In an April 5, 2015 Wicked Local Wayland letter to the editor, Wayland resident Kent George takes aim at the school budget. His letter and my observations are presented below.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
An analysis of the FY16 Superintendent’s Recommended Personnel Budget reveals grave concerns about the negotiating skills of the Wayland School Committee. To make matters worse, executive session minutes detailing how the committee arrived at these annual increase decisions are nonexistent (not posted). Taxpayers deserve better.
It's not clear how Mr. George can make his first point ("grave concerns about the negotiating skills of the Wayland School Committee") given his second point (that he has not been able to observe these negotiating skills). As Mr. George no doubt knows, but pretends to be ignorant of, the Open Meeting Law exempts contract negotiations (and the strategy sessions that support them) from being conducted in public. If he has an argument as to why this aspect of the OML should be changed, he's yet to share it.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
We are simply presented with a 12-page spreadsheet in which no current (FY15) salaries are reported, and step and lane increases are combined in a column with no dollar figures. This confusing presentation, scanned and then posted online, actually substantiates $29,617,815.00, nearly half the Town’s annual operating budget!

After reading line after line of proposed salaries, steps, lanes, longevity stipends, retirement payments, leadership stipends, etc., etc., you might assume you have the complete picture. There’s actually more, a lot more!

The single request that I and others raised long ago with the School Committee and Finance Subcommittee was the need for a complete list of all personnel employed by the Wayland Public Schools. As of March 30, the list wasn’t finished. Employees paid for by user fees and grants are still being accounted for, while an archaic Excel worksheet containing over 25,000 cells with varying degrees of value and content, is all we’re given.
I don't understand Mr. George's objection to paying employees out of user fees and grants. To not take advantage of these resources would place more burden on the taxpayer, not less.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
Recent cost escalation in the school budget (an over 10 percent increase in only two years) can readily be explained when noting that in addition to cost of living increases (COLA’s) - representing a 1.5 percent increase for FY’16 - step and lane jumps (increases based on years employed and on level of education) are exactly that, jumps through the roof, in fact!

There are dozens of proposed annual compensation increases in the FY’16 personnel budget exceeding 10 percent over prior year amounts. Several proposed increases exceed 20 percent, and some are as much as 32 percent.........for a one year increase! For example:

For a tenured job with an 80 percent pension guarantee and at least 50 percent Town-guaranteed retiree medical benefits for both pensioner and spouse, the pay levels have escalated to the extreme For instance in the FY 16 budget, there are approximately 90 teachers making over $100,000 per year and approximately 50 more making over $90,000;
It's easy to pick out the extreme examples that are inherent in the salary schedules of all districts--we should really be looking at average teacher salary and per pupil expenditure compared to peer towns. Here's a bigger picture look.


  1. Relative to its 10-district peer group, Wayland has the 6th highest per pupil expenditure; Wayland does not overspend.

  2. Relative to the 14 towns from which these districts draw, Wayland has the 9th highest average tax bill; Wayland does not overtax.

  3. Relative to this group of 14 towns, Wayland has the 6th highest median household income; Wayland is not overly poor.


Those big picture points aside, it seems to me that of all of the professions we'd like to pay reasonably well, teaching would be at the top of the list. What does Mr. George have against teachers?

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
A teacher with a master’s degree and 30 credits toward a doctorate, with 11 years’ service (cumulatively in their career, not just here in Wayland) will step from $79,353 to $98,678. The employee is automatically granted a 31.7 percent annual increase for 12 years’ service; a $19,325 one-year pay increase;
See previous comment.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
A teacher with a doctorate degree and 11 years’ service is automatically granted a 27.7 percent annual increase for 12 years’ service; a $23,801 one-year pay increase.
See previous comment.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
While citizens struggle to pay the whopping property tax increase doled out in January (almost all of which resulted from an increase in the FY’15 school budget), some of our employees are being granted exorbitant five-digit pay increases by the School Committee, with no explanation and certainly no transparency.
See previous comment.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
Full-time in Wayland is not 40 hours. It varies by school, but never reaches an 8-hour day.
Mr. George exposes here his ignorance of how Wayland teachers spend their day. Yes, they are contractually obligated to work on the order of 36 hours per day. In practice, they work far beyond that level.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
A lawyer at the Mass Department of Education noted that no district in Massachusetts is allowed to agree to a four-year contract with the teachers union. Somehow our School Committee has done just that (FY’14, 15, 16 + 17). How is that possible?

Further, non-union employee contracts, of which there are many, are all determined and approved confidentially by the superintendent and/or his staff, with no oversight at all by the School Committee or the Town Personnel Board.
Unless this has changed since my time on the board, the salaries for these employees ARE set by the School Committee.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
A more serious examination of our school contracts and associated pay increases would seem to be in order, however, due to the secretive nature of the union negotiations, no information is ever provided, even after the contracts are settled.
Mr. George is completely off-base here when he writes "no information is ever provided, even after contracts are settled." Perhaps he does not know that the resulting teacher contracts are public?

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
Do taxpayers know what was even considered or ultimately rejected? No more than two School Committee members ever bargain with the unions due to the quorum factor, so no minutes from negotiations are kept for later scrutiny, once contracts are settled.
To my knowledge, the School Committee typically has one member participate in negotiations. The reason for this has nothing to do with minute-keeping, but rather, out of respect for the amount of time that participation takes.

Regarding any such minutes, the Open Meeting Law does not require them to be made public after contracts are settled as long as there is an ongoing reason for to keep them private. It would not be in the best interests of the School Committee or the Town to release its negotiation strategies even after contracts are settled.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
Some who bargain have school-age children in this district (how is that not a conflict?).
When I was on the School Committee, we were required to file conflict of interest statements--I assume that this is still the case.

Mr. George's logic fails him here: if all town decisions had to be made by people who would not benefit from those decisions, then no Wayland resident would ever be able to weigh in on the budget, as these residents all have something to gain in the form of services received.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
Whatever the rationale, taxpayers are now funding increases of up to 30 percent. This information is all concealed around the guise of a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) in a four-year contract that was trumpeted as exceptionally cost effective.

The bigger issue here is to understand how it is that the School Committee can just assume that taxpayers will approve these increases. How can one small, elected citizen body possibly understand the ramifications of all the contract information and details related to hundreds of employees while considering dozens of variables and permutations, and then inform the public to understand what they did?
The School Committee doesn't "just assume that taxpayers will approve these increases." Rather, it works hard for the bulk of the school year to understand, prepare, deliver, and defend a budget. The School Committee approves its budget the way that all boards do so. It sets high level parameters (percentage increases) that build on a long string of budget history and high quality service delivery.

Quote Originally Posted by Kent George
Obviously, they didn’t and quite obviously, we don’t! This budget proposal represents a lot of dollars and very little “sense.”
Mr. George does nothing to back up his "very little 'sense'" gibe.