School Committee votes to approve budget

by susan on February 12, 2010

Post image for School Committee votes to approve budget

School committee members vote to approve the budget. Not pictured is committee member Jack Kessler who abstained from the vote.

The Southborough School Committee last night voted to endorse a 3.63% increase in the school’s operating budget for next year. The budget still needs to be approved by voters at town meeting in April.

The $16.7M budget endorsed by the school committee is largely the same as the preliminary version presented to selectmen back in January. That’s to say, it proposes the reduction of 6 teaching positions along with 3.5 additional staff members.

‘A revenue problem, not a spending problem’
The two main items forcing the budget increase for next year are $552K in contractual salary increases for teachers, and the loss of about $420K in state “circuit breaker” aid for special education services.

School committee member Jack Kessler said that without the state cuts, the budget would have come in at close to the 0% requested by the Board of Selectmen.

Superintendent Charles Gobron told the committee that while many area school districts got federal stimulus money, Southborough did not because we did not meet the socio-economic qualifications. The Northborough school district received more than $200K in stimulus money.

“It’s a revenue problem, not a spending problem,” committee member Susan Dargan said. “You read blogs and people are saying schools are spending too much. I personally think that’s ridiculous.”

“If you look at how services have decreased over years, that would be more accurate picture of our spending,” Kessler said. “We’re decreasing services more than any other [town] department that I’m aware of.”

Cutting non-contractual salary increases
In addition to the $552K going to teachers, the budget includes about $50K in other salary increases. Noting that many town employees are going without raises this year, Kessler recommended that the committee eliminate that line item.

“We don’t have legal authority to do anything about [contracted salaries], but this is something have control over,” he said. “I think it would be a prudent course of action.”

Gobron said some of the $50K represents contractual increases, but said he would provide a breakdown at the next school committee meeting. Kessler abstained from the committee’s vote on the budget in the absence of a decision on non-contractual salaries.

The next school committee meeting will be held on March 10. The first part of the meeting will be a public hearing on the budget. Residents are invited to attend and give feedback.

1 John February 12, 2010 at 11:38 AM

I am so releaved!! The school committee chose to ignore the townspeople and the B of S by voting to increase the school budget. Wow! They applied Samualson/Kenyenson economics— the way to get out of a recession/depression is to spend your way out. We don’t have a spending problem we have a revenue problem. Why didn’t I think of that? The B of S should immediately start appropriating more money . The school committee says essentially when revenue goes down you resolve it by increasing spending. Let the town print more money. Wait a minute, Southborough doesn’t have a Federal Reserve bank or a Treasury to print money. OK, let the school department reduce or give back some salary as a symbolic jesture (Thank Jack Kessler) No,no can’t do that ( hold up the silver Contractual cross). The town will probably need an override. Included in the override will be an amount specified for the school budget. If the override fails which many involved feel it will, the school department will have to bite the bullet and make the tough decions that all other departments and residents have been making. Again,
I am sooo relieved.

2 Heather February 12, 2010 at 11:59 AM

I think it’s time for a serious conversation about vouchers.

It’s time for residents to have a broader choice about how their public education dollars are spent.

Competition is healthy.

3 The Other John February 12, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Unfortunately the School Committe has autonomy. I understand provoding raises because they were negotiated, however……the othe unions have made concessions, and they are ALL paying more for health insurance. The Town retirees, who have no representation have also been forced to pony up on health insurance. I think the teachers need to show some fiscal spirit and take it on the chin like everyone else.

4 De M February 12, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Could someone define special education? I know what it was when I was in school. And I know they didn’t have a budget like that. Before I vote I want to be sure I am properly informed. Details please.

5 Kate February 12, 2010 at 2:36 PM

De M – that’s a good question, and you can find some information on our Districts’ Special Education Services on the Northborough/Southborough Special Education Parents Advisory Council website at http://www.nspac.org. I would encourage interested parents to attend NSPAC meetings, which are open to the general public. So far this year the PAC has hosted a number of presentations, inluding two by by Student Support Services Staff on Special Education in Our Districts & Summer Programming. (Look in NSPAC Events).

From the Powerpoint Presentation

State and Federal Regulations – I D E A 1997, ADAA 2009, NCLB
all children must access the curriculum (NCLB)
education must occur in the least restrictive environment

Must respond to the increased prevalence and identification of need:
dramatic increases in the numbers of children diagnosed with significant need in last ten years
better identification – broader categorization
medical interventions have become more sophisticated
increase in number of children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder – 1 in 100 children (9/09)
increase in the number of children diagnosed with mental health disorders
increase in environmental stressors on families
early identification and intervention improving

6 Kate February 12, 2010 at 12:59 PM

What are you proposing, Heather? Do you mean that every student in Southborough would have a set amount of money in the form of voucher which they could use to attend other public/private schools? Or a voucher lottery? What would that mean for town schools – how would they be funded? I agree that having choice is very important, and there are currently other options for families if students need a different type of learning environment. Charter schools, for example, as I’ve mentioned before. There are quite a few close by, including Parker Charter in Devens, grades 7-12 (Southborough is in its sending area), Benjamin Franklin Charter in Franklin, grades K-8, McAuliffe in Framingham, grades 6-8, & AMSA in Marlborough, grades 6-12. Many people move to this town specifically because of the schools’ reputations, but no school is perfect for all students, so I agree that having a choice is a good thing.

7 Al Hamilton February 12, 2010 at 1:24 PM

I have sat through school budget presentations for the last 10 years or so. Every year it is the same, blame special education and the children who need special education. This is the biggest red herring ever.

Yes, we have a loss of special education circuit breaker funding this year that is making life even more difficult but the real culprit is every increasing costs of salaries and benefits packages with no corrisponding productivity improvements. In past years with a stable teacher base school costs have been rising 4-5% a year exclusive of benefits. How can this be when the contractual raises are 2-3%. Add in the “Steps and Lanes” and you get there. Teachers have been doing quite nicely compared to the rest of us schmucks lately.

We also need to recognize that the “budget” that was passed last night did NOT include benefits which are scheduled to increase by 7.8% leading to a total increase in the budget on the order of 4.3%.

Finally, I am saddened to say that Dr. Gobron failed the leadership test last night. A real leader would have recognized that even this budget was going to impose hardship on real people in our community. A real leader would have shouldered his fair share of the burden and offered to freeze salaries for non union administrative staff even if the savings would have been modest at best. No, his message was sacrifice is good for you but not for us. I am very disappointed.

8 123 February 12, 2010 at 2:08 PM

John,

In some circles, it’s believed that spelling words correctly is a sign of a well educated individual. Don’t be fooled by those who spell words correctly, but are otherwise stupid.

None-the-less:

Releaved => relieved
Samualson => Samuelson
Kenyenson => Keynesian
Jesture => gesture
Decions => decisions

1. Nearly 1/3 of the budget (close to $4.8 million) is allocated to providing what is termed “special education”. I don’t fully understand what is included and what is not. But, as I understand it, there is nothing we can do about it but provide what is required. Whether or not what is required is necessary or appropriate is off the table and any energy spent on that is wasted in my view. I do believe we have an obligation to care for, and provide educational opportunities for all of our children and while the amount we spend is staggering, I’m in no position to offer any constructive suggestions.

2. Something close to $6.6 million of the $16.5 million FY2011 budget is related to teacher salaries. They negotiated in good faith as did the community and reached an agreement. To go back on that in a year in which I believe negotiations for the next contract will begin seems foolish to me. I’ve heard very few, if any complaints about the teaching staff, and have heard much that is very positive. These are the people who spend more time than many of us our able to with our children and we’re not exactly looking at investment banking salaries here. Yes, I envy their job security, health benefits and pensions, but put it in perspective. They’ve chosen one of the only professions where no matter how much of a superstar they are, they’ll never have the opportunity to be paid accordingly. A superstar waiter or waitress can earn over $150,000 per year at the right restaurant — and these people are committe to educating our children.

3. The education we as a community provide, while a good one, is not an extravagant one by any means. Holliston provides a range of kindergarten alternatives including traditional, Montessori, and French immersion (now who really needs to learn another language, let alone French?). I can’t imagine your reaction if what was proposed was actually a commitment to providing an even better educational experience, as opposed to trying to stay even.

4. I don’t know the history of sending home lists of supplies that are needed at the beginning of each school year, and I know Southborough is not the only town to do it, but I find it hard to believe that a community that can spend $4 + million on the development rights for the farm land on Chestnut Hill road, can’t afford to buy paper and tissues for the children in its schools.

5. Finally, the proposed 3.5% increase, most of which is a result of the state cutting back its reimbursement is hardly a budget that Samuelson or Keynes would sign off on as stimulating the economy. And, for what it’s worth, the Chicago school of monetarists is hardly walking proud these days.

6. Some of our kids will realize and make the best of what they are given; some won’t. My goal is to give them the opportunity to find their passion, hopefully make the best of it, and find a way to support themselves and pay off a legacy of public debt the likes of which we can not even understand. Try this on for size:

o Calif: 49.3% budget gap: $1.92 trillion GDP, 37 million pop.
o Ill: 47.3% budget gap, $610 billion GDP, 12.8 million pop
o Ariz: 41.1% budget gap, $206 billion GDP, 6 million pop
o NJ: 30% budget gap, $416 billion GDP, 8.7 million pop
o Portugal: 10.1% budget gap, 233 billion GDP, 10.7 million pop
o Greece: 11.9% budget gap, 335 billion GDP, 11.0 million pop
o Ireland: 11.6% budget gap, $217 billion, 4.2 million pop
o Italy: 5.4% budget gap, $1.9 trillion, 60 million pop
o Spain: 11.4% budget gap, $1.4 trillion, 47 million pop

One thing’s for certain, and that is that I’m sure I’ve spelled words incorrectly – and yes, please feel free to “goof” on me. While we may have different views of what is good, acceptable, or desired from our school system, I appreciate your presence on this blog.

Way off topic regarding spelling (from my 11 year old nephew’s facebook page):

occodring to a rscheearch at cmabridge uinervisty,it dseno’t mtaer in waht oerdr the ltters in a wrod are, the olney iproamtnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltter be in the rghit pclae. tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnind deos not raed ervey ltter by istelf,but the wrod as a wlohe. if you can raed tih…

9 John February 12, 2010 at 7:38 PM

!23

Thank you for you erudite (did I spell it right?) analysis of my misspelled blog. I have to admit I am lost with out spell check. 3 1/2% can surely stimulate Southborough’s economic sitiation.
It is comforting to me to see other states and countries going down the drain. It almost makes me want to vote for an override.

Thank you for recognizing my misspelled presence on the blog.

P.S. Chestnut Hill Farm cost the town $5,000,000.

10 John February 12, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Situation sorry I’m beginning to lose faith in my typing

11 Kate February 14, 2010 at 10:05 AM

123- thank you for your insightful post. It’s terrific to see so many posters who are obviously passionate about the community in which we live. With regard to your observation about special education, I believe that the district is looking at its offerings, and seeing how students can be better supported in district so that there are fewer outplacements. To give an example of being done in one town, Newton is carrying out an independent evaluation of its special education services. Newton’s school committee has a special education subcommittee, and the study is evaluating how effective the district’s special education services are at meeting students’ academic needs, and determining whether those programs are cost-effective. The last time Newton conducted this type of study was 14 years ago. I’m not sure if a study like this has ever been done in our districts, but it might be something worth considering.

12 Heather February 12, 2010 at 2:30 PM

I would like to see vouchers (equivalent to the amount per student spent in Southborough) awarded to parents so they can decide how to use their allotted educational tax dollars toward ANY education they see fit for their child.

Be that a public, perochial or private education, it would be my choice as a parent.

It’s my tax money.
I should be able to choose how it’s spent.
My views are not being represented nor heard by current members of the School Committee.

I strongly disagree with the unanimous vote from our school committee (thankfully one member had the sense to abstain from the vote) who approved an unrealistic budget and doesn’t have the guts to stand up to the teacher’s union and say “We can’t afford $500k+ in salary/benefit increases. We just don’t have the money.”

Because folks, we-do-no-have-the-money.

Vouchers are a manifestation of true choice.
Vouchers create a truly transparent and open educational marketplace.
Vouchers create competition, which is EXACTLY what the public educational “market” needs.

One person’s opinon.

13 Sue Grinblatas February 13, 2010 at 10:56 AM

While we’re at it, I don’t want to have to pay for roads on the other part of town to be plowed because I don’t ever have to drive there. And I don’t want to have to pay into Soc. Security because I’m not getting it. And I sure as heck don’t want to pay for a war that I’ve been opposed to since before it started. Nor do I want my tax dollars being spent on Secret Service protection for George W. Bush. Nor do I want my tax dollars to pay for Medicare and Medicaid since I’m not using it. And I don’t use every state or federal park in the county — I’ve never even been to Yellowstone — so why should I have to pay taxes that go toward that? But wait, there’s more stuff I don’t use or like that I don’t want to have to pay for…
Bad idea.

14 John B February 13, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Talk about half-baked comments
.

15 Heather February 16, 2010 at 10:18 AM

We’re all entitled to our own opinions. Thank you for yours.

16 Tasha February 12, 2010 at 9:49 PM

Wow, vouchers…such a novel idea. Oh wait, that has been tossed around for the last 10 years and there isn’t a town out there that has succeed with such a model.
We should be proud of our public school system. The main reason we have high property values in this town is because we have excellent schools. Dumb down the school and there goes your property value.

17 Tasha February 12, 2010 at 9:59 PM

John,
You are awesome for providing so much information and straight forward thinking.
Keep posting.

18 Neil Rossen February 13, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Absolutely disgraceful. Show up at the Town Meeting to register your disgust, and at the next opportunity, vote out the concurring Scholl Committee members.

Someone on this board had the temerity to point out spelling errors. No doubt to display some kind of special erudition. That post is half-baked AND contains grammatical errors. Enough said.

19 Sue Grinblatas February 13, 2010 at 10:58 AM

And, as I’ve said before, we hope that our good schools will teach our children proper grammar, spelling, and logical thought processes so when they grow up their posts won’t be half-baked (nor will they) and won’t contain such errors.

20 John B February 13, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Sue,

I also hope they don’t become elitest snobs.

Your posts are the epitome of proper grammer, spelling and logical thought.

Half-baked, Never.

21 !23 February 13, 2010 at 11:27 AM

The humor of someone pushing to reduce the funding of the schools; referencing economists that I had to go to wikipedia to identify (which is why I realized their names were spelled incorrectly), and having so many blatant spelling errors was too much to pass up. My apologies to anyone offended by it.

I too am lost without the spell checker (and lots of other times), and I appreciate that my grammar and speling is not so good (as noted in my post).

As I understand it, the options are:

1. Level funding, which results in drastic cuts;
2. a 3.6% increase, which results in less drastic cuts; and
3. something more, which is not on the table that keeps things as they are.

What I don’t see, which is not a surprise, and I’m not arguing for in this environment, is an option to increase funding and improve what we have.

I like John’s post as clearly he speaks for a group in town that doesn’t see it the way I do, which is that we owe our children the best educational opportunities possible so that they can pay off the $12.4 trillion national debt ($40,000 per citizen and a whole lot more per tax paying citizen) that is being left to them.

My public school education through college fell short as I don’t know the word “erudite”. I do remember a bit about the Etruscans from grade school and thought they were pretty neat, but lost out to the Romans, which did really well until they didn’t. No time for wikipedia right now to learn about the erudites; maybe later.

22 John B February 13, 2010 at 6:19 PM

123,

No offence taken.

I’m not advocating cutting school spending necesarily. I am advocating that the town budget live within it’s means. The school budget happens to one of the budgets needing cutting along with all the others.

Erudite ie erudation:extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books. (Webster New Collegiate Dictionary)

Did you mean spelling?

23 Shubu Mukherjee February 13, 2010 at 9:01 AM

This is a democracy, so the school committee is free to decide what it wants to decide. The only way to counter this measure, if people really do care, is to defeat the school budget at the Town meeting and vote against prop 2.5, given this economy. That will force the school to revisit what to do on a constant budget.

One tactic other towns had adopted and I don’t see Southborough approaching that is to threaten with significant teacher layoffs, unless the pre-agreed contracts are re-negotiated. This had brought many such contract deals back to the table and renegotiated and even halted temporary raises. Looks like this town doesn’t have the desire/courage/motivation to do that.

Shubu Mukherjee

24 Sue Grinblatas February 13, 2010 at 11:22 AM

The teachers HAVE been threatened with significant layoffs. With the proposed budget of 3.63%, 6 teachers and 3.5 other positions will be laid off. With a 0% increase in budget, ~16 teachers (plus others) will be laid off. With -3% budget, 22 teachers will be laid off. From my understanding of Dr. Gobron and School Committee’s meetings with teacher’s union, the teacher’s union response (led by the teacher(s) who’ve worked here for decades) has been to take that chance. Eat their young is a term I’ve heard, since it is not the senior teachers coming up on retirement (with 3.5% increase as one of their three top-earning years) that will be laid off, but rather the less senior (and often the best teachers I’ve seen).

I can truly understand the union’s position that a contract is a contract, to go backward sets a very, very dangerous precedent, that there is significant pressure from the state union leadership, and that they may feel they are going to take a major hit in the next contract negotiation anyway so they should take now what they’ve been promised fair and square.

On the other hand, I do not want to pay significantly more in RE tax, I absolutely do not want to see my children’s education diminished, I do not want to see people who have lived here for years and years forced out by impossibly high RE taxes, and I absolutely do not want to see some truly great teachers forced out by the principled position of senior union leaders, as I understand that position to be.

When Massachusetts wanted to sue tobacco companies to recoup Medicaid expenses for smoking-related diseases, they approached a Boston law firm (no affiliation). They negotiated a fairly standard contract that the law firm would be paid 1/3 of whatever it was able to recover for MA. As no such case had ever been brought before, the law firm was taking a very big chance. It undertook huge expenses during the course of many years of litigation, and would only get reimbursed if it won the case for MA. If MA won nothing, the firm got nothing. Years go by, other states bring same suits, and eventually there is a huge multi-state settlement of which MA get $254M. Under the contract, the firm is entitled to 30%, right? Just as the would’ve gotten nothing if MA lost? But MA says, hey, wait, we didn’t mean you should get 30% if we won A LOT of money, and reneges on the contract. Fair? or not?

Reminds me of here. When folks were flush, RE was soaring, bonuses were huge, times were very good, did the teachers come to us and say “hey, this contract is no longer fair because you have more money now”? Did anyone argue for bonuses for teachers, to share the wealth? Of course not. Yet when the shoe is on the other foot, we are incredulous that the teachers are not rushing to void their own contract as a show of largesse to the townsfolk.

What would you do?

25 John B February 14, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Come on!

The contractual obligations made during the flush years is what is hurting us now.
It is indisputable that the public sector contracts during the flush years provided generous salary and more than generous health and retirement benefits. How many in the private sector have defined benefit retirement plans? Which sector has the highest average pay, private or public? (answer public). Which sector contributes more to their health care plans?

26 kate February 13, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Does anybody know what the impact of the last failed override was? Were our schools hit hard? Were class sizes increased, teachers laid off? Did MCAS scores drop? I honestly don’t remember.

27 Matthew Brownell February 14, 2010 at 3:36 PM

I would amend the contract.

Let’s understand that a typical public service union contract is built from a failed and corrupt model of automatically rewarding seat-warmers – based on tenure.

28 Heather February 16, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Shubu,
Thank you for your very thoughtfully and evently presented position. It’s very value to hear everyone’s thoughts on this matter.

29 Neil Rossen February 13, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Those who have access to the Wall Street Journal will be able to read in today’s edition how many states and towns are increasing class size to cope with budgetary constraints.

30 Erin February 13, 2010 at 2:26 PM

I would challenge anyone who thinks that larger class sizes is the answer to spend one week in any of our grade schools. You will have a new found respect for the dedication of our teachers. Our class sizes of 20 or more are just on the verge of being unmanageable and in some instances are unmanageable. We all owe the best to our children and all of us including the retired community are dependent on the success of our children to keep the US a strong competitive nation. The schools of today are much different than they were even a short 10 years ago. The academic requirements are much higher and we have successfully incorporated children with all levels of need into the classroom. The teachers in our town deserve respect and the chatter of threats is absurd. Those of you that are posting here should go back and reread what you are writing. Would you be proud of your children for responding to a situation in the immature way that you are responding?
Yes, the cost of living continues to increase and will do so in perpetuity. Taxes will have to increase to support those costs. Working or retired, we all need to accept and adjust to these inevitable increases. I proud to live in a town that puts education first and I am willing to sacrifice in other ways to support my schools.
The quality of our schools is the number one factor that sets our property value. Lower the quality and lower your net worth too!!!
All of the Southborough Community needs to attend to town meeting. We need to stand strong and support everyone’s most precious resource, our children!!! And ultimately the quality of all of our lives.

31 Sue Grinblatas February 13, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Amen

32 Matthew Brownell February 14, 2010 at 4:05 PM

“Erin”, I am unsure where you’re finding “immature” or “disrespectful” posts, here.

And how is it that you feel that “Taxes will have to increase to support those costs. Working or retired, we all need to accept and adjust to these inevitable increases”. (??? !!!! ) Really ?

Erin, the only thing I find disrespectful is the unconscionable arrogance and selfishness of public service unions who continue to demand automatic lane & step wage increases , padded pensions, and feather-bedded benefits on the backs of America’s dwindling supply of employed, private-sector workers.

I do agree with you that “The quality of our schools is the number one factor that sets our property value”. But from the perspective of a resident who has lived in Southborough for 10+ years, I believe we have been **very generous** in supporting the school budget in nearly all instances and Town Warrants.

I can assure you, scare-mongering town residents with large increases in class sizes and declines in the quality of education are both knee-jerk and unnecessary.

Perhaps there is nothing that we can do based on the existing teacher’s contract. But when the contract comes up for renewal, I fully expect our Selectmen and school officials to aggressively seek market-driven concessions – the very same concessions that nearly anyone working in the private sector has accommodated the past 3 – 4 years.

33 John B February 14, 2010 at 9:17 PM

..
I suppose that anyone that disagrees with you is immature. Obviously you have never experienced decreased costs. Reducing costs is and will always be a driver in the private sector. What you refer to as “chatter” is sometimes referred to as democracy where people with differents points of view can express their thoughts..
We don’t need elitest reference to blogs.

o

34 Al Hamilton February 15, 2010 at 7:45 AM

Erin

1. The Consumer Price Index fell last year. Cost increases are not a “law of Physics”.

2. The coming tax increase required to fund the budget, 3/4 of which is for schools, will require a Senior Citizen who did not get a Social Security increase this year to pay about $500 more per year if they live in a typical home. Is this fair? Make no mistake at the margin someone in town might have to choose between medication and property taxes.

3. As things stand right now a substantial Prop 2.5 override will be required unless a there is a substantial release from the Overlay Reserve. The schools will have to bear a large part of this risk as they are the vast majority of the budget and are the only entity that is likely to request an increase. Are you going to stand at the transfer station and ask people to pay a lot more in taxes?

This sense of entitlement that permeates school culture (this is not a problem unique to Southborough) coupled with a real lack of accountability troubles a lot of people.

35 John B February 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM

(John B to differentiate from the other John blogger)

How did Dr. Gobron manage to hold Northborough’s $17,657,769 budget to a 1.58% increase amounting to $278,414 vs. Southborough’s 3.63% (+$552K) on a $16.7m budget? This reduces 2 teachers in Northboro (1 by attrition) vs our 6 teachers. Maybe their student/ teacher ratio is 21 (heaven forbid) vs, our cast in concrete, untouchable under any circumstance 20. Maybe the school employees actually gave back something or held off raises not under contract. Maybe the teachers contribute the same amount towaard their healthcare as other town employees do. I guess no one is going to move to Northboro because of their school system.

36 Kate February 14, 2010 at 10:12 AM

John B,

If I’m remembering correctly, Northborough got stimulus funding which Southborough didn’t. (Southborough did get some ARRA stimulus funds for special education, however.) Also, more Southborough students are opting to go to Algonquin, probably due to the economic climate, so Southborough’s share in funding the high school has gone up. Not sure whether there are other factors. I haven’t been to Northbough budget meetings.

37 Neil Rossen February 14, 2010 at 8:32 AM

There are parents posting here who seem to care less if everyone else has to pay for what they think is necessary. Retirees should factor higher costs for schools onto their retirement plans? How fatuous can you be? Who could predict the ridiculous explosion in school costs without any materially perceptible improvement in academic achievement? That applies nationally too where the the unions with ther stand against merit pay, school choice, etc continue their domination.

38 123 February 15, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Neil – I hope you don’t find this too half-baked; three quarters baked I’m ok with.

There are parents posting here who seem to care less if everyone else has to pay for what they think is necessary.

Hardly the case. My in-laws moved to Southborough in 1955 and would love to still live here; they can’t. Do I think that is right? My mother in-law (age 80 this year) drives 45 minutes each way three days a week, every week, to continue to be a part of her church and this community. Don’t for a minute think I’m blind to the cost of living in this town.

Retirees should factor higher costs for schools onto their retirement plans?
I’m told that in 1965 you could buy a house in Southboro for less than $20,000, a car for $350 and gas for $0.15 per gallon. That’s hardly the case today. So, yes if I’m ever able to retire, I will expect prices to increase and will factor them into my plans.

How fatuous can you be?

First the dictionary, because some of the words you like to use I don’t know: fatuous = complacently or inanely foolish).

Based on a long history of rising prices I’m not thinking I am the complacent or inanely foolish party.

Who could predict the ridiculous explosion in school costs without any materially perceptible improvement in academic achievement?

First the ridiculous explosion in school costs: What was the school budget in 1999, 2004, today? How does that increase compare to the number of students; the number of students with special needs? I assume you have the data to support the conclusion that they have exploded in a ridiculous manner. Please share it if you do.

Second- Why do you believe no materially perceptible improvement in academic achievement has been made in the Southborough schools? Many of the parents I know who went to those schools are very satisfied with the improvements in the level of instruction and what is expected of their kids.

That applies nationally too where the the unions with ther stand against merit pay, school choice, etc continue their domination.

I’m no fan of unions. They served a very real purposes at one point (think 10 year olds working with dangerous equipment in the mills of Holyoke and Chicopee). Today, in my view they benefit the least deserving members to the detriment of the most deserving. In the context of schools, I believe the benefits they provide keep teachers who have long since lost interest in teaching for whatever reason including being beaten down by parents who accept little responsibility for their kid’s success or lack thereof.

That said, the cards are on the table and they include a school union. You can jump up and down, yell and scream, or you can play your hand. If you chose to play the hand as it was dealt, I think you’ll find it easier to get closer to what you are looking for.

I’m amazed by how acceptable it seems to be to go back on our agreement with the union for their raise. Is there no honor left? There was a time when a deal was a deal and people took their lumps and lived up to it even if things didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to.

With that said, I fully expect our elected officials to expect the union to accept the realities of our time when the contract is renegotiated. I’m all for converting to a defined contribution retirement plan (low probability of that I know but I hope its on the table) and sharing the health insurance burden at a level consistent with other town employees.

39 John B February 16, 2010 at 11:08 AM

123,

How do I factor in higher school costs into my retirement? I retired in 1992. What am my missing?

Please advise.

Thank you

40 123 February 16, 2010 at 12:50 PM

I’d vote to freeze the property taxes at this years rates for anyone who lived in town and retired in 1993 or before. Has something like this been discussed?

41 John B February 16, 2010 at 7:33 PM

I would be all for that but it will never happen.

42 123 February 15, 2010 at 11:40 AM

I don’t have any kids in the schools. I still believe that we owe the best we can provide to the children of our community.

When my in-laws moved to town in 1955 it was largely a blue collar town (as they were) and there was a belief that a good education could help their children do better than they had done, and it did.

Many of those kids have returned to town, and are able largely because of the education they received, to raise their kids here, which I think is a good thing. For those who think that only people from away value the schools in town, I disagree. So many of the families in town that we know have one parent that grew up in town, and many more, myself included grew up in surrounding towns.

On our street, I know of only one family in which neither parent grew up in the area; almost all went to state colleges in Massachusetts. Elitist? Hardly, these are people who moved to town because it is where they grew up, and the town has a long history of sacrificing for its children. Sure there were those who disagreed with building each and every one of our current schools because the buildings that house the police station and arts center were good enough for them. Collectively the community decided to invest in those schools and the teachers that went with them. I’m glad they did and I appreciate the sacrifices they made.

43 Kate February 14, 2010 at 10:13 AM

Sorry about the spelling. It should read “Northborough.” My keyboard keeps sticking.

44 John B February 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM

FLASH: Wall Street Journal Feb 14.
Police,Fire Departments Face Budget Axe by Stephan Simon.

(excerpts) recession has pushed cities to make deep cuts

Fiscal Woes Push Up Class Size by Carrie Tuna

State officials say easing class size limits gives school districts more flexibility amid shrinking budgets.
Quote Others say the benefits of smaller class sizes are unproven. “after 20 years our children’s performance hasn’t been dramatically improved by these (class size) mandates.

The Journal provided a chart of student teacher ratios in 30 selected states.

I rushed to the NY Times, Boston Globe, Metrowest newspapers to read about the issue. Much to my surprise they had nothing.

45 123 February 15, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Let’s keep in mind the sourche of the quote – a govenor trying to justify cutting $127 million in funding for schools.

Quote in a bit more context below:

Others say the benefits of smaller class sizes are unproven. “After 20 years, our children’s performance hasn’t been dramatically improved by these [class-size] mandates,” said Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons in an interview. Last month, he estimated that removing the state’s class-size limits could save Nevada as much as $127 million in the coming fiscal year.

46 John B February 15, 2010 at 5:52 PM

123,

Regardless of who makes the statement is it true? Check the DOE website and look at the MCAS and proficiency results. Do you see dramatic change? From where I sit I only see dramatic chane in taxes.

47 John B February 15, 2010 at 5:53 PM

excuse me change (obviously I flunked typing 101)

48 Neil Rossen February 14, 2010 at 4:20 PM

That the NYT, and the Globe had nothing on class sizes is totally unsurprising. Those papers are simply mouthpieces for the DNC which in turn are beholden to the unions….

49 carrie alpert February 15, 2010 at 8:25 AM

To Shubu’s comment, i think that we have come up with acutal ideas to help the budget–(ie, paying for busing, maybe even a shorter school day to cut down on heating costs and raising the cost of Kindergarten–and actually going after funds not payed for services rendered for kindergarten education given) and yes there are laws on the books that stipulate the perimeters of these line items but if we actually banded together and showed that we were not going to tolerate the amount of teachers being let go (an acronym for being axed) then we could force the hand of those individuals who feel that it is best that our children learn in overcrowded classrooms.
When did we let others decide the course? Being part of the sheeple is rather boring–giving so few people so much power is what creates the disparity in the first place.
i am also tired of listening to other comparisons of other towns where class size is “only a few more kids larger” or other comments along those lines–one more child adds such a work load for a teacher. Also, the classrooms are not that large–in particular Woodward was not designed to hold the amount of students, plus aides that is the want of those people who are looking to go bare bones with the education for next year.
To the point that someone made that Southborough accesses Algonquin more than Northborough I would have to do some of my own research, more pointedly after this current academic year and the upcoming 2010-2011 year as i believe from what i am hearing is that the number has climbed to 20% of the population leaving for private.
If that number continues to not only climb but you also see a rollback in age that people are enrolling their children due to frustration in the public sector the towns landscape will change–
The other point that i would like to make since i have not been on in some time is that i believe it is unfair to blanket statement state that just because a group is focused on the education of the population of the children of the town that that needs of the retirees or other people are not important. What i do care about is the town’s children learning in an environment that is condusive to educating them and that the teachers we have acquired through the last several years are not forgone for a new police car or windows–

50 Kate February 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Carrie,
I’m not sure if you’re referring to my comment regarding the increase in Southborough students attending Algonquin. I didn’t say that there are more Southborough than Northborough students attending the school, I noted that we’ve been told the number has increased recently. There is no doubt that in the past a relatively high percentage of Southborough families chose private schools after 8th grade. A couple of years ago the percentage mentioned by Dr. Gobron was 25%, so 20% would be a drop.

As to class sizes, some class sizes are larger, some are smaller, especially as you get to the middle school. You’d have to go class by class to find the actual numbers. Perhaps having a forum where data (rather than anecdotal evidence) regarding class sizes & the impact on student learning/achievement could be shared would be helpful to the community. What number are you referring to at Woodward?

51 John B February 15, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Kate

Great point re: class size

52 Kate February 16, 2010 at 3:29 PM

One other thing I should mention regarding numbers: each year there is some attrition after two particular grades, 5th and 8th. After the 5th grade, a number of students leave our district to attend either private or charter schools. Then after 8th grade, some students go on to private high schools. Last year’s 8th grade was large, with 185 students while this year’s 8th grade has 10 fewer students (numbers from the Boston Globe’s MCAS breakdown). Some of those students will go on to private schools, so the number going on to Algonquin will likely be less than last year.

According to those figures, last year’s 5th grade (this year’s 6th grade) had 165 students.

53 Kate February 16, 2010 at 7:38 PM

I found the FY10 Enrollments document that’s been handed out at some of the budget meetings. According to this sheet, this year’s 6th grade has 157 students, 8 fewer than the 165 in last year’s fifth grade. I believe that a good number of the students who left accepted spots in the Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough. What may not be commonly known is that when a student leaves for a public charter school, the district losing the student is reimbursed for three years; 100% the first, 60% the second, and 40% the third while it adjusts the budget. So Southborough is getting funding for students it isn’t educating, and numbers in the middle school drop.

Charters also provide another option for Southborough special needs students on IEPs and 504 plans who have transferred and thrived (or are thriving) in them. The popular belief seems to be that only high-achieving students choose charters, but that just isn’t the case. Perhaps while we look at special education programming in the district, we should also educate parents and guardians of special needs students about the other public options available to them.

Although the district doesn’t get any more funding after the third year, some of the charter students return to go to Algonquin, so the monies return.

54 Sue Grinblatas February 15, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Yes, the nerve of thinking our children are entitled to the quality of education children of this town received 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. I for one would like to think that people who did but no longer have children in the schools are still part of the “school culture” that dares seek to maintain our school quality.
See you at the transfer station.

55 John B February 15, 2010 at 6:07 PM

Sue,

Are you implying that the quality of education is going down? What were the class sizes 10,20,30 years ago?

Those of us who have lived in the town for 20 or 30 years are the ones that paid for the schools the children are in. We were again asked to pay for the additions and new school. We voted for these things with out the hue and cry taking place today. All we are asking is for some belt tightening during these tough times. I don’t want education to suffer. Neither do I want to force one town ambulance out of service or cut fireman shifts to 3 (ipo 4) or see longer response tmes by police or fire. I don’t want to see our streets and roads deteriorate either. All town departments are sacrificing with a decreased budget.

56 Sue Grinblatas February 15, 2010 at 10:45 PM

John, I am not implying that the quality of education is going down. I don’t know whether it’s gone up or down or stayed the same over the years, although I do know that it’s changed a lot from when I was a child, as many of the people who have posted have explained with regard to the special education integration and other great programs we didn’t have as kids. Many of the people who thankfully and generously built those schools 20 or 30 years ago and voted to pay for them then, even during the terrible years of recession in the 70’s and 80’s, still want to support those schools even if they don’t have kids there anymore. Many, sadly, do not, and are of the mindset that their kids are out of school, or they never were in the schools here, and so why should they have to pay for them or care about maintaining the quality developed over the years.

I know that eligible (?) seniors can apply for tax assistance. I doubt that the fund and/or donations for that are sufficient to help all of the seniors who need it (nevermind those who are too young to qualify and/or just can’t afford to live here anymore). If someone can shed some light on that program, I would appreciate the information.

57 John B February 16, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Sue,

I agree.

58 Marnie Hoolahan February 15, 2010 at 12:18 PM

I think it is encouraging that so many people are able to share and express their opinions on this forum. There are two sides of the debate and I actually echo Erin’s comments and feel that some of these posts have contained personal assaults on others opinions or simple rudeness. It would be fantastic if we could elevate the discussion and focus on the issues and not make personal assaults.

I am a mother of 2 in K-8 Southborough Schools and I will support the 3.63% increase at town meeting. I moved to Southborough for the school system and I have had experience spending time with the Mary Finn School and Woodward School and have been extremely impressed with both schools. Neither one of my children is in a class size that is less than 21 children and the teachers are able to handle the diversity of abilities and provide focused attention to the leaders and laggers- because not every child is at the same level. I do feel that increasing the class size would disadvantage my children and I am not willing to sacrifice that.

The budget is being driven by 2 big ticket expenses- the first is the SPED budget where the state who traditionally picks up 79% of the cost has only agreed to fun 40% of the cost leaving Southborough with a ~$630K gap- we have no option here. The second item is the teacher salary negotiated increase of $550K-it would be great if the union came back and re-negotiated to save the ~9 FTE’s that will have to be let go if the 3.63% is approved. I heard that Shrewsbury teachers re-negotiated their contract to save their colleagues jobs and declined the increase. Certainly, it would be a true win-win of the teacher union agreed to eliminate the $550K but this town is still on the hook for the $630K, which would still require a tax increase or even more teacher’s eliminated. Al & Neil, would you suggest that we still need to eliminate teacher’s in order to cover the SPED budget? Would a compromise be made if the teacher union was willing to forego the $550K increases in 2010 and we would cover the SPED gap?

I work in the private sector and am fortunate to be employed. I understand the hardship impact of a property tax on our seniors and our unemployed but I acknowedge that I am not willing to sacrifice my children’s education either. I work hard, most of my salary gets placed in Medicaid and social security and I will not have the benefit of a health care plan or pension at retirement but I am saving judiciously for my future and I will expect that costs of living will increase.

These are economically serious times and I thank our town employees’ for giving up their proposed salary increases to meet the budget. I would think we all need to make sacrifice, mine will be a financial contribution in form of tax increase.

59 Kate February 15, 2010 at 12:45 PM

With regard to class sizes, one thing I haven’t seen discussed is having parent volunteers in the class to assist teachers, should an override fail. From the beginning of elementary to the end of 5th grade, room parents request volunteers. I spent many years in classrooms doing this, and really enjoyed the experience. The volunteers receive a good orientation, and do an excellent job. Dr. Gobron stressed that initiatives costing nothing are not being postponed in our schools. This would be a no-cost, community-building solution.

In the middle school parents appear to be used for chaperoning and fundraising. They do not help in the classrooms. Some studies, by the way, seem to suggest that the highest achieving students simply achieve more highly in small classrooms, while those who struggle for a variety of reasons can still struggle, whatever the classroom size. This could be looked at further.

60 Sue Grinblatas February 16, 2010 at 7:22 PM

I have seen, but do not have, the School Committee’s actual past and current and projected future enrollment numbers. Perhaps it would be helpful for someone who has the actual information to post it here or some other public place so we can all know what we are dealing with. After seeing that the MA DOE has our teacher ratio as 14:2:1, I have to admit I am suspicious of the accuracy of State figures on the matter (or most matters at that!). Is there any SC or Supt. person out there with the data who is willing to share it? While we’re at it, I would also be useful to see what the budget % increases and/or requests have been over the years and what the voters’ responses have been.

Thanks

61 Neil Rossen February 15, 2010 at 5:20 PM

The debate is taking on the feel of a stalemate. Some of those who have children in the system are determined to justify their approval of really insupportable cost increases applied for by the school despite the hardship it will cause to others. They are prepared to ignore the issue of increasing class size despite the statistics. The union could care less if teachers are let go to preserve their prerogatives. Amazing stuff.

Could make for an interesting, if bitter Town Meeting.

I now notice that “123” (I wish folks would identify themselves – why not?), takes a sidelong shot at my vocabulary or at least at “some of the words you like to use”. Well, I was in a class of over 40 (one went on to be a Rhodes scholar), and regret if my education causes offense. In no way do I feel that class size handicapped my education.

62 123 February 16, 2010 at 10:25 AM

I believe my lack of familiarity with the some (3) of the words you have used is a poor reflection on my vocabulary. While I may be operating with the lowest level of vocabulary on the board I suspect there may be others in my position as well. That is why I included the definition of fatuous.

Erudite – My first thought was an ancient tribe, along with the Canaanites and the Hittites. I’m not often mistaken for having extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books. You can see why.

Temerity – First thought was that it was one of the chipmunks in Chipmunk Christmas Movie. That made no sense the way you used it. Unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger or opposition makes a lot more.

Fatuous – Bit embarrassed on this one but I immediately thought of the word “flatulence”. Again, that made no sense, and complacently or inanely foolish makes a lot more the way it was used.

While these are serious issues that we’re addressing, I hope we can do it in a way in which we don’t take ourselves too seriously. After all, we could be neighbors and we probably share more of a common outlook than either of us may realize.

I don’t believe it is your goal to destroy the school system and it is not my goal to run the seniors out of town. Rather, I believe there is a real need in town for over 55 housing that is in the 1,500 sf range, single level with a garage and at price that matches that. Over 55 housing in the 3,000 sf range is fine but not a realistic option for many of the seniors that have been here for as long as they have. Paying taxes on half the house many seniors are currently living in can only help them continue to be a part of this community. I’m looking forward to seeing the Zoning Advisory presentation in March.

Based on the level of intensity I saw here last week from some of the posters, I’d like to remain 123. My intent is not to offend, just to ask some of the folks making somewhat inflammatory claims to back them up with the facts and consider the other side of the argument and the larger picture. My grandfather who passed in the fall of 2001 was so tremendously proud of the period of time in which he lived. All of the changes – no refrigerator, cars, electricity, phones, etc. to putting a man on the moon, etc. His proudest educational achievement was almost making it through the 10th grade before going to work (that’s the way he told it anyways). He sacrificed and worked his you know what off to provide the best education he could for his kids, knowing that was their ticket to doing a bit better than what he was able to do. Maybe because of that I feel a bit more of an obligation to see the kids of our community get the best we can give them.

63 Mimi22 February 17, 2010 at 6:06 PM

123, I don’t get the vocab lesson. Are these words really so totally new to you? I don’t think criticizing another poster for having a good vocabulary is appropriate, especially considering the topic at hand.

64 123 February 19, 2010 at 1:00 PM

You missed it. I’m making fun of myself as those three words are new to me.

The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. – Shirley Maclaine

In today’s world I find some small comfort keeping myself amused in this way.

I respect Neil’s vocabulary and likely agree with him on much more than he realizes. I disagree with his position that increasing the size of classes will not reduce the quality of the education for the kids in our community and I’m very confident that his class of 40 did not include kids with the special needs that today are included in the system. I have neither the time nor the desire to argue with the statistics referenced. When the statistics referenced defy logic the issue is almost certainly with the user. If they can find comfort for their position referencing those statistics, there is a larger issue for which logic plays no role.

These children have done nothing to deserve the legacy of debt and obligations that have been promised in the form of social security and medicare. It’s horrible that such a legacy would be left to them at all; that we would not give them every eduational advantage that we can is something I can not reconcile with my sense of right and wrong.

I fear that history will not be kind to the post-war generation that has collectively left this country so much for the worse than what was handed to them.

I haven’t written this in MSWord and copied it over so forgive the almost certain speling and gramatical errors.

65 Kate February 19, 2010 at 1:51 PM

123 – it’s absolutely fine for you to disagree with Neil, and you’re quite right, I’m sure, that his “class of 40 did not include kids with …special needs.” Until the 1970s students with special needs were often either delegated to the lowest track, or kept at home and not educated, or sent to institutions, depending on their level of need. However, special needs students have education plans (IEPs & 504s), and are often placed in smaller classes or supported by aides so that their needs can be met, so it’s fairly unlikely that they’ll be in larger classes unassisted too often (if at all).

I hope I’m quoting Eileen’s figures correctly – apparently in the middle school there are three fast paced math classes containing 30, 31, and 32 students. The school must feel that these students are capable of learning in a larger environment. I have a math loving child who has no problem at all learning in a large class. I also have a child with learning disabilties who has struggled in classrooms with 10 or fewer students.

This community is extremely supportive of education. If you’ve been reading the posts, you’ll see just how much time & money is donated to the schools by involved parents and community volunteers. I really can’t see that our children are being shortchanged at all, to be honest.

66 Marty February 15, 2010 at 10:27 PM

There have been several posts on the school budget topic by Advisory members Al Hamilton and John Bioardi. I suggest as many towns people as possible go to the advisory meeting when they vote on the school budget and make your opinions felt either way.

I would also suggest that after the meeting, you consider contacting Town Moderator David Coombs and give him some feedback on the Advisory members as you see them in that meeting.

67 John B February 16, 2010 at 10:59 AM

Marty,(no last name)

BOiardi, Thank you.

What are you suggesting regarding feedback to David Coombs?

68 Marty February 16, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Just that – feedback. Good, bad, or indifferent. The moderator appoints the Advisory Committee and if townspeople have an opinion on the members of Advisory, they should provide that information to the person who appoints them.

John – I’ve reread my post and I did not word it as I should have. My original post implies negativity and I did not mean that. I apologize for the inference.

69 John B February 17, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Marty,

Your point is true for all elections and/or appointments. If you don’t like what the School Committee, B of S or Moderator does your option is to vote them out.

70 Marty February 15, 2010 at 10:28 PM

I would like to thank Susan for having the patience of a saint for dealing with all of these posts.

THANKS!!!!!

71 Neil Rossen February 16, 2010 at 7:21 AM

Marty, You should as well thank those that are trying to keep costs down and protect the unemployed and those on fixed incomes.

72 carrie alpert February 16, 2010 at 11:17 AM

while we are at the accolades i would like to thank my son’s 4th grade teacher who purchases MONTHLY items for the “homework mastery” club out of her own pocket and also stays until 7pm on Fridays to get a jumpstart on the upcoming week–the kind of teacher you thank everyday that your child has, and that you hope the system never loses.

i agree with everything Marnie said and not because she is a friend of mine but rather because we are on the same page of the novel.

as far as having parent volunteers in to assist the teachers i do that, on a regular basis and so do my contemporaries–my backround is indeed in education but i hardly think of myself as assisting my daughter’s teacher, supporting her maybe but not assisting. Also, as the children get older the idea of having their parental units in class with them is not so endearing—

YES, the town meeting is going to be heated and YES, there is a feeling of thanks given to those who support the education process when their children have already passed through the system. We will do the same. Let’s call it “Forward Parenting” and supporting the minds of the future.

73 Kate February 16, 2010 at 8:38 PM

I found this link – parents in Clinton are volunteering in both the elementary and middle schools.

http://www.wickedlocal.com/clinton/news/x231951148/Parent-volunteers-lend-a-hand-in-the-schools

Terry Ingano is Clinton’s Superintendent of Schools. “There is probably much more that volunteers could do,” Ingano said. “ Right now they’re providing low-level assistance to teachers, like running copies, which makes life so much easier for teachers. Obviously, these days many parents are college-educated, and some of them having teaching degrees. They’re a group of people that could used for instructional purposes.”

Southborough has a wealth of knowledgeable, highly educated parents & volunteers who would do a wonderful job assisting in schools. It’s great to hear that other districts are thinking outside of the box – perhaps we could consider this.

74 Kate February 16, 2010 at 11:59 AM

Carrie – I applaud you for volunteering, and am thrilled to hear that many other parents are in classrooms every week. As “assisting” and “supporting” are synonymous, the outcome (hopefully) is that the teacher feels less burdened during the school day. If an override is proposed and then doesn’t pass, perhaps this will be one of the ways that larger class sizes will be made workable.

75 Neil Rossen February 16, 2010 at 4:35 PM

123

Feel free to continue your personal attacks on me and my vocabulary. I guess proper English usage should be abandoned. I will not stoop to the bait. Feel free too, to continue to use an alias and to consider yourself to be more public spirited than those of opposite views, but also be aware that no one is suggesting physical harm to anyone. One thing you may glean from this board is that just about everyone’s vote is in, and neither of us is likely to sway a vote.With that in mind, you can take comfort in the knowledge that I will in future ignore your attacks and not respond to them again.

76 Kathryn Marous February 17, 2010 at 10:08 AM

I would love if Southborough room parents posted here the average hours per month that are contributed to that class by parent volunteers. Anecdotally, I believe that most younger classes have a parent assist in almost all library and computer time. This is an addition to the decent amount of classroom time parents put in. This is especially true at Finn. I was surprised to see Kate’s post (which I agreed with) because I thought everyone realized how many volunteer hours were being put in, but I guess it just shows we all are not communicating as well as we should.

77 Kate February 17, 2010 at 10:57 AM

Kathryn,

With all of the concern regarding the possibility of rising class sizes and the resulting impact on student learning, not to mention the added stress for teachers, I started thinking about how parents could help in a practical way. This led me to remember all of the hours of volunteer time I had spent in classrooms up until my youngest moved to middle school. A teacher’s job is a difficult one, and with a recession in full swing, using human capital seems to make sense to me. We’re fortunate to live in an involved community – while passing an override in these difficult times may not be a sure thing, I’m sure parents will step up and help to make sure that teachers continue to be supported in every way possible.

Perhaps General SOS has gathered information regarding volunteer hours in the schools – this should be checked. You’re correct, room parents send out volunteer requests each year, so there might be some data available.

78 Sue Grinblatas February 17, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Some more info on current parental volunteers in the elementary schools:

In addition to room parent volunteers who help the teachers in and outside the classroom, parents are also in the classroom every week at Finn for: Math Workshop, Writing Workshop, Mystery Reader, lunch room monitoring, and as Kathryn said Library and Computer assistance. At Woodward, parents are in the classroom to assist with: Writing, Literacy Activities, Math Workshops, Mystery Reader, Computers, Library. At Neary, parents help with Library and Computers every week. In addition to the above, parents are regularly in the classroom to help with ad hoc projects and activities. Parents also help teachers and the schools outside of the classroom by managing bulletin boards and marquees , organizing things in the classroom, typing students’ materials, laminating, cutting, recycling.

Then there are the many things parent volunteers do through SOS, including but not limited to:
Cultural Arts & Enrichment – organize and run “culture days”, e.g., Chinese, Indian, Russian, Egyptian, with activities and educational units to teach kids; NE Aquarium visit to school; Arithmatickels to school; Nutcracker trip
Community Read Day – organize volunteers to read to all classes on same day
Teacher Grants – up to $100 per teacher to help offset their considerable out of pocket expenses for classroom materials or training
Educational Diversity Training at Neary to teach kids about dyslexia and other ways of learning people have
Bus Monitors
Collect and send for remittance Box Tops for Education (which brings in $1000’s for schools, crazy but true)
Communicate between schools/teachers and parents
Organize all social events (e.g., Ice Cream Social, Bingo, Sock Hop, Noodle Night)
Retain photographer and coordinate school pictures
Art Shows
Field Trips – subsidize, organize and provide volunteers

In addition to parental volunteers, the schools are also aided by seniors who volunteer in many capacities there.

In my experience at Finn and Woodward, it would be hard to imagine more parental volunteer involvement without those parents having proper certification to take over teaching or aide functions. I do not know whether there are more opportunities or places where parental volunteers could be utilized in Neary and Trottier as well as high school. This is definitely worth exploring as Kate suggests, for the reasons she suggests (not just helping schools, but good for kids at older ages). Although many families have both parents working by the time their children are of Neary age and up, many may still be willing and available to help in the classroom more if possible.

79 Kate February 17, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Wow, Sue – what a list! It’s amazing to see all of the things parents and community members do to make sure that teachers are supported in the classrooms. By the way, don’t forget the SOS Calendar, a major Southborough school fundraiser, which parents coordinate, typeset, scan artwork for, proof and have printed during the summer months when most people are getting some vacation time. And the parents who sew & create costumes for classroom plays. I’m sure there are even more examples that SOS chairs can share. While we are hearing that teacher layoffs and the resulting increase in class sizes might be problematic, it’s obvious we have more than enough community volunteers ready to step in and help out in the classrooms should it be necessary.

Kudos to all of those who volunteer in our community in any capacity. Your work is very much appreciated.

80 Kathryn Marous February 17, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Kate — I should have guessed you were a school volunteer yourself. :) Thanks for all those hours you logged!

81 John Butler February 19, 2010 at 12:19 AM

I have been approached at a public meeting and questioned under the assumption that I was the author of some comments on this web site that appeared under some name that caused the reader to assume it was written by me.
To set the record straight, I have not posted, and will not post, anywhere on this web site using other than my full name. Any similarity of any partial name posted here, or any anonymous posting, is not written by me.
John Butler
Member, Southborough Advisory Committee

82 John B February 19, 2010 at 7:53 PM

MetroWest Daily News Thursday, february 18,2010
Lt Gov touts results of stimulus
Page A7

chart: Education Jobs From Stimulus

Northborough-Southborough Created 5 retained 8
( Sue please don’t refer to my numbers as fraudulent)

Where are these people? What are their names? Does it mean we have to cut less teachers?
Perhaps the government had the zip code wrong.
This was not written by John Butler. If it had been it would be a lot more articulate.

Where are the five? Does that mean

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