I find unattractive. It is no surprise to many to actually see now that this decision was made without adequate time for proper planning and implementation, full recognition of classroom capacity, and with savings estimates that in my opinion will be met only through much more austere and restrictive transportation services. In other words, the effect of this particular advocacy could be fewer services with more burden on students, families, teachers, and infrastructure, but for higher cost.

  7. #37
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    I'm happy to address the new points that you raise, Paul.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    "Straightforward" is not the term that comes to mind when I think of the SC's recent advocacy for the Wayland Public Schools.
    I don't disagree--a decision such as the one to reconfigure the elementary schools would not be expected to be "straightforward," and this particular decision was no exception, as the School Committee indicated throughout the process. My use of "straightforward" in the above context related only to a hyperlink from one web page to another.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Fine, but since the decision is made, it is now the SC's responsibility to prove that it actually will result in the same high level of educational culture and services for less cost. That's what this decision was "sold" as -- both to better advocate a successful override vote and in your fervent belief that operating three full elementary schools was an inefficient use of budgetary resources.
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    There is also concern that, to accommodate the increased number of students at each school, areas and rooms previously used for technology, for one example, are being converted to classrooms.
    Please be aware that the space in question would have become idle as enrollment has been dropping. Rather than choosing to mothball that space, various functions expanded into it. Its reversion to classroom usage isn't perhaps as dramatic as you suggest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    In terms of cost, it was quite clear that we are far away from understanding what actual busing routes and numbers will actually be in use when the Schools reopen for FY 2009.
    That's correct. As in previous years, final bus routes, numbers, and costs aren't generally known until later in the summer at the earliest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    It is obvious that the transportation budget will be exceeded as fuel costs are much higher now than when the budget was compiled.
    How is this "obvious?" The most recent information that I've heard (at a School Committee meeting) is that by virtue of a contract with locked-in fuel prices, we are expecting to come in slightly under our transportation budget (subject to some adjustment as I indicated here).

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    At Monday's meeting it was asked if there had ever been an analysis to see if past bus routes and numbers of students bused was as efficient as it could have been. Have we used too many buses in the past and paid too much for it? The question was met with silence.
    The fact that the question was not answered on the spot was indicative of nothing. Each year, we examine bus routes in order to optimize them. To be sure, we could have been more "efficient" if by efficient you mean that we could have denied service to people to whom we weren't legally obligated to provide transportation (K-6 students living more than 2 miles from their building). We have purposefully chosen not to live to the letter of the law, as will be the case again this year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    The motion I made at Town Meeting to restore the funds for Loker for FY 2009 to fully evaluate the financial basis of this decision and to better plan for it if it was justified was deemed "irresponsible" by the SC and its expert witnesses.
    I find "its expert witness" to be an odd choice of phrase. To my knowledge, the School Committee didn't ask anyone to speak to your motion either way. In fact, I'm not sure that you even gave the Committee the courtesy of advance notice of your motion, but I'm not positive about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    I think what I was doing (and speaking on behalf of a large community) was advocating for the Wayland Public Schools.
    As I and other members of the Committee have said all along, there were different reasonable paths to advocating for the schools this past spring. Advocating to keep all three elementary schools in their K-5 configuration was one such path, as was advocating to pass the override. Perhaps both outcomes could have been achieved, but in my opinion, that was too risky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Please be aware that the space in question would have become idle as enrollment has been dropping. Rather than choosing to mothball that space, various functions expanded into it. Its reversion to classroom usage isn't perhaps as dramatic as you suggest.
    This is a stretch!
    Ask ANY teacher at ANY school if this abundance of space would result in "mothballed space", and I think you'll find that they would consider it elbow room, not empty space. The space would be filled and used, not lie dormant.
    Think about your own home or office. Do you have space that you would consider mothballing, or do you find that you just grow into and make good use of space that becomes available?
    There were no empty classrooms, and it's doubtful that there would have been.
    Now there is no elbow room, whatsoever.
    It will be extremely tight.
    The 85% capacity which you have stated in the past as being ideal, will be surpassed by a long shot, as we approach 100% capacity at both schools.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    In fact, I'm not sure that you even gave the Committee the courtesy of advance notice of your motion, but I'm not positive about that.
    As I recall, on January 15, the Committee did not even give the Loker community or the other schools that would also be impacted by it, the courtesy of advance notice of their vote to close Loker school.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post

    ...advocating to pass the override. Perhaps both outcomes could have been achieved, but in my opinion, that was too risky.
    As I've said before, you gambled.
    You ripped away an entire community and disrupted the lives of hundreds of people in town, on a gamble.
    You might say it's a gamble that you won.
    Many others think that you lost.
    And that we all lost.
    John Flaherty

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

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I find "its expert witness" to be an odd choice of phrase. To my knowledge, the School Committee didn't ask anyone to speak to your motion either way. In fact, I'm not sure that you even gave the Committee the courtesy of advance notice of your motion, but I'm not positive about that.
    Funny. The people who spoke against the motion seemed very well prepared. They were reading off notes.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 07-11-2008 at 04:55 PM. Reason: to fix quote formatting

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    This is a stretch!
    Ask ANY teacher at ANY school if this abundance of space would result in "mothballed space", and I think you'll find that they would consider it elbow room, not empty space. The space would be filled and used, not lie dormant.
    Some people may feel that given our tough economy and prop 2-1/2 restrictions, that now is no time for the luxury of elbow room or unnecessary space.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    There were no empty classrooms, and it's doubtful that there would have been.
    This is not so John. HH had a very large empty classroom (I have heard CH had 3, but am not sure if that is correct). Was it nice to have for conferences, brownie meetings and testing? Sure! If I was one of the 2/3 of people without kids in town would I wonder about it? I can say yes with certainty since I have kids and wondered about it! We just are not in a "would be nice" financial situation right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Now there is no elbow room, whatsoever.
    It will be extremely tight..
    I agree, stinks, but let's try to make the best of it. I truly believe it seems worse to we parents then the kids will ever see it.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    You might say it's a gamble that you won.
    Many others think that you lost.
    And that we all lost.
    I don't think the SC would ever see this as a "win". I don't think anyone in town feels this is a "win". But maybe just necessary for now?

  11. #41
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    Tracy,

    The CH floor plan from last year shows no empty classrooms.
    On the contrary, THIS year's floor plan shows an absence of two technology rooms that they had last year.

    Yes, in tight economic times, we want to trim the fat.
    But this is not fat.

    If there were a handful of spaces at each school that were truly unused we'd want to do something about it.

    Such is not the case.

    We're going from the SC and Administration's recommended target of 84% capacity up to close to 100% in each school.
    EDIT - (Sorry, that's incorrect! I don't know what we're going from. 84% represents the recommended target - that's what I meant to say!)

    This is absurd!
    Last edited by John Flaherty; 07-11-2008 at 09:49 PM. Reason: Correcting mistake
    John Flaherty

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

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    Tracy folks aren't bringing these issues to chastise the SC over the closing decision, that's over. They are bringing up these issues because come September our children are in overcrowded classrooms, many will have very long bus rides, enrollment isn't going down and we are going to pay a fortune in fuel costs.

    Folks need to know the truth about the situation. The SC website is a private site run by one man. They said classes won't be over the class size guidelines not true HH how 2 grade bursting and noclassrooms left. They said bus rides would be under 40 minutes now they are saying hopefully less than 45 mins. They said they would save $$ other than a principals salary I think the rest still needs to be proven.

    Dave has it right we each only have one vote but we can use our voices to tell many about the reality of this situation and how we really need change at the next election. One of the biggest reason folks have to keep asking questions is mostly the SC doesn't give any answers.

    Also the decision has shown there was waste that wasn't addressed prior to this decision. The bus routes alone have been proven to have been completely inefficient. THere were buses driving around town with less than 20 kids or bussing kids that didn't require bussing. Burton has said that one principal, Jum Lee could have over seen both schools.

    So it needs to be shown that they didn't make good decision and its time for new leadership.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post

    How is this "obvious?" The most recent information that I've heard (at a School Committee meeting) is that by virtue of a contract with locked-in fuel prices, we are expecting to come in slightly under our transportation budget (subject to some adjustment as I indicated here).

    The fact that the question was not answered on the spot was indicative of nothing. Each year, we examine bus routes in order to optimize them. To be sure, we could have been more "efficient" if by efficient you mean that we could have denied service to people to whom we weren't legally obligated to provide transportation (K-6 students living more than 2 miles from their building). We have purposefully chosen not to live to the letter of the law, as will be the case again this year.
    OK, "obvious" was not the best word to use. How about: "Given the uncertainties still present in busing routes, number of buses required, and the potential to exceed the amount of fuel purchased in bulk [from what I understand this is not part of the new busing contract], the probability of staying within the transportation and fuel budget set several months ago is optimistic." The point is, things have changed since the budget was set and from your response about still maintaining bus service to those the town isn't legally obligated to serve -- which is laudable but from the families' perspective, it is status quo; you can only go down in service provided from there -- it seems that the transportation formula is being even more over-constrained. We must maintain the same number of contracted buses as last year for all HS, MS, and ES -- more of whom have to be bussed due to the Loker constriction -- students, all kindergarteners must be bussed home, no one-way ride will exceed 40 minutes (now 45), AND we're still going to provided buses to those outside the legal limits of the radius distance to the school? And there are other constraints I'm still trying to understand myself. Something has to give. It's like the business conundrum: 'Faster; cheaper; better -- pick two.'

    If compromises around bus service have to be made to stay within the budget, that's understandable. But that's not the way this was presented back in March and early April. The reconfiguration was supposed to have a localized impact and solely on the elementary school population. Actually the effects will be more far-reaching than that. In the infamous words of Dr. Rice: "Nobody could've predicted..."

    In any case, back to bean-counting. Linda Segal asked a question about the visibility of actual-to-budget spending variances by line-item. Is that something the SC and/or Administration will be working towards this coming year?

    Thanks,
    Paul

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Tracy,

    The CH floor plan from last year shows no empty classrooms.
    On the contrary, THIS year's floor plan shows an absence of two technology rooms that they had last year.

    Yes, in tight economic times, we want to trim the fat.
    But this is not fat.

    If there were a handful of spaces at each school that were truly unused we'd want to do something about it.

    Such is not the case.
    John- the CH floor plan from last year shows a school with 29 rooms designed to be classrooms. Last year there were 24 class sections. The remaining 5 classrooms (more than 3 I had heard!) were utilized for the "would be nice" spaces (conference rooms, extra tech rooms, etc). Keep in mind, this does not even account for any reduction in '08/09 sections. Now, if there is an argument to be made that needs have changed such that one of those classrooms should be redesignated, that is a whole different discussion. As things stand now, just because they were utilized, does not mean they are deemed necessary for anything other than class sections.

    It is an easy mistake to make if you are new to the system or quick to make assumptions---to assume that the rooms used when you arrive are somehow designated for such purposes. I already see it happening with the empty HH classroom...people are saying "whaaat? Why are we losing the conference room? How/where will we conference?"!! This after only ONE year of "would be nice" usage! And the answer is obviously that it will not be so convenient to get conference space again. Not ideal, but is anyone's budget offering ideal these days?

    So now that you are aware that there are a "handful of spaces" which were truly not used for the classes they were designed, do you agree that "we should do something about it"?

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    Tracy

    I have to say I am not too familiar with the CH classroom situation but I don't think having actual classrooms for Technology is an extra. Technology is taught like a subject just like there is an artroom and a gym at each school. May I remind everyone that the school system just spent $8,000 on an audit that said our technology only met minumin standards in our schools. Also they have cut the sped and therapy spaces for both schools. There was no empty classes at Loker.

    The point isn't that there may have been a little extra space but whether we can really fit all the students into these 2 school as is and maintain the same level of educational services. Also the incoming k students from what I hear is larger than predicted which means this level of overcrowding will continue.

    I understand that there was a need for belt tighting they just picked the wrong ones in my opinion and there were other choices that weren't well explored. I am hopeful that the teachers can carry the burden of the 25% increase in class size. But my choice would have been to decrease the amount of bussing and think creatively until we came to a time when we really could move to the 2 1/2 school model or better yet group the grades which actually saved the most money.

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