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Thread: Our School "Reconfiguration"

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Jeff, on many of your points, I completely agree with you. But I would propose just a tad more patience. The Administration does appear to be taking complaints very seriously, and is working very hard to make the current configuration work. This is still very early in the school year, and it would make sense to give them a little bit longer to work out the kinks, before looking to make a complete change back. I'm not saying that your suggestion should be discarded, merely that it seems premature to say that the reconfiguration cannot work.
    I hear ya, Kim. If this were a decision of the people, I'd say you were 100% right. It was, however, forced upon us and it stinks. Why put up with a less than desirable situation when we have all the pieces in place to have the most desirable (or at least close to it) outcome. Even if the reconfiguration "works", it is not worthy of all the tax dollars I pay to live in a town where most of those dollars go to having a supposedly top-notch school system. We're not so top-notch anymore in several respects as a result of the reconfiguration. Hope to see you tonight.

  2. #47
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    By the way, two middle school busses just went by my house with plenty of kids on them at 2:46pm. I wonder how many busses will be at Claypit (on the other side of town) by 3:00pm...

    An update from HH shows that as of 3:11pm, the busses were still arriving at school so the pickups and walkers were finally let go ahead of bus riders. And at CH, the pickups were let out around 3:20-3:25pm...after the busses finally left.

    Sounds like everything went smoothly today [GRIN] (c) J. Dieffenbach
    Last edited by Jeff Baron; 09-15-2008 at 03:27 PM. Reason: Updating with HH info...then CH info

  3. #48
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    My son just got off his bus at 3:19pm. This is the same time he arrived home last year, so it's a good sign. He said the bus riders were released ahead of the walkers today, and that the buses were there when he left the school.

  4. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    My son just got off his bus at 3:19pm. This is the same time he arrived home last year, so it's a good sign. He said the bus riders were released ahead of the walkers today, and that the buses were there when he left the school.
    Only some of the busses were there, Kim. They continued to stream in such that the walkers/pickups were not released until 20-25 minutes after school was over. At HH, as noted in my previous post, the walkers/pickups were finally released just after 3:11pm as the busses were still not present.

    My daughter's bus arrived here on Woodridge at 3:35pm, the same time as Friday (actually three minutes later) and about 30 minutes later than my daughter's arrival home would have been last year. I wouldn't call this positive news.

    I forgot to add that the K bus that drops off on the south side (Bus B, I think) arrived at its final (or close to final) stop at 1:20pm today -- 1 hour after K ended. That includes the fact that many K parents have stopped using the bus due to ridiculous route lengths. Pretty soon, we'll have to start catering the busses because how can we expect K students at the end of those routes to wait until then to eat lunch?
    Last edited by Jeff Baron; 09-15-2008 at 03:42 PM. Reason: adding K bus info

  5. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Instead of insisting that we put the correct override on the ballot, you and your colleagues on the SC caved and, in the process, devalued the entire educational experience for our K- students. You view it as heroic, I view it as spineless. I did not misspeak.
    Thank you for clarifying your original remark. I'm quite sure that I've never used the word "heroic" to describe either my actions or those of the Committee. I find your insistence on falsely putting words in people's mouths to be a bit curious.

    The charge of "spineless" might carry a bit more bite if it weren't coming from someone who would so recklessly have gambled the classroom experience for Wayland students across the K-12 spectrum.

  6. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    You continue to miss the point. The fact that we could have crammed the kids in is not acceptable.
    While our schools may be on the full side (but no fuller than they've been in recent history), our classrooms are actually less so than they've been since at least 2000. Over that period, we've averaged 9 sections over the class size guideline. Last year, we were over in 12 sections.

    This year, as of the enrollment report in our packet for the 9/15 meeting, we have 2 sections that are over. The classrooms are not "crammed" by any recent historical measure.

  7. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Thank you for clarifying your original remark. I'm quite sure that I've never used the word "heroic" to describe either my actions or those of the Committee. I find your insistence on falsely putting words in people's mouths to be a bit curious.

    The charge of "spineless" might carry a bit more bite if it weren't coming from someone who would so recklessly have gambled the classroom experience for Wayland students across the K-12 spectrum.
    Proud (as you did say), heroic (as I wrote), whatever, Jeff. You and your SC colleagues continue to defend what you did instead of stepping up and admitting that it stinks. You offered no creativity to the situation, you simply went for a solution that was poorly thought out, poorly analyzed and damaging to our ES system. You won the battle (getting this override passed) but are losing the war (the long term faith of the school population in the SC and administration's ability to do your jobs with effectiveness).

    If offering voters a chance to approve our three school configuration is reckless, than I'm guilty as charged. At least I would have been able to say I tried to save what worked -- something you will never be able to say.

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    While our schools may be on the full side (but no fuller than they've been in recent history), our classrooms are actually less so than they've been since at least 2000. Over that period, we've averaged 9 sections over the class size guideline. Last year, we were over in 12 sections.

    This year, as of the enrollment report in our packet for the 9/15 meeting, we have 2 sections that are over. The classrooms are not "crammed" by any recent historical measure.
    Good for you. The classrooms are not as crowded as they could be. For tiny money, they could be much, much better. I will never be a champion for mediocrity via settling like this. What a great lesson to teach our kids -- don't strive for the best, settle for something that isn't that bad. (I know you didn't say this, by the way, but it is the message you send by defending the current situation as you do above)

    The best school system we could have would have classrooms that were far less crowded. We have the building, we have the staff, and we could even have the money. We just don't have the people in place willing to go to bat for it.

    By the way, how many sections do you have AT capacity?

  9. #54
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    After tonight's meeting, I have only one question for the School Committee
    Do you pay those cheerleaders that come to the meetings and hang on your every word? [grin] © J. Dieffenbach

    .
    John Flaherty

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

  10. #55
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    Thumbs down

    When the issue was brought up about the capacity of busses preventing children from being able to occasionally have a playdate, Dr. Burton responded that the busses "are not required to bring children to the dentist, or to take 10 friends home."

    It is very frustrating for people to have their concerns twisted and exaggerated in such a way. How will the elementary school community move forward if honest questions are met with such sarcasm by the school superintedent?

  11. #56
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    It would be great if we could all be perfect when speaking in public. Sometimes I've misspoken, sometimes I've said something that I should have kept to myself, sometimes I haven't reacted as calmly as I should have to comments from others. I plead human.

    Call the "dentist" comment sarcastic, call it an attempt at levity, whichever. As for the "10 friends," I don't have first-hand knowledge, but that may well be the case from time to time, or at most a small exaggeration.

    This is of course a two-way street. Jeff Baron calls me "spineless." John Flaherty sarcastically writes, "After tonight's meeting, I have only one question for the School Committee: Do you pay those cheerleaders that come to the meetings and hang on your every word? [grin] © J. Dieffenbach."

    Don't worry, having butted heads with WVN's distortions for half a decade, I'm not particularly phased. I can take it, no need to take them to task for their inappropriate behavior.

    Far worse, people describe transportation problems (quite real, to be sure, but with some work, transient) as "catastrophe" and "disaster," terms normally reserved for Katrina and the mortgage crisis.

    A brief instance of sarcasm on the one hand, constant belittling and exaggeration on the other, I'll let people be the judge of where the real offenses lie.

    I work hard to maintain a civil level of discourse. I don't always get it right, but the charge last night, for instance, from XXX of "condescension, smugness, and stony silence" rings false and certainly does nothing to elevate the conversation.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 09-17-2008 at 09:33 AM. Reason: removal of individual's name (rather than removing entire post)

  12. #57
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    I called the decision spineless, Jeff. You weren't the only one to make it, either. Take it personally, if you wish. I believe I couched it in an earlier post as a referendum on job performance and not as a personal slam.

    As for last night -- let's start with a positive. Lou's decision to have a public hearing-type forum was appropriate and I, despite my obvious disagreement, commend him along with you and the others for extending the time of your meeting to hear from a large number of obviously frustrated/upset/angry parents. It solved almost nothing, but it was cathartic in the sense that people got a chance to publicly express their feelings/ask questions/etc. without facing the "stony silence" of a typical public comment (i.e. - one-way) session.

    The negative, as I alluded to above, is that we are no closer to healing the large rift in our ES community today than we were yesterday. I find it misleading to hear Lou say that "we don't live in a perfect world -- that if we did, we could have three schools..." It did not require a perfect world to have three schools, just a commitment to pushing for them and, if indeed enrollment projections rolled out as stated last night, at least the time and consideration to plan and execute the 2.5 school model without a hitch by stalling the move to the end of this year.

    The tall task facing the SC is to attempt to heal that rift. So far, while I think last night's willingness to respond is a step in the right direction, I think there is much more to be done. Hearing from Tracey and XXXXX how thankful they are only serves to fan a flame -- they are seen as gloating in the face of people who lost something meaningful. Hence, John's comments. Believe me, when the room emptied out as Tracey talked speaks volumes about how people, at least in that room, felt about what she had to say. People need to hear from you on how we can make things better, not how, as Gary noted to a parent last week, things are going to get worse.

    I'd also issue a challenge specifically to you, Jeff. You are on the budget committee that is working to craft our next town budget. My understanding is that people have approached the committee and suggested citizens-at-large be installed as voting members. So far, that request has been denied because "public comment should be enough." Make that happen. Involve people in the process instead of telling them the result. At worst, you get buy-in. At best, you get creativity. Our "peer" towns all do this. Why not us?
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 09-17-2008 at 08:55 AM. Reason: removal of individual's name (rather than removing entire post)

  13. #58
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    My “cheerleaders” comment was sarcastic, of course.
    But I don’t make it just to be flip.

    There is a serious point, too. As Jeff B said above, last night was a carthartic moment. (while I don’t feel that I was any more “heard” last night than I was back in March, it was important just to vent)

    But I wish that just for once, the SC Cheerleaders would have had sufficient powers of observation and the empathy to recognize that this was no place for rose-colored glasses. It seems as though they feel this constant need to jump in and support you and pump you back up, when people are beating up on you. But I wish they’d had the foresight and the understanding to recognize that we’ll all be better off without their words, this time.

    Nothing is to be gained by their supportive words at a time like that. The decision’s been made, nothing anyone could have said last night was going to change that. Just let us get it out!

    Sadly, their words backfired. They certainly are not going to win anyone over, when we’ve all just been telling you in great detail, with very specific individual instances, how bad it is.

    Imagine calling a company to file a complaint about a product or service that you’d found totally unacceptable. Instead of taking an interest in your concerns, the clerk ignored your words and started talking about the virtues of this product or service – how wonderful it is. This would be the wrong thing to say and the wrong time to say it. That’s what it felt like last night.

    .
    John Flaherty

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

  14. #59
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    Jeff D.,

    I appreciate the fact that you've always been willing to engage and address questions in this and other forums. Alas, I do find myself in disagreement with you often.

    Speaking for me, I've become quite irritated at the "we made the decision to pass the override" refrain. I'm quite aware of that justification, and the repetition of it doesn't make it more correct. 'That horse has sailed,' as the president would say. As I asked last night, what exactly happened in the time the decision was made and the school year started? By accelerating the reconfiguration (why? to pass the override!) you and the members of the SC promised that the elementary school product would be unchanged, albeit with "minimal disruption." Given the confusion that accompanied the start of this school year and the lack of clarity around busing -- I disagree with that the problems are "transient" -- I will ask again: was the system that was set in place for FY 2009 the best that the Wayland Schools could do, or was it the best it could do with the directive that elementary transportation costs would not exceed those budgeted last year (save for fuel costs)? Remember, you set the expectations, not the community. You assumed that responsibility by 1) accelerating the decision (why? ...); and 2) refusing the motion to delay it. You made a promise of maintaining the elementary school service that you have yet to keep.

    Further, I'm unsure when you speak for the SC and when you speak for yourself. Last night when asked about whether the budget savings would be realized, Dr. Jurist turned to you and said you had data to confirm that the savings were in line. When you spoke, however, you couched your figures as "back of the envelope" and as your own. Like the school service promise above, the actual savings from this reconfiguration is an integral figure. I'm aware of the personnel expense assumed to generate the $395,000. I am keenly interested in following this figure. Besides Principal Abrams, how many of those FTEs were eliminated -- not reassigned elsewhere in the school budget or to other areas (like the Board of Health)? Further, what are the incremental bus costs we are seeing, or will see if the decision to add buses or drivers is reached? Also, if BASE costs have to be increased, I would find it hard to call that budget neutral as those who have to pay the difference would not appreciate subsidizing incremental costs on your behalf. This on top of the override tax increase, don't forget.

    I don't wish to be combative or antagonistic. However, if the disruption to the elementary schools continues to occur with little actual budget savings to show for it, there is no way to define this reconfiguration decision as anything but a diminishment of the Wayland Schools in general, override or not. I'd begin to really question the value of the product received here for the taxes paid.

  15. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Believe me, when the room emptied out as Tracey talked speaks volumes about how people, at least in that room, felt about what she had to say.
    Yes, that they are completely unable to even listen to another perspective! Thankfully I wasn't speaking to them!

    I also found it interesting (frankly, sad) that all of these very concerned parents quickly left after "venting" and did not stay to hear about the position the committee will take on Question 1- repeal of the state income tax! If those people truly believe our system is "degraded" now, you'd think that they would be interested in discussing the cuts that could face our community (not only schools, but SAFETY, etc.!!!) in January.
    Not to mention missing the info re: our High School, which will affect every one of the people in that room and even moreso, their children!

    There are many points of view and all should be encouraged and respected.

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