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Thread: Thoughts on an evolution of the Wayland Public Schools

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Enrollment has *not* been declining over a ten year period. Rather, it started at 2,723 in FY99, climbed to 2,965 in FY04, then dropped to 2,776 in FY08.

    Short of eliminating all transportation for K-6 students within 2 miles, and for all 7-12 students, reworking the bus routes would not have netted savings comparable to that of the reconfiguration.
    Declining enrollment (or lack thereof) is only one of the reasons to look closely at bus routes every year.

    Families move, kids move on to middle school or high school, new families move in.

    Do you mean to say that over a 10 year period none of this happened to a degree that warranted altering bus routes?

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    John Flaherty

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  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Declining enrollment (or lack thereof) is only one of the reasons to look closely at bus routes every year.

    Families move, kids move on to middle school or high school, new families move in.

    Do you mean to say that over a 10 year period none of this happened to a degree that warranted altering bus routes?
    I don't know the degree to which specific routes have changed, but as I posted earlier, the number of runs has varied a bit over the past ten years to match the relatively small variation in children per bus in that same time.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Short of eliminating all transportation for K-6 students within 2 miles, and for all 7-12 students, reworking the bus routes would not have netted savings comparable to that of the reconfiguration.
    I vehemently disagree with you.
    I also believe that no one even looked at bus routes for savings a period of more than 10 years.
    On the cheap gas thread, you stated that you increased the transportation budget by $50,000, and you also admitted to using $100,000 of "Loker money" to fund MS and HS sports.
    Last edited by Mary Barber; 09-27-2008 at 04:15 PM. Reason: spelling

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Short of eliminating all transportation for K-6 students within 2 miles, and for all 7-12 students, reworking the bus routes would not have netted savings comparable to that of the reconfiguration.
    This would have been preferable to many in our community as opposed to abruptly closing one of our three elementary schools. It was never fully vetted or even brought up as a real possibility, though (at least not in any significant public way). How about bus fees to save service for those who wanted it?

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    I vehemently disagree with you.
    About what? Are you disagreeing with my statement that we would have to eliminate (or fee base) all K-6 transportation within 2 miles and all 7-12 transportation in order to reach the magnitude of the reconfiguration savings? Or are you disagreeing with reconfiguring a year in advance?

    If the latter, that's a fair point of disagreement--as people well know by now, however, it was better in my opinion not to take the larger gamble associated with retaining the 3 school model for one additional year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    I also believe that no one even looked at bus routes for savings a period of more than 10 years.
    The fact that we did not elect to alter bus routes appreciably is not the same thing as saying that we never looked at transportation alternatives.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    On the cheap gas thread, you stated that you increased the transportation budget by $50,000,
    I don't recall the amount, but the transportation increase was set before the reconfiguration decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    and you also admitted to using $100,000 of "Loker money" to fund MS and HS sports.
    I find your use of "admitted" a bit curious, as if this was some secret. Yes, we could have decreased the override by an additional $100,000 or so by cutting dramatically into co-curricular activities. Our objective was to improve the chance of passing the override while preserving the curricular and co-curricular experience.

    Now, to be fair, and so that John Flaherty doesn't have to scream, perhaps I'm taking a bit of liberty with respect to "preserving" and class size. I plan to do the comparison shortly, but assume that on average, we are now closer to the class size policy than we were last year, enabled in large part by having grades 1-5 in 2 buildings instead of 3 and grade K in 1 building instead of 3. Again, this is no secret--the Committee said at the time that part of the reconfiguration savings would result from exactly this effect. Interestingly enough, however, we have fewer sections above the class size policy compared with last year and the average since 2000.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    • More professional development: increased cost, perhaps on the order of $100k-$200k per year
    • Longer school day (at the ES level): significant increased cost
    • Technology infusion: potential cost savings
    • Differentiated instruction (meeting each child at his/her challenge level): no cost other than PD
    • Differentiated instruction (splitting ES into reading/social studies and math/science): no cost increase
    • Curriculum enhancement: no/small cost increase*
    • Co-curricular program: no cost increase
    • Adequate facilities: capital cost for the HS

    *Regarding curriculum enhancement, the "regular" work already takes place. Adding a foreign language such as Chinese is replacing one cost (for instance, students currently taking French) with another after an initial implementation cost. Improving health/wellness likely has both an implementation and ongoing added cost.
    Sounds great -- so why aren't they in the budget? I'm skeptical that differentiated instruction would not include more teachers to offer that instruction to different students within grades, or even classes. Where would they find the time? I agree that investing in programs for higher achievers is necessary. Savings for technology infusion is potential, but it sounds like the dreams of the "paperless office" way back when PCs first found their way into the workplace. I think increasing the scope of IT requires a group to adequately maintain it. The savings could be had from such a group (HS students?) rather than a highly paid "Technology Director" as part of the Admin staff. As for the co-curricular enhancement at no additional cost, how does that happen while lowering the ratio you supposed?

    I agree that curricular programs have a higher priority than co-curricular ones, but not such that the former excludes the latter. Given that we will always be wanting to do more academically, we would by this logic never have any publicly funded co-curricular programs: no athletics, no music, no drama, no art, no activities. I don't see such an offering helping to draw people to or keep people in the Wayland Public Schools.
    Bit of a straw man here. I think publicly-funded is the key definition. I agree that drama, music, and art are interesting and vital aspects of a school curriculum. I doubt that the cost of those programs are that great, though. My experience with drama in high school, for instance, was that a link was made to local community businesses for props and other artwork. It is with athletics that I think more private contributions should come in. I read with great interest the article in The Boston Globe about the Ashland schools and how the override that did not pass there forced the schools to operationally fund academics first and placed more of the cost burden on parents of athletes. I have no issue with school sports; I enjoyed and played some in high school and agree that participation is good for rounding out a full educational experience. But they are restricted to the sports offered and those who choose to play. Wayland is an affluent town. If Ashland's parents can pay more, Wayland's can as well.

    Again, I don't want to get too immersed in the line-item expenses for things that are on the fringe of the operating budget. I still think that a clear understanding of what constitutes basic services -- academic and co-curricular -- that are available to all students K-12 is needed. It will help to frame the budget prioritization questions that will arise every year, and the public will be better off for understanding why these decisions are made. As you know, a major problem (according to many) of the Loker decision was where some of the savings were reinstated, as well as some non-academic items in the MS and HS that were on the override cut list but obviously had a higher budgetary priority than keeping a neighborhood elementary school open.

  7. #37
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    Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach

    • More professional development: increased cost, perhaps on the order of $100k-$200k per year
    • Longer school day (at the ES level): significant increased cost
    • Technology infusion: potential cost savings
    • Differentiated instruction (meeting each child at his/her challenge level): no cost other than PD
    • Differentiated instruction (splitting ES into reading/social studies and math/science): no cost increase
    • Curriculum enhancement: no/small cost increase*
    • Co-curricular program: no cost increase
    • Adequate facilities: capital cost for the HS

    *Regarding curriculum enhancement, the "regular" work already takes place. Adding a foreign language such as Chinese is replacing one cost (for instance, students currently taking French) with another after an initial implementation cost. Improving health/wellness likely has both an implementation and ongoing added cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Sounds great -- so why aren't they in the budget? I'm skeptical that differentiated instruction would not include more teachers to offer that instruction to different students within grades, or even classes. Where would they find the time?
    Implemented well, differentiated instruction of this sort--which we already do--doesn't necessarily add staff, but rather, allows existing staff to better serve individual students.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Savings for technology infusion is potential, but it sounds like the dreams of the "paperless office" way back when PCs first found their way into the workplace.
    I agree, there's much work to be done here, but I'm convinced that software and hardware are at the point where this is past the dream stage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    I think increasing the scope of IT requires a group to adequately maintain it. The savings could be had from such a group (HS students?) rather than a highly paid "Technology Director" as part of the Admin staff.
    As technology matures, it may eventually be possible to have oversight of technology be the responsibility of the director of curriculum, but that person (the assistant superintendent) already has two jobs (curriculum and personnel). While I don't know the details, it's my understanding that there is already considerable student volunteer work taking place, but that doesn't obviate the need for a technology director.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    As for the co-curricular enhancement at no additional cost, how does that happen while lowering the ratio you supposed?
    I wasn't clear--I was suggesting that we keep both our co-curricular programs and our fees as-is (as much as I'd like to see the fees go away).

    Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach

    I agree that curricular programs have a higher priority than co-curricular ones, but not such that the former excludes the latter. Given that we will always be wanting to do more academically, we would by this logic never have any publicly funded co-curricular programs: no athletics, no music, no drama, no art, no activities. I don't see such an offering helping to draw people to or keep people in the Wayland Public Schools.


    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Bit of a straw man here. I think publicly-funded is the key definition. I agree that drama, music, and art are interesting and vital aspects of a school curriculum. I doubt that the cost of those programs are that great, though. My experience with drama in high school, for instance, was that a link was made to local community businesses for props and other artwork.
    We spend almost 2x on the arts as we do on athletics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    It is with athletics that I think more private contributions should come in. I read with great interest the article in The Boston Globe about the Ashland schools and how the override that did not pass there forced the schools to operationally fund academics first and placed more of the cost burden on parents of athletes. I have no issue with school sports; I enjoyed and played some in high school and agree that participation is good for rounding out a full educational experience. But they are restricted to the sports offered and those who choose to play. Wayland is an affluent town. If Ashland's parents can pay more, Wayland's can as well.
    I don't know what Ashland families spend on athletic fees. The last time that we compared Wayland's fees with our peer districts, we were at the high end. At present, fees on the order of $200k make up about 25% of our athletic budget. Already, we know that some students elect not to play rather than ask for scholarship money.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Again, I don't want to get too immersed in the line-item expenses for things that are on the fringe of the operating budget. I still think that a clear understanding of what constitutes basic services -- academic and co-curricular -- that are available to all students K-12 is needed. It will help to frame the budget prioritization questions that will arise every year, and the public will be better off for understanding why these decisions are made.
    Agree that getting a clear understanding here would be valuable. It's also quite challenging to quantify or even qualify. Roughly speaking, I'd say that our current balance (program funds: 91% academic, 5.2% arts, 3% athletics, and 0.7% activities) is about right. At our last meeting, the Committee talked of soliciting community input on priorities, particularly with respect to programs that we might add.

  8. #38
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    Default What Boston is doing

    From today's Boston Globe:

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ed..._many_schools/

    I find this paragraph especially compelling (emphasis mine):

    Declining enrollment is the main problem. The 56,000-pupil system has lost more than 4,000 students during the past four years, due to a combination of city demographics, a troubling dropout rate, and competitive pressures from charter and parochial schools. But Johnson, wisely, is not focusing solely on cutbacks. She sees an opportunity to give parents more of what they want, including more K-8 schools and two or three new pilot schools that offer longer days and more flexible curricula. The city's Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods would be especially well-served by an expansion of K-8 schools.
    You have to dig around this message board a bit, but there's quite a bit of opposition to the decision made to reconfigure Wayland's elementary schools. One of my main issues with it was that it was posited solely as a cost reduction to maintain the status quo (which in the elementary schools is very much open to question, to say the least). Had more planning been allowed for this, could we have followed Carol Johnson's premise to use the reconfiguration decision more creatively than just budget savings?
    Last edited by Paul Grasso; 09-30-2008 at 10:43 AM. Reason: clarification

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    About what?
    You and the SC went out of your way to save an additional $200,000 more than you were asked to by the fianace committee. If you really wanted to maintain level services by keeping Loker a full school, that could easily been achieved by keeping that $200,000 in the school budget, and just re- routing the busses. A NO-BRAINER.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    If the latter, that's a fair point of disagreement--as people well know by now, however, it was better in my opinion not to take the larger gamble associated with retaining the 3 school model for one additional year.
    That's quite a leap of logic, Jeff. The SC put the override more in jeopardy by accelerating this decision and antagonizing a neighborhood/voting district that has historically passed overrides by wide margins. It's more accurate to say that the override passed in spite of this decision, not because of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    That's quite a leap of logic, Jeff. The SC put the override more in jeopardy by accelerating this decision and antagonizing a neighborhood/voting district that has historically passed overrides by wide margins. It's more accurate to say that the override passed in spite of this decision, not because of it.
    There's no accuracy one way or the other--both positions are unprovable opinions. As I reported here, Precinct 3 (SE Wayland) has historically been in the middle in terms of override margin. Its percentage in favor of the 2008 override was 57.7%, slightly higher than its 57.0% average over time. Whatever antagonism resulted from the reconfiguration decision did not translate into override "no" votes.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    There's no accuracy one way or the other--both positions are unprovable opinions. As I reported here, Precinct 3 (SE Wayland) has historically been in the middle in terms of override margin. Its percentage in favor of the 2008 override was 57.7%, slightly higher than its 57.0% average over time. Whatever antagonism resulted from the reconfiguration decision did not translate into override "no" votes.
    I can almost guarantee you that vote result would be different if held now. Despite the dissatisfaction with the reconfiguration decision there was still trust with the powers that be that the implementation of it would go much better than it has, based on the assurances from the SC and Administration. That trust is in short supply now. As I argued after the election results, the override margin is a testament to the residents of this precinct who swallowed a difficult pill but still voted in what they thought were the best interests of Wayland in general. You should at least acknowledge that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Whatever antagonism resulted from the reconfiguration decision did not translate into override "no" votes.
    Jeff, you can thank residents like John Flaherty who wrote numerous times to the community, begging them not to vote "NO".
    You can also thank Jeff Baron, who worked hard to listen to the community and turn their anger into some hope for change.
    There was also a letter written and signed by several families that was mailed to every Loker resident, asking them to pass the override in spite of the SC decision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    Jeff, you can thank residents like John Flaherty who wrote numerous times to the community, begging them not to vote "NO".
    You can also thank Jeff Baron, who worked hard to listen to the community and turn their anger into some hope for change.
    There was also a letter written and signed by several families that was mailed to every Loker resident, asking them to pass the override in spite of the SC decision.
    I'm sure that I'm not alone in thanking John for his letter writing campaign, Jeff for his counseling, and others who supported the override. Their efforts were (and are) truly appreciated.

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    Default Lrp

    Another method of assessing, prioritizing, and implementing things like school consolidations and curriculum enhancements/changes is where these 'things' fall in regards to being part of a cohesive long-term plan. In stepping back from the fray it would be easier for me to see the recent budgetary decisions and aspects of Jeff's "Evolution" not as incremental fires that need to be extinguished but as components of a strategic plan. I fully realize from my own job and that of the Schools that budgetary crises have a tendency to intrude on long range planning in an inconsiderate way, but the best way to achieve longer-term goals is to make sure that long-terms plans are not diverted every time a cost issue arises.

    I checked the WSC website and found some interesting items there that related to the LRP for the Wayland Schools. One area was with the definition of the strategic questions, the areas of focus, and where and how the specific goals (e.g., student learning, teacher performance, district ranking, and others) aligned with the defined strategy.

    http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.org/details/lrsp.htm

    Further, there were four goal teams to be set up to define the strategic areas.

    http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.or...newsletter.htm

    The newsletter by which this was communicated was January of 2007. Have we progressed further on the LRP? If so, is there somewhere else I should be looking for it? If not, how and when will this task be reinvigorated? The upcoming budget process should not only be an exercise in scrambling to make operating expenses fit in a constrained cost box, but also as an opportunity to invest in curriculum and structural enhancements that have been well-planned and anticipated.

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