Is closing Neary the answer to the school’s budget crunch?

by susan on January 19, 2010

There’s been quite a bit of talk on this blog and elsewhere about how to lower the school budget for next year. One option that consistently comes up is to save money by closing one of the schools — the most often mentioned being Neary — and distributing students among the remaining three schools.

Back in May, the school committee formed a fact-finding committee to look into the idea. In December they presented some very early findings.

You can have a look at the full presentation (.pdf) for yourself, but here’s a summary of the salient points:

  • Trottier is limited by septic and wetlands issues. Enrollment projections suggest the earliest Trottier would be able to accommodate an additional grade level would be 2014-2015.
  • Woodward is limited by the number of classrooms and may not be able to accept an additional grade level.
  • There is space at Finn, but it would likely mean moving preschool somewhere else.
  • Closing Neary would save about $175K annually in maintenance fees, but there would not be a significant savings in staff reductions since most of the staff would move to other schools along with the students.
  • There’s more research to be done.

At the Board of Selectmen budget summit earlier this month, Superintendent Charles Gobron said he does not consider closing Neary a viable option for the 2011-2012 school year. “I’m opposed to doing anything this year,” he said. “I want to make sure any decision we make is thoughtful and in the best interest of the district.”

Advisory Committee member Al Hamilton told selectmen the enrollment numbers he’s seen suggest the school population peaked in 2004 and will continue to decline over the next decade. “We need to seriously evaluate whether we need four schools,” he said. “This question isn’t going to go away.”

1 Al Hamilton January 19, 2010 at 1:18 PM

The K-8 School Committee has made a start but needs to really dig in with some quality analysis, and that analysis should be consider Town Government as a whole not balkanized entity we now have.

1. $175k in savings from custodial functions is not to be treated so lightly. That is enough money to pay for 3 teachers.
2. The administrative savings are substantially more than the custodial savings. These include a principal, nurse, and probably admin staff. With benefits and pension costs this amounts to more than $175k, probably enough to save 3 or 4 teaching positions.
3. We keep talking about the septic limitations at Trottier as a hard limit rather than evaluating options for resolving the limitations to increase the flexibility to accommodate students. Developers in town come up with novel ways to live within our septic regulations all the time.
4. The analysis to date does not take into account other savings that can happen in Town Government. If we were to consolidate all the activities that happen in Fayville Hall, Cordaville Hall, The Arts Center and Station 2 into Neary there is an opportunity to save 10’s of thousands of dollars in operating expense and upgrade the housing of these functions which are currently in dilapidated buildings. Some portion of these savings will find their way into school budgets since schools account for about 70% of our spending.
5. If we are able to sell Fayville Hall, The Arts Center, Cordaville Hall, and Station 2 we could raise a significant part of the funds required for and new/renovated Police Station or use it for other necessary purposes.

There may come a day that we want to return Neary to school if we turn it over to the municipal side of government. A carefully thought out use plan that would permit the buildings return to a school some time in the distant future is appropriate. At that time we would have sufficiently recovered from our current very high levels of debt service and would have the financial resources to make any necessary modifications to keep the building current.

The starting point of the analysis should be “If we were to move to a 3 school configuration this is how we would do it, and this is what it would cost.” Then we can make informed decisions.

The Town financial crisis means that we can’t kick this problem down the road anymore. Our School Budgets consume about 70% of our spending. We are and will be facing the choice of building or teachers for the foreseeable future. I prefer teachers.

2 bob a January 19, 2010 at 4:39 PM

I mentioned this in a previous post.

There is an increase of 500k for teacher raises that should be eliminated

In addition

any town employee who makes over 150k ( if any ) should get a 15% pay cut
100k-150k a 10% pay cut
50k – 100k 5% pay cut
less than 50k no pay cut

An alternative is to lay off employees until the desired budget amount is met

Our town employees are great people and this plan retains all of them.

Town employees should accept this to save jobs of fellow employees and set union contracts aside in this time of crisis.

The state of massachusetts should do the same thing. Just check these out and wonder why we are in trouble:

http://www.bostonherald.com/projects/payroll/massachusetts/annual_rt.DESC//

We should not sell ANY town property.

3 Mimi22 January 19, 2010 at 8:44 PM

I agree with bob a. Creative solutions to salary pressures are a very good start. Also, I feel that inefficiencies and mismanagement should be looked at. There is a lot of “fat” in this town which could be trimmed down. Unfortunately, changing the processses that are in place can be a tough thing to do.

I do not support selling off properties or cutting services significantly. We need to see the forest for the trees. Compromising on the things that make our community strong and desireable is very short sited. We could wake up one day and find our property values tanking.

4 Al Hamilton January 20, 2010 at 9:04 AM

Mimi

I agree that there is a lot of fat and inefficiency in Town Government. I will be writing about some of this in the future. It would be very desirable to get a salary freeze out of the teachers (they did not participate in picking up more of the benefits costs that some of the other unionized groups in town did last year). However, we need to be realistic, the Teachers Union is probably the most powerful union in the country. They make the Teamsters look like cub scouts. I have serious doubts that the current K-8 and Regional School Committees and Administration have the skills and will to achieve significant salary concessions and certainly not before the budget is voted on.

Our municipal buildings are part of the waste that is found in town government. Over the last 10 years we have spend about half a million of your tax dollars on the Fayville site and all we have to show for it is a dilapidated building with a condemned second floor that houses 2 or 3 town employees. We have spent nearly a million of your tax dollars on the Arts Center and all we have to show for it is a dilapidated building that houses a few town employees and costs $1500 per week to heat. The Arts Center is a money pit that could swallow million dollar bills for the foreseeable future. I want to spend that money on teachers and firefighters.

5 Mimi22 January 20, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Al,

Let’s be clear, THE ARTS CENTER IS NOT DILAPIDATED. And making spurious statements like that does not help your case. It is an older building that has been in need of some attention for decades. It is FINALLY getting some, thanks to the CPA and, since the improvements, has cost half as much to heat. A second phase of improvements has been approved, funded, are almost underway and will make the building not only even more energy efficient, but far more attractive. The building houses two town departments; Recreation and Municipal Facilities; along with the Arts Center which is a VERY valuable asset to our community. Finally, you cannot put a dollar value on what it contributes to our architectural landscape. Also, I would like to see proof of your “nearly a million of your tax dollars ” spent on the Arts Center.

I don’t know a lot about Fayville Hall, but my understanding is that the town has spoken on that topic and wants the building preserved. In my book, that means that any more money spent on plans to tear it down is just more money wasted. I would like to see proof of the “half a million of your tax dollars” which has been spent there.

This town has consistently shown overwhelming support for preserving its rural New England character and that includes its older buildings. I fear you will not emerge victor from an attack on what this community holds so dear.

6 Al Hamilton January 20, 2010 at 10:04 AM

I chose my words carefully and said that the money was wasted on the site. If you look at the money that has been wasted at the Fayville site it includes:

Over $300k in design fees for a senior center that was doomed by septic issues.
Several 10’s of thousands of dollars wasted on engineering studies before we spent the 300k
Roughly 10 k to tear down the condemned garage.
About 30k to deal with mold. Which will come back because the cesspool that serves the building is about 15 ft from the rubble foundation.
About 200k+ to buy the white house next to the Fayville Hall
Several 10’s of thousands to demolish the white house.

There is actually a lot more but I just cant remember it. We are facing a financial crisis in town govt., we can keep our inefficient buildings or we can keep teachers and police officers. I know which I prefer. Perhaps your priorities are different it is your right.

As for the Arts Center I stand by my statement that it will make the Fayville site look like a bargain. Got any idea what it will take to remove the lead paint in the building? As for the windows I encourage any taxpayer to go to the Arts center and look at the job that was done. In my opinion it was very poor.

7 Mimi22 January 21, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Actually, Mr. Hamilton, I do not need to guess. I happen to know about lead paint requirements and they do not coincide with your doom and gloom predictions. Lead paint is not a concern unless it is in a dwelling structure housing children under the age of 6. Even then, it only needs to be abated, not removed. A building such as the Arts Center can do just fine with the presence of lead paint as long as reasonable maintenance measures are taken to assure that is not allowed to flake or be ingested over a period of time by a child under the age of 6.

As for the windows, I have seen them. They were skillfully done, came in under the approved budget, the occupants are very happy with the results and our Facilities Manger reports a significant decrease in heating costs this year, even with the windows only partially completed.

So, let me understand, the money you claim was spent at the Fayville Hall “site” as you say, actually has not been spent on Fayville Hall. That the town spent $300K+ in design fees on a project, which the residents would not approve, has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the cost of keeping the building. It speaks to the high cost of not listening to taxpayers who clearly vote their insistence on preserving historic properties. By your own numbers, Fayville Hall has actually cost $30K to resolve a reasonable problem, which you cannot prove will recur.

$200K for a house in Fayville seems like a reasonable investment and cannot be lumped into the cost of “keeping Fayville Hall.” Property was purchased and is now owned by the town. That can be undone by selling the property.

So what we are left with is #1 – town mismanagement of a building project and #2 – your exaggerated claim that the Arts Center could cost lots more money in the future.

I vote to keep the Arts Center and to ask for a report on how Fayville Hall could be put to better use, including the costs of any reasonable improvements. I am not convinced that Fayville Hall can be salvaged from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of the Town, but I respect the neighborhood’s wish to see it preserved and would support efforts to do so.

My opinion is that the town can manage for a short period of time with “creative” staffing of its departments, but our history, once demolished, is gone FOREVER and the town will not be the better for it.

8 Al Hamilton January 21, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Mimi:

One thing I do agree with you on is that Fayville Hall has suffered decades of neglect. Maintenance is almost the first line that is cut in any operating budget and it is apparent in this building. That is one reason why I lobbied for years and finally succeeded in setting up an explicit building maintenance fund which is replenished by a warrant article to provide steady multi year funding for the capital upkeep of town buildings.

That being said, Fayville Hall is, in my opinion, not worth saving.

There is standing water at times in the basement (not a surprise when the cesspool is about 15 feet from the foundation and it’s fluid level is feet above the foundation floor. Yes, I do my due diligence)

The site has serious septic limitations that will require us to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars when the cesspool inevitably fails.

The second floor is condemned as structurally unsound.

The exterior is in mediocre condition.

The mold problem will return it is just a matter of time.

The building is occupied by only 2 full time employees and is used by the cable committee and they could be housed elsewhere.

There are historic buildings owned by the town (eg Town Hall) that are an important part of the fabric of this community and should be preserved. Fayville Hall, in my opinion is not one of them. You may prefer to lay a teacher or firefighter off to preserve what, in my opinion is a rotting hulk, but I must respectfully disagree. I think our first priority should be to care for, educate, and protect people.

9 Mimi22 January 21, 2010 at 12:58 PM

I may agree with you regarding Fayville Hall. It might be beyond saving at this point, but there is quite a bit of history attached to that poor old building and it would be as sad to see it go as it might be expensive to see it stay. I defer to the rest of my fellow taxpayers on that.

Let’s not, however, lump all our older town buildings together in this discussion. The Arts Center is nowhere near the end of its usable life and is still a useful member of our inventory of town buildings.

As for our teachers and police officers, I don’t minimize the value of any one of them, but consolidating manpower temporarily to get through a (hopefully) temporary hardship is not going to turn our children into dunces or cause crime to run rampant through our streets. I support a hold on raises to keep positions. I feel that a lot of management positions could be trimmed as well. I would rather see us temprorarily make due than to permanently eliminate a valuable piece of our history. That is my opinion and those are my priorities. I don’t think I am alone.

10 Al Hamilton January 21, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Mimi

Let’s agree to disagree on the Arts Center. I for one would like to get an estimate of what it would take to modernize the building. My suspicion is that it is a very large number that will leave us with a dysfunctional building but I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

If you think there are other places in the budget to cut that are a lower priority in your view could you be more specific. Everything is being looked at. I intend to focus on a number of specific practices that I think are inefficient or wasteful in the next 2 months. Your observations about specific things you would like to improve or eliminate would add to the debate.

11 Mimi22 January 22, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Al,

You won’t like my opinion on tax cuts. I am not convinced that they are necessary OR advisable. I believe the solution starts with people adjusting their sense of entitlement and living within, if not below, their means.

My family lives in a well-appointed home that is under 3000 square feet. We do not own a 60″ plasma TV, nor do we have a family room with cathedral ceilings that costs a bundle to heat and cool every year. We don’t even have air conditioning and manage quite well. Some of us share a bathroom – GASP!!! We do not drive enormous luxury cars, nor do we trade them in every three years to keep up with the latest model. We are a one-income family but can afford our property taxes every year and could afford an incremental increase this year as well. I have little or no patience for people who insist on living in $700K, $800K, $900K, $1.5M homes and have a problem paying their property taxes because of a downturn in the economy. A 5% property tax increase on a $700K home amounts to $0.71 per $1000.00 of house value, which amounts to $497 for the year or roughly $42.00 per month. Let me ask you this, how much did that family with the $700K house spend last year on a new plasma TV? On car payments for their two new luxury vehicles? For a new Iphone? For one for each of their kids? On a European vacation? On a huge gas bill for their gas-guzzling SUV’s? For dry cleaning? For their house keeper? Better yet, for their daily cups of coffee? The cost of any one of these luxuries could cover an increase in property taxes and proper town management could funnel that money where it is needed – to those who are on a fixed income during this economic downturn, to those who have lost their jobs and CANNOT pay their mortgage or property taxes, to sustaining town services to maintain property values for ALL of us. To improved town infrastructure and facilities and facilities maintenance, which this town desperately needs, which would cost far less in this economic climate and which would put people who need jobs, back to work.

Let’s face it, we are a town of “have’s” and “have-not’s.” I consider myself one of the “have’s” The role of government is to act in the best interests of the community as a whole because individuals cannot be trusted to act for the greater good. My suggestion is that property tax percentages should be incremental. Those in enormous, high value homes should bear more of the tax burden. If nothing else, maybe that would make some people think twice before buying a house they cannot afford (because if you cannot easily afford your property taxes I have news for you – you live in a house you cannot afford) and maybe even lower the demand for “McMansions” that waste natural resources and blight the environment.

We all have to start thinking differently about how we live and what the actual difference is between “need” and “want.” What is the definition of “waste?” Then we will be talking about REAL fiscal responsibility, because fiscal responsibility cannot exist without social and environmental responsibility. And, as a special bonus, we might be teaching our children a far more valuable lesson than how to work their Iphone; sending them into the world as better and more responsible adults.

Maybe I am wrong, but it makes sense to me.

See, I told you you wouldn’t like it! LOL!!!

12 Al Hamilton January 22, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Mimi:

I actually agree with about 2/3 of what you have said, particularly about the virtues of living modestly and within your means. The problem is that for a significant number of households in town their means have been reduced beyond anything that could have been expected.

For the record, I am not advocating a tax cut this year (unless you also consider the refunding the money that was over-collected due to the telecoms suit a cut). I am advocating no levy increase which means that the town would raise a few hundred thousand dollars more in taxes than it raised last year due to new growth but individual taxpayers would pay about the same amount as they paid last year.

Your philosophy about living modestly and not having a sense of entitlement has to apply to town government as well. I am afraid that our town feels it is entitled to hand out raises every year and provide ever more expensive benefits packages with no consideration of the impact on the folks providing the funds. After 10 years of serving on financial committees in town I am afraid that there is a persistent and stubborn resistance to change and to the adoption of new methods of doing business that would be more efficient.

My frustration with the glacial pace of change has led me to the conclusion I have to go public and shine a very public spotlight on things that I think are wasteful. I encourage you to get out your spotlight too.

I do disagree with your characterization that the choice is paying for a tax increase or a 60” plasma TV. I think you underestimate the impact the sever downturn has had on some families in town that are having trouble making ends meet whether they live in 800k homes or 200k homes. Regardless, they are our neighbors and we need to look out for them. The property tax is a regressive tax (as is the sales tax which the legislature generously increased) and I don’t think we should be increasing this regressive burden at this time.

Mimi – I enjoy your posts and applaud your involvement. We need a lot more discussion and transparency as we struggle to find the right solutions for our town.

13 Mimi22 January 22, 2010 at 11:16 AM

I agree with you, Al, especially with the things you are frustrated about. And maybe I am overestimating the situation in which many residents find themselves. I think the reality might be somewhere in between, but I know that I live MUCH more simply than the vast majority of my neighbors and seem to feel no indignation at the paying of my taxes or the suggestion of an increase. Maybe it is about perspective.

14 Sue January 20, 2010 at 11:50 AM

I wouldn’t be happy if someone asked me to work without a raise, I don’t think it is fair to eliminate the teacher’s negociated salary increase just because it might be the easiest solution for the residents.

15 bob a January 20, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Maybe you would be happier laid off?

Many of us in the dreaded private sector have not had raises in years but rather pay cuts and layoffs.

This is not about happiness, rather solutions, and one solution is layoffs so some can have raises. Another solution is pay cuts so we can retain jobs without layoffs.

Both solutions are easy to implement.

I would rather cut pay and retain jobs because I feel that is in the best interest of both the town employees and the town.

Just in case you haven’t been following the unemployment rate, 1 out of every 10 people is officialy unemployed. These figures do not show the real unemployment rate that some speculate is 15-20%.

16 Al Hamilton January 20, 2010 at 12:52 PM

There is a very easy answer if you are unhappy about working without a raise. Take your considerable talents and go out and find a better job. If you do then you will be paid what your services are worth and you should be happy. If you can’t find a better job then you are being paid what your services are worth and you should be happy. Right now there are 100 highly qualified people that would love to have your job and would probably be very happy to do it for less than you are making now.

By the way, the “real rate of unemployment” which includes discouraged workers and those who have had their hours cut back but not those who have been forced to take lower paying jobs is 17%

17 Heather January 21, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Tough economic times mean tough decisions, for EVERYONE; including unions and including those in BOTH the public and the private sectors.

We’re all in this together folks and sacrifices will be necessary for the greater good.

18 John January 21, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Right. So history aside, let’s stop dumping money into Fayville Village Hall, tear it down, and sell that lot along with the empty lot we paid just about 300,00 for.

The Arts Center…….I think it really needs a FULL evaluation to determine costs of making the heating system efficient, as well as any structural problems. THEN determine if it could be repaired or should be sold off. Nope, I’m not into art, but it seems lots of folks are.

Selling Fire Station 2 would be a dumb thing to do. It NEEDS an approved septic system installed. I would love to see firefighters back in there but that won’t happen in my lifetime, so at least let’s maintain it and continue the current use it sees.

Neary……I bet it still needs work. Enrollment is down, the schools could actually be consolidated to SAVE MONEY. As for selling that property, nope. It’s in a wet area and you can bet that if it’s use were to change, lots of updates in the septic as well as other areas would have to be made. The Town would never be able to get the estimated (and I use that term loosely) worth of the building from private sale.

19 John January 21, 2010 at 3:27 PM

My zero key is not working well…that should read THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on the Delarda property next to Fayville Village Hall

20 Look Harder January 22, 2010 at 11:14 AM

I think they are looking to cut in the wrong places, Schools, Public Safety and Public Works?? What are they doing?? Why are Schools, Public Safety and Public Works on the cutting board?? Are these folks really being ask to reduce their budgets by either level dollar or a 3% cut?? The Board of Selectmen better start making the tough choices and start eliminating or reducing the things we don’t ALL USE!! The way I see it, if you truly need to make cuts, don’t cut the essential services WE ALL USE! Those services I talked about should be last on anyone’s list because they are the core and backbone of our community. Please keep Southborough strong!

21 John Boiardi January 23, 2010 at 5:19 PM

What pray tell would you cut?

22 John January 22, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Southborough, as with any other city or town, makes cuts the same way. Go for the throat.

23 Al Hamilton January 22, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Look:

Unfortunately, those functions you named account for almost 85% of our operating budget if you exclude debt which we can’t cut.

I agree with you that we need to preserve the jobs of the line service providers in these functions to the greatest extent practical. Teachers, Teacher Aides, Figherfighers, EMT’s, Police Officers, and Road Crews. Each of these departments has some inefficient and ineffective practices that need reform and potentially some things that should not be done in hard times.

Outside of these departments a hard look need to be taken. Some departments (eg recreation, building inspectors) pay for themselves others need to be consolidated and potentially reduced. I am not in favor of an across the board 3% cut but making the hard decisions about what is really necessary in hard times.

If you have any candidates please nominate them. I am sure they will be given serious consideration.

24 Sue Grinblatas January 25, 2010 at 4:56 PM

As most of us consumers of products, gas, utilities and services will tell you, costs are transferred to the users of the above. Like everything else, the cost of running the schools does not increase by only 2 1/2 % per year. Yet we in MA are tied to the magical number limiting our tax increases to no more than 2 1/2 % per year. Try living on no more than a 2 1/2 % increase for years and years, and you will find you are slipping more and more behind. So, if we want to keep our schools and the rest of our town from slipping more and more behind, logic dictates that we will have to pony up more than 2 1/2 % increase in taxes every year. And like everything else, some years will be more than 2 1/2 %, such as now when costs are soaring and/or large outlays are required. How much has your cable bill gone up this year? More than 3%? How much has your food bill gone up this year? More than 20%. How about alcohol? Cigarettes? Airfare? Gasoline in the past few years? We’re willing to pay the increases, chalking it all up to “necessities”. Aren’t schools a necessity? Fire? Police? So why aren’t we willing to pay more for them when their cost increases?

We can just say that times are hard in the private sector so why not in the public sector, and thus teachers should be laid off as well. Yes, we will save money. Also, our schools will be greatly diminished as will Southborough children’s education (which should be of concern to all of us, not just those with children in the schools, just as the Sr. Ctr. is a concern to all residents). And if our schools are diminished, our property values will follow right along with them.

Pay now, or pay later.

25 Al Hamilton January 26, 2010 at 12:41 PM

Sue:

In 2009 the Consumer Price Index went down by 0.4%. Since 2001 the average yearly increase in Consumer Prices was 2.46%. (Source US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Since 2004 the K-8 Population has declined by 71 students (about 5%) or about 3+ classrooms. The best data I have seen suggests that this trend will continue.

In spite of this decline we have added staff to the K-8 system over that period.

No one wants to operate a school system that is second rate. Southborough taxpayers have been exceptionally generous even in the face of declining enrollments.

My goal in asking the question of whether we need 4 schools is driven by my desire to make sure we have the financial resources to pay teachers.

We can’t just shrug and say oh well we just have to pay. We need to ask the hard questions and make the difficult decisions. There is real economic hardship in the Commonwealth and the country(there are 50,000 fewer jobs in Ma now than in 1999).

26 School Mom January 27, 2010 at 8:39 AM

Al,

I finally have to say that after reading your numerous comments about enrollment, I think the numbers have to be looked at more closely. You’ve stated that there is 71 fewer students. You can’t equate that number into actual classrooms. That number represents students enrolled in K-8. This year there is a total of 73 classrooms. You need to average the 71 students across 73 classrooms ….. now that doesn’t look as if the enrollment is dropping dramatically. Also, if you are stating an increase in ‘teaching staff’….that doesn’t necessarily translate into classroom teachers. There has been an increase need in Special Education, Reading Specialists, Speech and Language, Behavioral Specialists, Occupational Therapists; I believe all the ‘teachers’ that are in our system is what makes Southborough’s school system one I’m proud to be involved in.

27 Al Hamilton January 27, 2010 at 10:56 AM

Those who are unable to conceive of a change in the status quo should stop blaming our funding woes on Special Ed students. We have a systemic problem not a special ed problem. Blaming those students is shameful.

If you are unwilling to conceive of a system with less than 73 classrooms then yes we need 73 teachers. My point is that we could have maintained the same system wide student to teacher ratio with 3 fewer classrooms. It’s just math.

How far would the student population have to decline before you would be willing to conceive of a system with less than 73 classrooms? Another 50? 100? 200?

I know that over the years while the population has been declining a number of specialists and I believe we have added 1 or 2 teachers as well but I would have to dig into the details.

Only about 1/3 of the households in town have children in the schools. I want us to maintain a strong school system and a strong consensus that we are providing quality, cost effective services. That means facing some difficult decisions as our town copes with extraordinarily high levels of debt that is largely falling on folks who don’t have children in the schools and was encumbered based on school populations that never materialized.

In an era when sustainability is the watch word we have to recognize that we have an unsustainable financial model for our school system. In order to continue providing quality education we need face this squarely.

28 School Mom January 27, 2010 at 12:24 PM

I hope you are not implying that I am blaming Special Ed on our budget problems. I listed out those specialized teachers because so many students benefit from them….and it makes it one of the reasons why we live in Southborough. The ‘math’ just is not that simple. What I mean, if there has been a decline in student population of 71 students that number needs to be spread across nine grades….that may mean a difference of 1 or 2 students per grade….you cannot equate that number into ‘classrooms’. Our school administration works very hard to ‘balance out’ student teacher ratios. There have been many years when one grade will ‘lose’ a teacher in order for another grade to ‘gain’ a teacher. I believe the School Committee have stated that the first year there would be a significant drop in enrollment is 2014. Looking at the SC presentation on “Housing” there are many details in there that need to be looked at more closely before a decision is made…..how are lunches, gym space, specialist classrooms going to handled? Sometimes it’s the ‘behind-the-scenes’ impact that may not be apparent to someone that does not have someone in the system. Some might consider these things insignificant but to an educator the ‘whole picture’ needs to be looked at.
I don’t agree with just handing money over to the Administration. They need to be held accountable for the budgets and some tough decisions need to be made, especially this year.

I’m not sure who would answer this question but if the School Committee approves a 3.63% increase what does that translate into for a tax increase per household? I know I’m not looking at the entire Town budget. I think it would be helpful if residents can get a better understanding of how the school system effects their actual tax bills?

29 Al Hamilton January 27, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Mom

All of the school population numbers I have quoted came from the Superintendent.

Schools, including debt account for over 75% of all town spending. The K-8 budget is the largest budget in Town it dwarfs the operations under the control of the Board of Selectmen (who have no authority over the schools). It makes you wonder how the School committees can run the schools when the meet only once a month when the Board of Selectmen meet weekly.

Now for the “funny math” if everything else was unchanged a 3.63% increase in the budget would yield about a 2.7% increase in taxes. However, everything else is not equal. We also have to make up for a $460,000 shortfall in state aide for special ed. So, if nothing else increased the 3.63% increase in the budget will cause property taxes to increase about 3.7%. (Prop 2.5 override territory)

You should be asking what is in the 3.63% and the answer is the biggest item by far is raises for everybody.

As for the so called School Committee report on 3 vs 4 schools:

On May 13 the K-8 appointed a sub committee to review the 3-4 school issue. This committee has never held a public meeting. All their meetings are subject to the open meeting laws. In Dec a preliminary report was issued. I can only surmise that the committee met in secret to develop and vote on the report. It certainly looks to me like a thin coat of whitewash was applied to the issue and the can was kicked down the road in hopes that it would disappear.

I have been a consistent supporter of school budgets for the last 10 years. I have defended them in numerous forums where the School Committee did not even bother to show up. I am very disappointed by this lack of transparency and murky dealing on a very important issue which deserves a very public vetting.

If, after a through and public vetting of the issue, the facts indicate that we really can’t operate a quality school system in a 3 school footprint I will be the first to say so. But this sort of political whitewash indicates to me that the K-8 School Committee has lost it’s creditability to objectively assess this situation. I think the task should be assigned to a different group.

30 Sue Grinblatas February 1, 2010 at 9:49 PM

Massachusetts cost of living average increase 3 % or more over last several years.
Massachusetts/NH urban CPI over 3% as well

Teacher raises in 3 year contract Yr. 1 – 1%, Yr. 2 – 2%, Yr. 3 – 3% = avg. 2%

http://www.mma.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1524&Itemid=88
http://www.bls.gov/ro1/9150.htm

31 John Boiardi January 26, 2010 at 4:59 PM

If you force a large portion of the 900 senior homeowners out of Southborough because of high real estate taxes, what will that do to your precious property values? It might affect the trangents that move in town for a four year stay with their jobs , then move out leaving those who stay with debt for the unused school rooms, unused or underutilized walking pathes ($$$ Chestnut Hill $$$). The way things are going it is Pay Now AND pay later.

32 Kathleen Polutchko January 28, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Al,
Let me start with acknowledging that since I have been involved in town politics you have been a stauch supporter of the schools and we greatly appreciate it. I have not missed a School Committee meeting since I was elected in 2008 so I know that you have not attended one of our meetings in the last 2 years, therefore please do not criticize us for not attending meetings we may not have even known about. You raise such great points and ask such great questions – if you would leave out the incendiary remarks we could have a really great debate. I am sorry you have so little faith in your School Committee’s ability to do just about anything. If you read no further, please at least realize that the School Committee’s number one priority is to maintain class sizes and retain reasonable student:teacher ratios. If I could save teachers by closing Neary, don’t you think I would be the first one voting for it?
As for some of your other remarks, since you are not at our meetings, I assume that you watch them religiously on cable. Please pay closer attention. On May 13th we specifically did NOT form a subcommittee – we organized a fact-finding group. We were very clear about that. We did not want to introduce opinions or agendas – we just gathered facts. Such a group is not subjected to Open Meeting Laws. If we had formed a subcommittee and had to post every meeting, given the number of people we involved in the process, it would have taken a year to have all our meetings and we felt we owed ourselves and the town an answer as soon as possible. There was nothing sneaky or clandestine about it. Not only did we present the results at one of your meetings at your request, we also presented them at an open, posted school committee meeting. There was nothing “murky” about it.
We spent HOURS on current enrollments, enrollment projections, current town build-out plans, real estate trends, Board of Health septic waivers, touring every corner of every school, meeting with every principal regarding facility requirements for the services that we are state and federally mandated to provide, Mass Building Authority loan restrictions, and the list goes on but you get the idea. The numbers do not allow for even considering closing Neary until 2014 – only then can we possibly move TWO GRADES into another school/schools (assuming enrollments continue to decline) I would be happy to go through the presentation with you again. We think we exhausted all the “what if” scenarios, but if you think you have any creative solutions we would be delighted to entertain them at any school committee meeting or even at the posted School Budget Informational Forums on Feb. 1 and Feb.2. If you would like to form a committee of your own to investigate this issue, that is what a democracy is all about. I think you will come to the same conclusions we did, but boy, will you learn a lot! However, you and all the other tax payers can at least feel secure that this isn’t an issue that will be pushed aside. We religiously go over enrollments and trends at every school committee meeting. That will continue.
Lastly, a few corrections. First, my understanding is that the 3.63% increase has already taken into account the $460,000 shortfall. If it weren’t for that shortfall, we would be at a 0% increase (or close to it) school budget proposal. You can thank the state for the increase. We tried to offset it but the losses will be painful.
Second, going back to our mission of maintaining class size. Don’t you think I would be in favor of temporarily freezing the teachers’ salaries instead of laying them off? We are going to lose a handful of really great teachers based on seniority and that is tragic. But that is the system that is in place and our hands are tied until next year. That being said, I will leave you with an inflammatory remark. When the private sector was booming and the average private sector raise was 10% and people were bringing home 6-figure bonuses, I did not see anyone stand up at Town Meeting and demand we increase the teachers’ salaries. So when private sector was getting 10%, they were getting 1%. Please don’t be hypocritical. Teacher compensation is a week-long seminar in itself. I won’t discuss it on a blog.
On a final note, please remember that those of us on committees are all volunteers. We have jobs and families and personal crises. We are all involved because we want to do what is right by the town – short-term and long-term. Please show the same respect for your peers when you post as you do when we speak in person.
Kathleen Harragan Polutchko
Southborough School Committee
Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee

33 involvedparent January 28, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Terrific response Kathleen!

34 Al Hamilton January 28, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Kathleen:

I don’t need lessons in civility from you when one of your fellow board members called me up at work and swore at me non stop for 5 minutes for exercising my rights as a citizen.

I regret that I do not share your assessment that you formed a “study group” that was exempt from the Open Meeting Law. The minutes of your meetings, approved by a vote of your board reflect the intent to form a committee even going so far as to name members and a chair. Perhaps we should let the Secretary of State or the AG determine which of us is correct. I was hoping to avoid this step.

I am perhaps most disappointed in your boards performance because I did a fair amount of analysis on this issue before I ever asked the question in public. I repeatedly asked both the superintendent and your chair to be notified when your committee met so I could meet with you and discuss what I had found and be given the courtesy of a discussion about an important issue. My requests were repeatedly ignored. At the May 13 meeting it was implied that I, as a member of Advisory “Had an agenda”.

I do have an agenda, it is to make sure that all of our tax dollars are being spent effectively. I am very concerned that town wide our occupancy patterns are a gross waste of public funds. If it is possible to use Neary as a municipal facility the opportunity exists to save 100’s of thousands in operating expenses and free up over a million dollars in capital. I think this is worthy of a full public vetting.

I regret that the School Committee appears to have an agenda as well. It like most of Town Government places a priority on the status quo and the avoidance of difficult decisions.

Kathleen, you are one of 5 people that is responsible for the largest budget by far in Town Government, your board will again this year miss it’s mandated deadline for budget submission Jan 30 (Code of the Town of Southborough Section 9-14). I regret that it is my opinion that the School Committees would rather continue in their cozy ways and treat the taxpayers as an unlimited pot of money than dig in and deal with some of the difficult financial issues facing our community.

I am sorry if you don’t find me collegial enough. I tried that for 10 years and have been very disappointed. I intend to focus a very public light on things that I think need addressing. As Truman said “If you cant stand the heat…”

35 Sue Grinblatas January 28, 2010 at 5:57 PM

Thank you, Kathleen, for your tireless work on School Committee. You have done an excellent job of trying to keep parents and the schools informed, as well as learning the extensive body of material involved in determining school budgets. As someone who knows you to be an extremely intelligent, educated, and thoughtful person, I trust you when you say that this issue has been thoroughly investigated and that your conclusions are warranted. Unpleasant as they may be.
I, too, recognize that Mr. Hamilton’s remarks are becoming increasingly personal, derogatory, and hostile, as he engages more and more residents who disagree with him. His response to you full of irrelevant and vitriolic remarks does not help to serve his argument. While our children’s education and our tax dollars are emotional topics, I respectfully request that Mr. Hamilton and others don’t try to shout their detractors down here or in any other forum (e.g., as we’ve seen time and again at Town Meeting).
Susan L. Grinblatas
Resident
Attorney
Finn SOS Chair
Parent of children at Finn, Woodward, and Neary

36 Mimi22 January 28, 2010 at 6:26 PM

I too have to thank Kathleen for posting. I appreciate the facts you presented as well as the perspective you bring to the dicussion. You can never stress too much that volunteers in this town are just that and deserve respect.

I am afraid Mr. Hamilton that you are losing your arguement here on the basis of credibility and style. I have known you to be a thorough investigator and a persuasive presenter, but your posts here do you no justice. In our exchange you presented erroneous information regarding the need for removal of lead paint from the Arts Center Building, as well as highly inflated estimates of the money spent to date on certain historic properties and “predicions” for the future. If your postition is valid and your intentions benificent, you should not need to use hyperbole, exaggeration or falsehoods to make your case. Also, the tone of your replies is becoming hostile. Another perfect example of how NOT to illicit trust and respect.

Finally, the accusations you are making and the argument you seem intent on perpetuating seem ill suited to posting on a local blog. Let’s say I think you have chosen an inappropriate forum. Start a petition, Meet with the Board of Selectmen or start a formal investigation if you feel the Board will not address the issue properly. If your concerns are valid and your solutions viable, this is hardly the place to see action taken.

I am very sorry that you were contacted by someone at your office. That is uncalled for, unacceptable and a perfect reason why I do not post by my full name.

37 Kathleen Polutchko January 28, 2010 at 6:56 PM

OK, Al. We are done. Your posts are now just plain venemous and non-productive. I am happy to respond to comments from anyone who has a valid concern, issue or request for information.
But since you started a smear campaign, in regard to the School Committee member who called you up at work to swear at you, might I point out that she was responding to your request that she get back to you? I believe she went off record when she started swearing, so that was not official School Committee swearing. It was inappropriate to bring it up in a public forum. Five full minutes of swearing, huh? Quite frankly, given the circumstances, I admire her restraint.

38 Mark January 25, 2010 at 7:58 PM

None of this is easy, and I have kids “early” in the system. My family moved to Southborough in large part because of its commitment to public education. Still, let’s not sugar coat the reality–union-negotiated contracts and municipal benefits, including retirement, medical, vacation, etc., are are crippling our budgets,

These days, town employees not only earn private sector salaries, they also gain incredible benefits–who among the private sector gets paid time off for donating blood? Who gets similar retirement contributions, or compatible health care benefits?

Many of our townspeople have lost their jobs over the past couple of years. Countless others have had counted-upon bonuses eliminated, salaries slashed, and benefits minimized. Yet amid this economic plummet, we haven’t heard anything from the town’s unions to suggest they’re willing to help shoulder the new economic burden.

It’s time for the unions to step up. Contractual raises, even if agreed-upon in better economic times, are ridiculous. Let’s all avoid layoffs, and the threat of larger school class sizes and diminished town services.

When Southborugh has been able, we’ve supported generous teacher and municipal employee salary increases: now it’s time for the unions to help the town in its critical time of need.

39 Heather January 26, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Very well said Mark.

40 mike fuce January 28, 2010 at 8:08 PM

I think the men have put it nicely. I think Kathaleen your post it very hotile and if it were posted on company time you would be reprimenaded. Al has done a good job. I have three children in school in southbour and am very happy with the services but I am very dispeased with the unions, the benefits and now salaries part time employment recieves. this includes the town hall and those who receive benefits working for the town. Every benefit in my present position has been decreased, there has not been a rais in three years, and there was no MIP this year even though I worked hard and many hours and produced as much as last year. I personally will submit my recommendations on all this to the Selectmen on Monday and we will see what happens. Thank you for your service as well. I have been there and done it.

41 Sue Grinblatas February 1, 2010 at 9:31 PM

I would hope that the children who are products of Southborough schools will have better spelling, editing, and grammar skills. And learn about sexist remarks.

42 mike February 1, 2010 at 10:34 PM

It’s too bad that chip wont come off your shoulder Sue – actually seems like a log. There really was nothing intended by the men comment except the two men had good points prior to Kathleen’s, and they are men so I addressed them as such but maybe in your circles it is not PC to call men, men? Kathleen has some great info and points as well – good job Ladies if that helps. And my fingers are too big for those blackberry keys and did not have spell check or gramar app installed – my apologies. I guess I could list my credentials as well but really dont feel the need to, impress anyone? Not that they would anyway. I just chimed in with my two cents worth as a parent – not meaning to offend anyone, if I did consider this my open and public apology to you. I did not realize you did not consider personal attacks as attacking those with disabilities – big thumbs. You should really check that chip before you run on — it also is unbecoming of a lady to shout so loud at those of us men with big thumbs. Have a good one and thank you for your feedback. Let’s hope the civility, respect and public discourse is more admirable than what is displayed here by us all – men and women. (I am not certain the spelling and grammer is correct there either – I am certain my kids could do better :).

43 Sue Grinblatas February 2, 2010 at 7:18 AM

My apologies, Mike, for my inappropriate and nonsubstantive response to your original post.

44 Kathleen Polutchko January 29, 2010 at 12:04 AM

“The men”? Mike, I don’t think this boils down to a gender issue.

Technically speakiing, being involved in discussions like these is my “company time”. I am sorry you feel like I was the only one being hostile. I think we have all been affected by this economic downturn, but it is my job as a school committee member to advocate for the schools and do what I think is best for the people of Southborough. – children and adults. Please keep in mind that if the state had not cut our Chapter 70 funding by almost $500,000 in the middle of the year, this would be a completely different conversation. So I sympathize with your situation – I am in a similar one. But there are many factors involved including disappearing state reimbursements, skyrocketing health care costs, regular inflation, unfunded state and federal mandates too numerous to mention, and ridiculous gas prices that seem to drive the price of absolutely everything up, but those prices never seem to come down when gas prices come down. Please be fair and direct your frustration to those components as well. Union contracts are just a piece of the pie. The quality of our teachers is what makes our school system so desirable and I will fight to maintain that quality, no matter what “the men” say. I firmly believe that is in the long-term best interest of our town.
So aside from letting us and the Selectmen know your position (and we hear you, or I wouldn’t even be entertaining a budget that slashes 10 postitions), please also write our local state Senator and state Representatives and go right up the food chain. Voter lobbying of our state legislators actually resulted in the state reinstating the regional transportation cuts to the Algonquin budget. If anyone is interested in those names and addresses I can include them in a future post.

45 susan January 29, 2010 at 12:28 AM

To Kathleen’s point, here is how to get in touch with our state legislators: http://www.mysouthborough.com/2009/01/14/got-something-to-say-how-to-get-in-touch-with-your-legislators/

46 Al Hamilton January 29, 2010 at 3:37 PM

I appreciate the dedication of all School Committee members and the time that they devote to our community. Whether I agree with you or not I respect your commitment to public service.

Over the last 10 years I have primarily been involved in financial review boards (Capital Budget and Advisory). My principle interaction with the School Committees has been through the budget processes and discussion of management issues. While I believe that all involved care deeply about providing a quality education for the children of our community, as do I, our School Committees and our School Administration have significantly underperformed in the area of financial and managerial oversight. Examples include:

1. Failure to develop budgets on time as required by Town By Law
2. Failure to collect rents from Northborough for their portion of the Superintendents office located in a Southborough Facility. (Northborough had no difficulty forcing Southborough to pay $80,000+ in building permit, fees and details associated with the Algonquin project.)
3. Failure to charge market rates for after school and Pre K programs which compete with local businesses thereby using tax dollars paid by those businesses to foster their competition
4. Failure for nearly a decade to implement a simple electronic data interchange with the Town Accountants office that forced the Town Accountant to bear the costs of manually reentering
5. Failure to win benefits concessions similar to the ones the Board of Selectmen won from Town Employees. This leaves the Selectmen weakened as the Town Employees can now say “We gave now it is the schools turn”
6. Failure to win wage concessions similar to the ones gained by the Board of Selectmen.
7. Failure, to date, to recommend a wage and salary freeze for non union employees which has, courageously, been done by the Board of Selectmen for municipal non union employees.

I recognize that those who wish to serve as School Committee members are often far more interested in the classroom than in the thorny issues of managing a multi million dollar enterprise. They are 2 different skills.

Even the Boston Globe, hardly a conservative bastion, has been beating the drum about the need for reform of public sector practices and in particular pay, work rules and benefits at both the state and local level (see today’s 1/29/10 lead editorial). The Globe recognizes that the current model is unsustainable. The School Committees and Administration need to focus as much attention on these pressing issues as the classroom.

If I have been shrill and alarmist it is not personal it is because the stakes are so high. Failure to make meaningful reform and address the critical financial and managerial challenges that face our schools will only feed the growing perception that our Schools are out of touch and indifferent to the plight of hard pressed tax payers. That in turn threatens the broad community consensus that has permitted us to operate a system that all of us can be justly proud of.

47 Kathleen Polutchko January 30, 2010 at 12:28 PM

“I recognize that those who wish to serve as School Committee members are often far more interested in the classroom than in the thorny issues of managing a multi million dollar enterprise. They are 2 different skills.”

Al, again, these are coming off as personal attacks.
I cannot imagine what you have seen in the past 10 years that must have you ready to tear your hair out. I was hesitant to get involved in this morass of government for just such reasons, but let me tell you what I have found out.
In my opinion, you can’t manage a school like you run a business. The “product” is different, the “customers” are different, the legality is like nothing I have ever seen. That opinion is based on my experience, which started with a management degree from MIT, employment with companies as large as Disney and IBM as well as small start-ups where I managed 7-figure accounts. I have been involved with SOS and all the great things they do since the day my kids started school here. My interest level increased which led me to my tenure as a substitute teacher in the Southborough schools. I have seen what these teachers and principals have to face everyday. When I voice an opinion it is an opinion based on being in the trenches, not as an outsider looking in. Do not tell me I do not have the necessary skills.
I sit on a school committee with Phds, economists, accountants and educators. We each bring a different perspective to the table. All are highly skilled.
I have a great respect for the current administration – many players of which are new in the last few years. There have been quite a few very positive changes and everyone I have encountered is proactive about thinking outside the box and they embrace innovation. Unfortunately, innovation usually takes money. Instead we deliberate about cutting text books, instructional material, technology and teachers. This is the economy we are in. The reason 9.55 people are going to join those already in the unemployment ranks is because we are specifically NOT being indifferent to the plight of the hard-pressed taxpayer.
As for your list, bring it to a school committee meeting and I will refute every one of them. I will not comment on your feelings of our inability to work with the unions. Dr. Gobron stated at the Budget Summit (you were there) that the unions want to be a part of the solution to our economic woes. The only chance we have of getting any kind of “concessions” is to work collaboratively with them. Enough said.

48 carrie alpert January 29, 2010 at 6:47 AM

good morning,
i am not about to get involved in the conversation about how the economy is affecting union contracts, my husbands business is union and we have our own issues separate from this discussion and this town.
What i would like, if someone has the time and the inclination to offer it to me is something concise to type up for my legislator in terms of “you are letting the future of our town down and not only will you have to pay for it in fiscally down the road by repairing the damage of losing the valuable teachers we have garnered but also the work that will have to be done to reteach and rehabilitate those children who have disconnected due to overcrowded classrooms” what i do not have are numbers and facts to present. Being present and aware of the spiral downward that is the natural occurance when the economy has taken such a beating is overwhelming;however educating our children should never be one of the areas we make such sacrifices on, to the point that as townspeople we will have to play catch up in years to come. To me it is akin to charging for something you cannot afford knowing that at some point the bill will come due–in this case the bill will be non adjusted, under educated children and burnt out teachers.

49 John Boiardi January 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Disastor planning. The town has a committee to deal with it. The state has MEMA and the Feds have FEMA. Lets pose a hypothetical. No one likes to respond to hypotheticals but let us suppose that Neary had a disaster that would close it ,even temporarily, such as frozen plumbing, heating failure, electrical failure, H1N1 quarinteen,whatever. From the posts I’ve read we would not be able to handle the students from Neary. The other three schools (empty rooms and all ) just would not be able to handle closing Neary. I don’t believe it. The school committee and the school administration would move students around the three schools and they would not miss a beat. Septic systems you say? The problem can be overcome. It would cost much but could be paid for via bonds spreading the costs over 10 or 20 years as opposed to the costs of the yearly operating budget to keep Neary as a school. We have yet to see specifics on why we can not consolidate our schools..

50 Kathleen Polutchko January 29, 2010 at 7:32 PM

Mr. Boiardi,
I am sure you have lived in Southbourough longer than any of us and I can completely understand the frustration you feel because you saw this town survive quite well for years with only 3 schools. Here are some numbers that may help you to understand the tricky situation we are in. The last time we had a 3-school model was in 2003-2004 (Finn, Neary and Trottier). Enrollment was 1,607. It is only 1,558 today, so where is the problem? When there was just Finn, Neary and Trottier, there were over 500 kids in each school. I wasn’t in the school system yet but I hear stories about art in the cart and minimal gym time and the such. Clearly it was painful enough to get town meeting to approve all this new debt for renovating schools.
The problem now is actually that we chose to renovate Woodward. That school is small enough that we can’t fit an additional grade into it until class sizes average 125. According to birth estimates and move-in adjustments, class sizes won’t be that small until way beyond 2017. The only way we can fit 500 kids in each school again is if we move the cental office out of Neary and put over 500 kids in there again and go back to the Finn, Neary, Trottier model. Unfortunately, Woodward can only be used for school purposes FOR 16 YEARS because the building was funded by Mass Building Authority funds. I don’t think the town has the ability to just pay off those loans 16 years early. So we must figure out how to live with Woodward. We own it as a school only. We can only go back to a 3-school model in the short term if one of those schools is Neary. That doesn’t get us to the solution you want.

As for the septic limitations we are legally mandated to abide by, we already have a waiver on Trottier and several sources have told us that there is no way to get that 720 number increased – we are already exceeding the guidelines.. If you have information from the Board of Health that refutes that, I would be earnestly interested in hearing it.
If there was a disaster and one of the schools burned down, it would be a horrible situation. Kids would be all over the place. Specials like art and music would have to be eliminated. The kids would without a doubt in my mind “skip a beat”. In a disastrous situation, we would all pull together and make it work, knowing it was a short-term situation. If, instead, that was our long-term model, in my opinion not a person in their right mind with kids would move to or stay in Southborough. I hope this explanation helps.

51 Heather January 29, 2010 at 1:09 PM

For what it’s worth, here are a few thoughts…

Shrinking enrollments may precipitate the need for consolidating classrooms, which makes sense. However, closing buildings and/or leveling them because they need work is foolish and wasteful.

Would you level your house because it needs a new septic system or has lead paint? No. You would fix the septic system or remove the lead paint.

Let’s not forget…enrollments will eventually climb and economic conditions will eventually improve and we’ll need more classroom space again.

Let’s look back…during the mid 70’s and early 80’s, cities and towns across MA closed smaller, older neighborhood schools and consolidated classrooms and created more regional class systems. The old school buildings were sold off (for a quick profit), some turned into private schools (who, with minimal investment, found the buildings quite servicable), some were turned into elderly or low income housing. Some towns used the old schools for extra municipal offices, which I’d say is smart. But in general they missed the boat and here’s why….

Enrollment eventually did climb again in the mid to late 80’s and more classrooms were needed. These same cities and towns couldn’t tap into those existing schools buildings that were already positioned quite nicely within neighborhoods throughout their community. So what did they do? They built new schools, and boy was that expensive. Oh and by the way…those old schools that the towns sold are still standing and are still serving their new purposes quite nicely, a testiment to solid turn of the century construction.

Let’s learn from the past.
Let’s not make the same costly mistakes.
Let’s use our current resources wisely.
Let’s take a long term approach and view of education and our town buildings/resources.
Let’s make existing buildings flexible so they can be mulipurpose facilities.
Let’s make maintenance of municipal buildings a priority.
Let’s focus our efforts on enriching our already beautiful community.
Let’s take a long view and build a master plan accounting for expanding and contracting enrollments.
Let’s build a master labor plan with established thresholds to account for shrinking and expanding enrollments and map it to a facility plan.
Let’s not remake the wheel every time enrollments dip and the economy flounders.
Let’s set expectations appropriately with our teachers, in advance, on what will happen when enrollment and/or the economy dips and what will happen when enrollment and/or the economy surges.

This is just one person’s opinion.

52 Mimi22 January 29, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Heather,

Can I just reply to that post with an AMEN!!! and Hallelujah!!! That is the most sense I have heard spoken in ages! Think seriously about running for Selectman!

53 John Boiardi January 30, 2010 at 4:57 PM

You have described political nirvana; however we live in a democracy which can be messy. If only it was that simple.

54 carrie alpert January 29, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Heather,
Another person exclaiming JOY over your ability to put into concise words my thoughts and feelings and wonderments about the future! YES, “let’s not remake the wheel” and YES let us learn from past mistakes and what a novel idea to “set expectations with the teachers”. Looking at our town and it’s resources is the smart thing to do–eventually the ecomomy will indeed change, the ebb and flow does happen. Making a drastic change in classroom size as a result of decreasing teacher/student ratio will have effects which will reverberate and people will leave. If you want to argue that the people who will leave will be the ones who came in here like the wind and purchased pricey homes or were and/or are short term property owners then that is fine, that is more of an opinion based argument; however, that is revenue. People with young children who moved here in the last 5+ years came to this town for the education. Finding a solution to keep from cutting teachers every year should be a top priority–I applaud you Heather for your ideas and thoughts

55 John Boiardi January 29, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Who said anything about tearing down or leveling Neary when talking about consolidating from four to three schools? Have they not heard of the Municipal Building committee? How about the talk of a new police station , future town office requirements etc. Neary rehab would save millions in future building needs/costs if it were used after school consolidation.
As for flutuations in student populations, it was the hugh projections that caused the town to expand Algonquin, Woodward et.al that has left us with a large debt and empty school rooms.
Re: the student /teacher ratio. Southborough official ratio is 14 to 1. The objective is 20 to 1. We always hear about ratios higher than 20; however, it usually a course that has limited interest and doesn’t require or support additional classes. ( the wonks will probably jump all over this statement).
Th town is approaching “build out” which will abate the flutuations in student population growth. The only thing that will force us to enlarge school capacity is the influx of apartments with 40B complexes. The town has two candidates for 40B.

Those that worry about housing vaues tied to the school system will someday realize that inflation, increased taxes,unemployement,mortgage defaults, unfunded municipal retirement benefits,etc have already reduced housing values.
The town should not be any different than households. They both must live within their means.

56 Mimi22 January 29, 2010 at 9:34 PM

Please define “wonks.”

57 John Boiardi January 30, 2010 at 4:45 PM

People who work in the public sector such as teachers and school administrators that know all the educational buzzwords, who need mentoring (in the budget), team leaders (ditto), professional days (ditto), professional development leaders etc. I would classify these people as educational “wonks”. I do not use the term necessarily in a pejorative sense. I mean that these particular individuals are steeped in the colloquial vernacular of the education industry.

58 carrie alpert January 29, 2010 at 8:13 PM

There is the living within ones means component to the argument and then there is the fundamental thought process that merging certain age groups with older age groups is not going to sit well with a lot of parents. Me being one of them. Do you really want 5th graders mixing with 8th graders? And, please do not start up a discussion about how when we were kids and we all went to a K-8 school, did anyone see John Halligan speak? Currently i have a 4th grader and the thought of the 5th grade potentially moving to Trottier–one of the times i am thankful for a septic system situation not being large enough to accomodate–is enough to keep me up at night. Linda Murdock is doing a stellar job with the social and educational aspects of the 4th and 5th graders, I am not the only one who feels that her move to Neary has been a positive one for all, especiallly the students. Would you have 2 principals to deal with another grade moving into the school or would you expect one principal to then take on the burden of another grade level?

I do agree with the post concerning that if there are owed monies to Southborough then they should be collected. If there are surrounding towns whose after school programs have kept pace with the economy and ours have not then let’s get with the program and inrease the fees a bit, with a sliding scale for those who need one.
My backround is in Sociologoy and Psychology and i have 2 small children so by mere definition of where i have been and where I am at in life i am focused on what is going on into their brains, bodies and hearts.

59 Kathleen Polutchko January 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Carrie,
One reason for the fact that our preschool program fees have not “kept pace” with the other programs is because preschool programs are not an apples to apples comparison. Our preschool model – for a variety of reasons and some of them fiscal – is a far more “inclusive” program (inclusive meaning including many kids with special needs) than any of the other surrounding towns. Just look on the DOE website (look under school profiles). We need our fees to be more competitive so we attract enough “tyically developing” kids to make the program inclusive, and not just a preschool for kids with special needs (which is a completely different topic). What I have learned in my short tenure in town government is that there is usually a “state mandate” that is the background reason for things that just don’t seem to make fiscal sense. Our preschool model saves the town hundreds of thousands of dollars (my opinion based on examining the special ed expenditures- no real supporting facts) by providing our special needs kids with services in a group environment in addition to it being proven that inclusive programs produce far better results for the kids with special needs. We (the school and therefore THE TOWN) owns these kids and any services they require on their third birthday – not just in September. We are legally mandated to provide the services. But our preschool model is not right for everybody so people who do not feel it is right for them may go elsewhere and pay more.
On your other comment, in my investigation of “closing Neary” I did not encounter one accredited educator who felt that combining 5th grade into a middle school was a good idea. Some towns do it, however I have noticed that they try and physically separate 5/6 from 7/8 in different wings. We don’t have that option. I, personally feel that they way we transition our kids into middle school is the right path to follow and worked wonderfully with both of my kids.
Hope this helps.

60 carrie alpert January 31, 2010 at 8:31 AM

Kathleen,
Your knowledge base concerning the “why’s” and “what’s” is invaluable to someone like me and i really am thank you for it, helps me with my factual based arguments.
I have had numerous friends who have sent their first child through the towns preschool and then turned around and loved it so much that they sent their subsequent children through the program and not due to finances but more because they embraced the program and loved the transition right into K. I cannot imagine a non-inclusive envioronment for a child, period and you are correct in your statement that that is a topic for a different thread–what is relevant is that we do need to attract enough typically developing children to the program and that does have to do with cost, excellent point and one that has to be remembered.

If anyone can find 1 educator that feels that combining 5th graders with middle schoolers is a “good idea” let me know, i would love to look at the facts and chat with the educator. As far as “physically separating” the kids all it takes is an email address these days. There is absolutely no positive in the mingling of 5th graders with 8th graders, if you took a poll of the parents in the community most of us would tell you that we are not thrilled that our 4th and 5th graders even ride the bus with the Trottier students; different developmental stage. I am wagering that most families like the 4th and 5th graders separate and feel that Linda Murdock, with her knowledge base from Trottier, is managing more than just fine with the issues that come about with 9-11 year olds.

as far as “educational buzzwords”–i am not officially “in the system” as in a paid position and i know all of them because that is how the wheel turns, as it is in any type of system. Not sure what else my son’s teacher is supposed to call it when she has a day off to learn a new set skill other than a “professional day”. Other “real jobs” have “team leaders”, like at the supermarket–the “team leader” at the deli counter for example or the “barista” at Starbucks….

61 Neil Rossen February 2, 2010 at 7:35 AM

Let me make a request to the proponents of essentially giving the schools what they PURPORT to need: Simply prepare a budget that results in NO TAX INCREASES AT ALL for the townspeople.

We all have to live within our means, and that means everybody. Schools are not run like a business? Well maybe they should be, and perhaps that’s the problem with public schools in general where the more you put in results in steeply diminishing returns. I am simply sick and tired of the self anointed “community spirited” folks who know what’s best for us and wish to pick our pockets for their cause. If they need more money, I suggest they attempt to raise voluntary contributions.

Be sure, however, that these very vocal forces will show up at the town meeting as a concentrated force, villifying their opponents (as they did last year), and voting like automatoms to raise our taxes.

It behooves the rest of us who have to live within our means to show up and vote for reality.

62 Sue Grinblatas February 2, 2010 at 7:46 AM

I like the idea in theory. My concern is with the specific. Neil, where specifically would you cut the overall town budget, or school budget, to get to 0% tax increase?
Off the top, there is a $500,000 or so unfunded State mandate applied to schools. So we can’t cut that. Get ride of Sr. Ctr. and sell the building? Get rid of fire fighters or police officers? Cut town offices staff or hours? Increase class sizes to 30/class? I am not being sarcastic — I really would like to know where folks think we should cut our budget exactly to get to 0% increase in taxes. What are you willing to cut?

63 John Boiardi February 2, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Sue,
Sue
Attend either the Board of Selectman or Advisory Committee meetings and it will answer your question on the tough decisions that are being made to bring about a no tax increase budget. Take a look at the big four budgets ( Police ,Fire, DPW, School), and ask yourself ” what can or has to be cut or postponed ” to bring about a no tax increase budget. Unfortunately Southborough cannot print money or borrow money for the operating budget as other levels of government do.
Assume you were a two income family or a retiree on fixed income and you loose one of the incomes or receive no retirement increase. You are then forced to make cuts that, yes are painful, not optimal (such as class size), that margenalize your lifestyle or in this case town services. In either situation would you increase household expenses??? Of course not! Then the question becomes, what would you cut ,eliminate , or postpone?? Why is the town budget any different than any other budget? The answer can not always be to raise taxes.

64 School Mom February 2, 2010 at 8:26 AM

I need to comment about the ‘voluntary contributions’ that you mention. The schools have an amazing contributor called SOS (Southborough Organization of Schools ie; the PTA). It was reported last year they raised $72,000 across all four schools. Unfortunately, they cannot ‘buy’ a teacher….they have asked before! What they do provide and support are the items that get CUT from the budget. They have a great relationship with the principals and find out the needs of each school and use the funds appropriately. Over the last few years, there has been countless hours of volunteers that have raised thousands of dollars to support our schools. They will continue to do this….they have to…and I hope all the residents will support their initiatives.

As for running the schools like a ‘business’….it is one of the most important ‘businesses’ that we have…and maybe that is why the budgets get the support they need. I hope that all the parents realize how important their attendance is at Town Meeting.

65 Neil Rossen February 2, 2010 at 9:15 AM

I wonder how ordinary people and ordinary businesses survive on a limited amount of money? Only here, we have a schooll system, in the middle of a major recession not being able to do the same. I suppose Southborough pensioners and the unemployed taxpayers are better able to find money than our well funded school system that cannot do so – even, I repaet – in the middle of a recession. Really?

And “School Mom” – I guess parents will vote to raise the taxes of these same pensioners and unemployed? Your logic defies reality.No doubt that logic leads to the U.S. spending more per pupil and getting lesser results than other countries which seem to do more with less. Can we please stop this endless, non-productive cost spiral now? What exactly in improved results – real results, not feel good stuff – do we get for our money. Maybe the Budget presentation should focus on $ per improvement in the overall SAT result over the years – at least everyone might then be able to understand. Even parents can then be objective and not succumb to the same emotional clarion call made by Gabron of last year.

66 De M February 2, 2010 at 1:11 PM

I think Town Officials need to look inward on this. I have been involved on committees of a few Town projects and am utterly amazed how careless the officials are with Town funds. Construction projects go to the low bidder and the contractors end up bankrupt and are always highly inept. So instead of going back to the contracters to make good on the Job , as we all would do if it were work done in our homes, the town just absorbs the cost to fix it. No matter what the cost. I inquired about this and was told, it’s just too difficult to chase people. So throw another $40K or $50K at the problem to make it go away. This is, in my opinion, is where they need to start. I am a corporate person and this would never ever happen. I have to document every dime I spend and am questioned on the necessity. We could learn something from this. Trust me there is a lot of fat to be cut in the budget. Not to mention going after these people who for years have unpaid RE taxes. We need to get tough in these difficult times. There are a lot of places in town to enforce laws that are being overlooked for some reason. And this can not be tolerated any longer. We all need to pay closer attention to what is really going on. The school closing is being proposed, because they know people will pay attention. It’s a big game.

67 involvedparent February 2, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Neil
I would love no tax increases believe me, but I also know what effect that would have on our greatest resource in this town, our schools! Having listened to Dr. Gobron’s presentation at Woodward this morning it was so apparent the predicament we are in. The level budget (keeping us even with past years) would be over a 7% increase, it has been slashed to “bare bones” at the current 3.36% increase. Losing anymore than the proposed 6 teaching positions in this current budget would be a devastation to our schools. I wish we could have “bake sales” to pay for it, but that isn’t allowed or feasible. A 0% increase budget would be a disaster to our schools and our children!

68 Neil Rossen February 2, 2010 at 3:35 PM

‘Involved”, I hear you. If you had been in an initial meeting with the Selectmen when Gabron made his opening budgetary outline pitch you may have heard the comment I made. Essentially, I pointed out that after his emotional appeal that education as we know it would end unless we increased last year’s budget, the schools “somehow” managed to come up with savings for the State cuts. He rather foundered on that.

So State cuts can be accomodated, but not town cuts. I will concede, that Gabron, surrounded by his cheering supporters is a formidable salesman. I just don’t buy it.

69 involvedparent February 2, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Neil
If you had remained in the room that day and heard all of the responses to your edict you would have hopefully walked away with a more enlightened mind.

70 mike February 2, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Here are some problems Neil. One is most families in America look to school as day care as well – that is simplifying it but it is true. Everyone gets so ticked off when there are professional days, snow days et. The people in my neighborhood behind me, the new Americans, they don’t even take vacations. Their time off is when the kids are home from school – they use vacation days to cover. Second, why can’t we have a bake sale? Humor me. Why cant SOS/PTA buy a teacher? Why are our failing schools (not Sboro) across America so important? Federal Department of Education and the Teachers Unions? So our children get into Harvard that now posts pass and fail grades? No more letter grades – did you know that? The unions my friends. The unioins. Again, not the teachers, but the unions. We have for the most part very good teahcers. I could negotiate with the teachers if my neighbor was the teacher and I spoke to him or her directly. But the Unions. Why don’t we say screw you federal government, state government and teachers unions. Spend the 1/2 million standing up to them and setting precedence? We have had enough and can bare it no longer. You are like the spoiled child the parent can’t say no to. Your unfunded mandates that you pass down – usually backed by the Teachers Unions have and are crippling us (Bye bye US auto industry). If you cant fund it we are not going to go with it. And even if we can fund it why don’t we still say screw you we know what’s best for our kids not federal or state pols or teacher union bosses. Why do we need so many SPED teachers and assistants in the class? Maybe boys should not be with girls – oh my that will get the barbs flying? Oh and I know this will put you “inclusion fanatics over the top” but why don’t we emerse special needs kids with special needs kids. it seemed to work before. On a seperate note, boys are ussually slower to develop, lets not start them until they are 7 – the stats are there to support late start for boys and even some girls – oh my, will I get shot saying the day care word again? How many of you have pushed your kid in at 5.5? Parents with time demanding duel careers, got to have those 1.5 mill homes and BMW’s and who will do what at home if they dont have school and the nanny is sick. Maybe there is too much ADD and ADHD persription drugs perscribed to boys who should be out doing physical activty and not sitting in a square room for 8 hours a day – some girls too, I want to be inclusive. Can we say screw you to all the unions in this town is the question? Keep all the teachers and all our wonderful town employees but boot the unions out? Can we? Do we have the back bone? Do we have courage or are we so concerned with our kids gong to ” the best university”, or disrupting our day because they are not gone form 7am to 3pm and in some case longer than that. That is what is destroying the fabric of this once great nation – oh God forbid, here he goes again, Mom not being home – But Mom you are the most important person in this puzzle! Often times disengaged and self centered parents who want to work rather that raise their kids. Got to make the $4,5,600K and up to look great. But at what expense I ask? I realize as well in some homes it is impossible to live on one income, and we support you neighbor whole heartedly and God Bless you. But it is amazing how much less you need when a parent learns to be a parent and says no to their foot stomping child sometimes (I am guilty of uggs, north face, phones and itouch as well – but I paid cash). I am not trying to be fecicious, mean or self righteous, these are difficult but real questions. My family uses the same services and our kids do the same things yours do but unless we have real change, not Obama change, ( whatever that is?) and stop the insanity, and look to our own resources it will continue as Neil has said and we will once again fund day care cradle to ? for our kids.

71 carrie alpert February 2, 2010 at 8:32 PM

evening-
Neil, could you please call Dr. Gobron by his correct name. And he is most certainly a Dr. He has earned it and deserves that respect. As far as the overall budget my question is this: if the state of MA. says to any other departement in our town, “by the way, i know that you have to by law provide this or that service and you need over $600,000 to do just that but guess what? next year we just are not giving it to you but you have to make it happen anyways–good luck with that!” what would your particular departments response be?
i remember that there was a need for a fire truck and the townspeople got together with members of the fire department and held the “fireball” to raise monies for that piece of equipment. I do not think that the argument is that one area of the town is more important or more necessary than another but we are talking about the education of our children, all of them; not their fault that the ecomomy collapsed due to overextension. The other part to be discussed is that if you make serious deep cuts within the schools you will pay for them later by having to reschool the kids later as well as having to outsource the behavioral issues which there will be plenty of as a direct result of overcrowded classrooms.

And Neil, you are griping about wanting hard evidence : we have some of the highest test scores in the state at all grade levels (did you see the grade 3 MCAS results from last year?), what exactly are you looking for? Have you ever spent any time in any of the classrooms? have you seen the way Mrs. Benford educates the students in the ways of the Mac over at Woodward?

If you are reading these posts get yourself educated about what your child’s classroom could be like in the 2010-2011 school year and how one of your most favorite teachers you had for your older child might not be there next year. GET INFORMED AND GET TO TOWN MEETING!

72 Marty February 2, 2010 at 11:47 PM

I am amazed by how so many well intentioned people can see the same events in such different ways.

It would be very helpful if people with specific suggestions to trim fat and/or wasteful spending would send those specific proposals to Susan who could pots them on mysouthborough.com and send them to the Advisory group and the Selectmen for their review. We all need to find ways to cut expenses so this might move the process forward in a positive manner.

Would it be possible to defer the additional window replacement costs close the old Union High School building and Fayville Hall for just one year to save that money? That would be a lot of money! I do not suggest razing either building, just that we temporarily consolidate their functions into one place.

As for the Arts Council, its a great cause to support, but is it appropriate to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on the Union High School whose primary tennat is a not even a town agency and doesn’t pay any rent? Is that legal? Can the town spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a non-town agency? Does town meeting need to vote to approve this?

We can’t maintain all of our current services and nit raise taxes. Several of my neighbors and friends have been out of work for a long time. I know 2 families who had to move their sons from private colleges to state colleges due to the financial hardships. Those families had to make hard sacrificies.

Al – I think you heart is in the right place but your ego gets in the way of your message.

73 MOM February 3, 2010 at 8:29 AM

Parents be aware of the damage that the teacher’s cut and increased class size can cause to our kids and go to the town meetings. Be a parent, be involved in the process. I’m very confident that the school committee and Dr. Gobron are doing their best and looking on behalf of our kids. It’s time for us to get together and help them to help us.

74 Neil Rossen February 3, 2010 at 9:49 AM

In response to Mom, and to others, I can only say that it seems that some are prepared to vote for ALL of us (including the unemployed, and pensioners) to pay higher taxes to meet THEIR objectives and to pay off the unions.

A high turnout at Town Meeting will help to derail this.

75 dee February 3, 2010 at 3:57 PM

The REAL money pit in town in Beals property. I would love to have the town give me money to LOAN them my property and sell it off at a later date. That was money spent wisely!

76 Neil Rossen February 11, 2010 at 6:52 AM

Read this – I rest my case – plain selfishness:
Selectwoman asks teachers to ‘give something up’
Posted: 10 Feb 2010 11:28 AM PST
During a meeting in which selectmen were cutting town budgets left and right, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf expressed frustration over the state of the school budget, which currently proposes a 3.63% increase over last year.
“Town employees have given up a lot in the past couple of years,” she said. “The school department has not stepped forward with their personnel.”
Phaneuf said town employees will forgo raises this year. In contrast, the school budget includes an additional $550K for contractually-obligated teacher salary increases. Those salary increases are one of the main drivers for the overall increase in the school budget.
Phaneuf also noted that as of this year town employees started picking up 25% of their health care costs — up from 20% two years ago. The shift was expected to save the town about $100K. Last year teachers declined to increase their contribution to health care costs from 20% to 25% to match that of town employees.
As it stands, the preliminary school budget would cut six teaching positions along with 3.5 staff and support positions. Parents have expressed concern over the impact teacher layoffs would have on class sizes.
“If classroom sizes go up, it’s because someone refused to give something up,” Phaneuf said. “They haven’t demonstrated to me that they’re willing to give something up.”
The school committee is expected to vote on their budget tomorrow night.

77 Sue Grinblatas February 11, 2010 at 7:56 AM

No doubt the teachers union should voluntarily take cuts in their contracted raises. Do you really think that this issue has not been raised by the Supt. with the union leaders? But the union won’t budge. Certainly this is an issue all the way up the MTA chain, with pressure from the state union leadership on town level leaders not to cede. And the contracted raises benefit those town union members most, as the most senior teachers don’t get much if anything in the way of step or lane increases. And those on the brink of retirement have an incentive to keep the 3.5% they’re supposed to get this year so that when they do retire their retirement is based on such a high paying year. It’s sickening that such leadership is willing to see their fellow teachers without “professional status” be laid off and see the student suffer. Surely the next contract negotiated will reflect a reciprocal lack of good will.
That said, do we want our town to breach the contract and subject ourselves to costly legal action and/or work to rule by teachers? Is that the best route?
To “mike” who questions whether I am willing to cut anything, a 3.63% budget by school committee DOES reflect significant cuts in services and goods in the schools. And I am willing to cut fire services, municipal services, even library hours, sell off town -owned property such as Fayville Hall and perhaps even bldg where Rec. Dept and Art Center are and put all of those entities into the old Chapel of the Cross, a huge bldg which now houses only Sr. Ctr. and Board of Health. I am more than willing to see teachers accept lower pay to say the jobs of all as well as school quality, but not at any cost.
As for “mike’s” repeated attempts to insult his fellow townspeople, if you have such intense disregard for us, feel free to leave.

78 John February 11, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Sue

Typical reference to budget cuts in the public sector. When you reduce your budget request from +/- 7% to 3.63%, that is considered a “cut”. Budget cutting in real life is when you take last years expenditures and receive less this year..

79 Neil Rossen February 11, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Let us get legal advice and take the matter to court if there is any chance of winning. Otherwise we’ll face this nonsense again and again. I’d rather pay legal fees than wilt. Just like the federal government will one day have to take on the PSE Unions who are bleeding all of us, the sooner we start here the better.

80 mike February 11, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Oh my there you go again with that thin skin. The message must have soem truth as it has to to bother a person. I just have disdain for a certain kind of people in town and … oh I will stop, thats not nice. I just have disdain for people who keep looking to me, us, the folks who actually produce something (there are some of us left in America) to pay for the rest of everyones needs and wants. Lawyers don’t produce anything darling, they just take. Where there is one in a town they are poor where there are two they are wealthy because they can sue each other. Perhaps you should be brave and as a group of school committee people tell the unions they will loose 5 union teahcers a year going forward and replace our teachers with non union teachers. perfectly legal. Teachers dont have to belong to the union. they are told they do but I know from experience they dont have to. And we dont have to hire or key word retain unionized teachers. They can be unionized but we can then hire non union folks and if they want to strike go ahead. there are so many people waiting for those positions right now it would be a cinch to fill with very very qualified non union teachers.

81 Sue Grinblatas February 11, 2010 at 5:26 PM

I think we got it “mike”. You hate: (1) unions (2) lawyers (3) your fellow residents (or is it just white collar people you hate?) (4) “ladies” and “nannies” (5) anyone you think does not “produce” something that you value. Not sure what any of this has to do to further your any argument on the budget, but it sure says a lot about you. Why don’t you have the courage to use your real name?

I for one will not allow your lack of civility to shout me down from participating in our democratic process.

82 Neil Rossen February 11, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Show up at the Towmn Meeting and stop the movement to subsidize union members. This same stunt was included in the now hopefully defunct, and corrupt health bill.

83 John February 11, 2010 at 6:52 PM

“Phaneuf also noted that as of this year town employees started picking up 25% of their health care costs — up from 20% two years ago. The shift was expected to save the town about $100K. Last year teachers declined to increase their contribution to health care costs from 20% to 25% to match that of town employees.”

FYI – The Town retirees got hit as well. Time for the teachers to pay up.

84 mike February 11, 2010 at 9:44 PM

Why Sue, would you want to know who I am? I am sure as a laywer you know how to find that out. And no one used the hate word just you – why? Most especially in your position? And are you defending the teahcers unions that wont make consecision? That is embarrassing to everyone. Perhps we as town should look at how you make your living? Are you tied to these people at all? It is ok if you are but are you? And just as an fyi if you already dont get it, most folks do not like lawyers or unions – have you heard the jokes? In my opinion they are both bullies and thugs. So I guess you do get that part. Good job. And if you dont know the term “nanny state” I suggest you pull your head out of the sand and figure it out because most everyone else does. It is not a deragatory term for you or any person it is what our governments have become to more that 50% of the country. And my preference is most certainly for ladies.Real ladies Sue. I really do love ladies. God made women very special in my opinion. I wont go any further with that. The teachers of the town can represent themselves just fine I believe. We like them all. We have never had a bad experience really. That is what I am aksing them to do and you to ask them to do as a school committee member. No more no less but from all your posts it seems you might have a hidden agenda? And as far as courageous lets just say you really dont like me anyway so you really dont want to know me and I dont want to know you but in this case you represent me as a school committee member and that is all you need to know. You can watch for me at the various meetings.

85 susan February 11, 2010 at 10:16 PM

Okay, folks. I think we’ve about exhausted this topic, and things have gotten a bit mean-spirited, so I’m going to close down the comments on this post. … Besides, I’m worried that if I let the conversation continue, we’d all end up learning more about mike’s “preferences” than we care to!

(And for the record Sue Grinblatas is not a school committee member. She is the Finn SOS Chair.)

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