Gobron defends school performance

by susan on February 29, 2012

The schools took center stage at a marathon 4-hour Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee meeting last night. During a discussion of the K-8 school budget, Superintendent Charles Gobron defended the district’s performance in the face of recent concerns about MCAS scores.

Selectman John Rooney asked Gobron to respond to data from the state Department of Education that shows Southborough’s MCAS Growth – a metric that measures the overall performance of a school not of individual students – has been lower than comparable schools, and lower than the state average, for several years running.

“Are we concerned?” Gobron said “Of course we are, but I don’t see it as a huge problem.”

Gobron, who participated in the effort to create the MCAS system back in the 1990’s, said MCAS scores were never intended to be the sole judge of a school’s performance. He pointed to Algonquin’s high graduation rate of 98% – the sixth highest in the state – as a better indicator.

“MCAS is not the be all and end all, and as long as I am superintendent it will not be the be all and end all,” Gobron said. “When it counts, when it is a question of graduation, we perform extremely well.”

Gobron said Southborough places a lower emphasis on MCAS scores at the elementary school level than other comparable districts. “We believe very strongly in a developmental approach. Kids don’t develop at the same rate,” he said. “MCAS are formative assessments until high school. They’re practice (at the elementary school level).”

“We view education as a journey, not a race,” K-8 School Committee member Susan Dargan said.

Rooney noted that the Northborough-Southborough district also falls below comparable towns when it comes to SAT scores, according to Department of Education data.

Gobron disagreed, saying Algonquin ranks well on SAT scores. “If you want to say we’re inferior to other districts, I don’t buy that.”

The K-8 schools have requested a 0.68% increase to their budget for next year. While Rooney said he was pleasantly surprised by the relatively low request, he argued performance still needs to be part of the discussion. “There needs to be some yardstick to measure performance, especially when year over year more money is requested,” he said.

But Rooney got little support from his fellow selectmen and Advisory Committee members on linking the budget discussion to performance metrics like MCAS.

“We could have a debate for days or weeks on standardized test scores and what they mean,” Advisory Committee member Tim Langella said. “I think you guys do a great job.”

1 Matthew Brownell February 29, 2012 at 2:04 PM

Dr. Gobron needs to reexamine his thinking in this area.

This is imminently a question of Southborough’s educational quality and value (MCAS/SAT) respective to other school districts, as opposed to raw quantity of graduates (school graduation rate).

Only in the exclusive and parochial province of public service administration and unions, do we find a dismissal and downplaying of comparitive stats which sorely point out that Southborough K-8, for the past 4 years, has been sucking wind in state standardized MCAS scores.

As a Southborough taxpayer with 2 children in Southborough’s schools – our Administrators, school committees, and Advisory committees need to *GET BETTER* in this area, and quickly.

It is my expectation that Dr. Gobron and the School Committee will be having additional meetings in the days ahead to develop a specific action plan to reverse the subpar MCAS performance.

2 JoJaMa February 29, 2012 at 2:35 PM

I always thought the MCAS was a false comparison. Teaching to a test does not mean better education. Dr. Gobron is correct in looking at the end results. Let’s stop ALWAYS pushing the panic buttons to get everyone worked up.

3 C. Nicholas Ellis February 29, 2012 at 2:40 PM

I’d just like to point out a comment found in today’s Metrowest Daily News, on the subject of budgets:

“Selectmen praised Coderre for his work, and thanked him for his smooth relationship with the schools — much smoother, Chairman Jeff Amberson pointed out, than some relationships in other towns.”

Here’s a link to the whole article:
http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x1771587042/Northborough-shooting-for-200-tax-increase

Of course Southborough is not directly named, but I would not be surprised in the least to find out we are the “other towns” being referred to. It’s a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in. I hope positive resolution can be achieved, and preferably not more of the same. Many things need to change, whether people want to accept this or not, and it’s time we all began working together to enact such. The status quo, in my humble opinion, is no longer acceptable.

4 John Rooney February 29, 2012 at 2:54 PM

The state assembles its data directly from the school districts, yet it appears that the data our schools present is very different than the data compiled by the state.

According to the state 2011 graduation rates, we are not “6th in the state in graduation rate” but, rather, 63rd. Anyone can do the research by going to http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/gradrates.aspx. Click on the column “% Graduated” and it will put the schools in either ascending or descending order.

If Graduation Rate is to be the yardstick with which to measure student performance, which from last night’s meeting I am told that it is, this still leaves the question unanswered:

Why do we spend more per pupil than towns such as Acton/Boxborough, Hopkinton, Medway, Westborough, Needham, etc., yet those towns have higher graduation rates?

5 JoJaMa February 29, 2012 at 3:02 PM

I am talking about education. Teaching to the MCAS doesn’t mean we are educating our children.

6 susan February 29, 2012 at 3:13 PM

I looked into this a bit to make sure the info I quoted in the post was accurate. For the sake of clarity in our discussion, here’s what I found out.

The ranking I quoted (6th in the state) was taken from the K-8 School Committee’s recent presentation on educational indicators (see the whole thing here: http://www.nsboro.k12.ma.us/files/_ZOJNk_/0f1544e172269cb23745a49013852ec4/SBSCTownComparisonV2.pdf).

According to the school committee’s report (which uses DOE data), Northborough-Southborough tied for sixth in the state in 2010 with a graduation rate of 98.1%. In 2011, the year referenced above by Mr. Rooney, Northborough-Southborough’s graduation rate dropped to 95%, putting us at 63rd in the state.

It appears the data varies significantly depending on the year you choose to highlight. For what it’s worth, we have historically performed better in terms of graduation rate than we did in 2011, with 2010 being by far our best performance in the past 5 years (the extent of historical data available). You can see the data for yourself on the DOE website at http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/gradrates.aspx.

7 Shubu Mukherjee February 29, 2012 at 3:54 PM

hi Mr. Rooney,

I applaud your efforts in starting this debate. Please don’t let this die down. It never hurts to evaluate oneself objectively.

Also, I want to point out that a student cannot score well on MCAS simply by learning to the test. The questions are designed such that the student needs to achieve a certain level of understanding. In this respect, I personally find MCAS to be a great aid in raising the standards of our school system.

-Shubu

PS: I am not saying I agree with all your positions though :-).

8 jerry c March 1, 2012 at 10:25 AM

John,

Thank-you for your thoughful comments. It’s good to see that we have public officials that want to improve our already excellent schools, and are ready to push the bar higher.

I have a few questions;

1: Boston Magazine notes a graduation rate of 98.1%, consistent with Dr. Gabrons statements. This may be a 2010 number, however. In 2011 the number was 95%. Does this somehow indicate that there is a serious problem in the school? This # seems consistent with many excellent schools such as Weston, Hamilton, Newton, Winchester, Westwood…. etc…. which all hovered around 95% in 2010.

2: In terms of spending per pupil; I know we’ve built some excellent schools since I’v been in town. The Trottier is relatively new, the Woodward is new, and Finn was totally refurbished. We also shared the cost for a new high school. This would probably explain a higher fixed cost per student than towns with older schools may experience.

In terms of teacher salaries, the towns average salary is $71.2K.
The link to the source is below. This is right around the middle of the pack, close to Plymouth, Cape Cod, Lowell and Lawrence (also consistent with Westborough and Northborough). This component of the cost doesn’t appear to be excessive.

I’m in the process of educating myself on this issue, and I just don’t see the problems you’re seeing. Any additional information would be helpful.

Thanks again for your help and your commitment to make our schools better.

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/teachersalaries.aspx

9 Al Hamilton February 29, 2012 at 7:57 PM

I can’t believe that we are seriously considering Graduation Rates as a measure of quality. Talk about the tyranny of low expectations.

10 Jerry C February 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM

After reading some of the comments, I dug a little deeper into the graduation report. I noticed that the 5 year graduation rate was 98.6%. Perhaps that’s the number Dr. Gobron is referring to (see 5-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (2010). Maybe, maybe not, but it seems there are other sources reporting school performance data.
Boston Magazine, 2011, rated the Northborough Southborough school district # 8 (out of 135 schools) in the state, ahead of Sharon and Wellesley, and slightly behind Weston and Lincoln Sudbury (the link is below):

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/best-schools-in-boston/index.html

Northborough-Southborough offers 20 AP classes, which is greater than similar schools such as Sharon, Dover Sherborn, Lincoln Sudbury, or Weston.
It’s interesting to note that this source also notes a 98.1% graduation rate, which by the way was equal to the #1 rated school, Dover Sherborn. This rate was also significantly better than any of the other top ten rated schools. The Northborough Southborough district managed to make the top 10 list with the lowest per pupil spending of $13.7K.

This source also notes very competitive achievement scores (the link is below) and once again ranks our district #8.

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/best-schools-in-boston/index2.html

The SAT scores seem to be competitive with some of the best schools, and much better than most of the districts noted in the list.

11 Shubu Mukherjee March 1, 2012 at 7:20 AM

hi Jerry:

I am not sure how the #8 ranking was derived, but if you download the data and sort them on individual columns, here are what you get:

MCAS Sample Points:
5th Grade Engilsh: Northborough-Southborough ranked #36
5th Grade Math: Northborough-Southborough ranked #46
8th Grade Engilsh: Northborough-Southborough ranked #17
8th Grade Math: Northborough-Southborough ranked #43
10th Grade Engilsh: Northborough-Southborough ranked #32
10th Grade Math: Northborough-Southborough ranked #30

SAT Math: Northborough-Southborough ranked #24

Needless to say, I am very puzzled how this leads to an overall ranking of #8.

-Shubu

12 jerry c March 1, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Boston Magazine has been rating High Schools Districts for many years. It’s rankings are similar to U.S. News rankings. One thing we know is that they have no vested interest in giving Southborough a higher ranking than it deserves.

It’s methodology is noted below (taken from the article):

We compared test scores from elementary, middle, and high schools in 135 districts, then looked within those districts to determine how schools were improving (or not) over time. Next, we called superintendents, principals, teachers, coaches, administrative assistants, and guidance counselors to ask: How many AP classes do you have? Can a kid play freshman sports? Do you offer pre-K of any kind? Will a child’s passion for math, science, or writing be fostered here? (The vast majority were helpful, though we did get hung up on once because it was Field Day.)

Finally, we crunched the data and came up with this, our exclusive ranking of the region’s 50 best school districts.

13 Shubu Mukherjee February 29, 2012 at 8:10 PM

Can we separate two issues:

1. Whether MCAS is important
2. Why we did poor in MCAS

When we ask (2), we get the response to (1). I really want to know why Southborough is doing so pathetic in MCAS. I think the tax-paying residents–whether they have kids in Southborough public schools or not–deserve an honest response since our property values are tied to MCAS scores, whether we like it or not.

-Shubu

14 Realtor February 29, 2012 at 8:27 PM

Although the town’s schools and superintendant may not consider the MCAS important, as a realtor now going on my third decade of selling homes, potential home buyers with school age children nearly always inquire about the results. Most buyers do their homework before choosing a town, and a four year decline is never a good selling point. For the sake of the values in town, the school committee and the schools need to get on this and reverse this trend.

15 M March 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Realtor,
Thank you for confirming this from your personal experience. I have mentioned this in previous posts. The quality of our schools directly impacts property values. This is usually brought up at Town Meeting to push for a vote in favor of the school budget. Declining school measures, whether the Superintendent agrees with these measures or not, exist in the marketplace for potential homebuyers to see. The argument won’t hold up at this year’s Town Meeting. The School Committee had best change things now or be prepared to be voted down.

16 John Boiardi March 1, 2012 at 3:10 PM

=

Confused,

I cannot attend meetings on Tuesday nights. I have a long standing commitment to Tuesday nights which I can not afford to miss. Aside from Tuesday meetings I attend all other meetings. The only time Advisory schedules meetings on Tuesday is when it it a joint meeting with the BOS which has not been that often.
Believe me it pains me to miss any Advisory meeting with the SC. I don’t “skip” Advisory meetings. If you check the meeting notes, aside from Tuesdays, I have the most consistent attendance record.
I don’t particularly attack Dr Gobron. I feel he does an admirable job.  As you know the Advisory committees charter is to advise Town Meeting, our legislature, on warrants. Warrent articles drive the town finances.  My concern is that the school budget is beginning to squeeze all other town budgets, such as police, fire, DPW , Assessors , to name a few.  If you look at other town budgets they have been level or flat for three years. The school budget on the other hand has been and is on an constant upward trend approaching 70% of the total budget. Teachers are getting 3 to 7% raises with step, lane and contract increases. Are you willing to continue shaving public safety budgets in order to fund what I consider lucrative school contracts? Who else are getting such raises during these economic times?
Add to the school department budget trends we now see from Selectman Roony’s analysis of Massachusetts Dept. of Education  statistics, that the Soutborough school performance is not on a par with towns that have lower per pupil costs, lower average teacher salaries , lower student teacher ratios.  What are we to conclude? Should we go along with continued budget increases ? Should we question school administration, our School Committee, and yes, Dr. Gobron.

I promise to write in on the ballot ” confused”.  I’m not sure of the first name.

P.S.  perhaps you’ve missed previous  years meetings of Advisory and The SC and/or Aministration ( not onTuesday’s) where I had a chance to participate.  Also, don’t waste your vote. 

17 Neil Rossen March 1, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Other than Mr Rooney, sounds like the Advisory Committee are not conducting the vigorous examination of the School that many taxpayers are asking for. Here we have M Langella saying “you guys do a great job”!! Of what? Poor test results, or just blowing a whole lot of taxpayer dollars?. Perhaps we could understand better where Advisory is coming fron if that is answered. Gobron’s usual pompous, evasive response is to be expected as is more of ther same at Town Meeting. Is Advisory prepared to stand for that? If so, I just give up.
“Great job”. Really?

18 jerry c March 1, 2012 at 9:58 AM

Neil. Can you note specifically, and comprehensively, which poor test results your are referring to? Also, can you note how they are blowing a whole lot of tax payer $’s? It would be helpful to know what programs or processes are creating this waste.

I’m trying to understand this situation the best I can, and I don’t see any signs of failure. None at all! I do see some areas that should be explained (MCAS growth), but really in the context of evaluating the entire system.

I hope you can understand my confusion. There seems to be a lot of discussion around problems and deficiencies and it seems that some of the conclusions are inconsistent with the data I’m seeing.

Thanks for the help. I’m trying to get up to speed on this issue.

19 Neil Rossen March 1, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Jerry, this info was published on mysouthborough. The link to the underperformance is at http://www.mysouthborough.com/2012/02/28/southborough-selectman-says-below-average-mcas-growth-a-troubling-trend/#comment-105538

You will note that Gobron wants us to only look at the graduation rate. I think test results are a better indication of actual achievement.

20 John Rooney March 1, 2012 at 12:05 PM

jerry c, Thank you for your informational comments and for taking the time to do the research.

After my election, I began asking questions about our spending in all town departments, not just the school budgets. I found that many of these questions had never been asked in the past, which I found to be surprising and a bit concerning. I have been consistently met with answers such as “that is how it has always been done” or “that is frowned upon.” Those types of responses do not answer the questions and fail to impress me.

When I asked questions about the school budgets, I was immediately cast as being anti-education, termed “irresponsible”, and essentially presented with the mentality “how dare you ask those type of questions.” The questions I asked related to issues such as consolidation of libraries, an analysis of four vs. three schools, the impact of spending on class size, collective bargaining issues relating to teacher and administrator salaries, other town’s educational spending, standardized testing, transportation costs, etc. I’ve asked these questions despite the overwhelming resignation of many that town meeting will vote in favor of the schools regardless of what information is presented. While that may be the reality, that should not stop the inquiry; there is a danger of complacency attendant to that process because it avoids any discussion of alternatives that may be available to do things more effectively and efficiently.

The overriding theme I have heard from the schools is that if their budget is cut, even if it is a minimal cut to ease the residential tax burden, educational quality will be directly impacted. This prompted me to look at how other towns spend their money and the relationships of those expenditures to student performance. The first town I looked at was Shrewsbury. The state statistics reveal that in 2009-10, Shrewsbury spent $10,564 a year per pupil. Southborough (K8) spent $13,036 and Algonquin spent $13,695. That is about a $3,000 per pupil delta, which in my mind, is substantial. I then saw, again from the state’s statistics, that the average class size in Shrewsbury during that same time was 21.8 students. In Southborough (K8) the average class size is noted as 17.4 and Algonquin as 18.4. Based on these statistics, the conclusion drawn is that Shrewsbury’s class sizes are larger which makes sense since they spend less per pupil.

I then asked, what impact does larger class size (and the associated less spending) have on educational performance? From the Shrewsbury school committee website, you will see an October 2011 report that does a MCAS comparison with other towns, including our town. You can interpret those results for yourself, but I think a fair reading is that Shrewsbury does as good as, if not better than, Southborough. Importantly, the school committee in Shrewsbury explains in detail the importance of the Growth Model and its significance.

I have yet to see a comparable document from our town, so I asked about it. I received no answers to my questions and instead was attacked for asking the questions. Apparently the response is that Southborough cannot be compared to Shrewsbury.

Then we recently discovered a document, previously mentioned by Mr. Butler, which shows a four year decline below the state average in MCAS growth. The state does its own comparisons. Here is the link. http://www.doe.mass.edu/apa/dart/districts.xls, It shows that not only has the K-8 been below the state average for four years in a row, we have also scored below the other 10 comparable towns. You will see a finance tab on that link. We spend and have been spending, more money per pupil than 7 of those 10 towns. So again I asked about it. The response is that our town has a different approach when it comes to MCAS tests and results. That brings us to where we are today.

In the last 10 years, the Algonquin budget has increased 51.36%. During that same time period, enrollment has increased by 297 students. Our K-8 school population is declining, yet the K-8 budgets increase year after year.

Someone needs to ask these questions. What are our students getting from this increased spending? How are other towns able to meet or exceed our performance by spending less? To not ask these questions because of a resignation that town meeting will give the schools whatever they want is a disservice to our students.

At the end of the day, if I was convinced that spending more each year on our school budget directly increases the educational performance of our students, I would be leading the charge to spend that money. I am not so convinced. I do know, however, that our residential taxes continue to increase as budgets increase, and at some point the quantity and quality of services will be measurably impacted.

21 Jerry C March 1, 2012 at 8:16 PM

John,
Thanks for the response. You’ve given me a lot of information. That DOE spreadsheet is a great tool.

I went to the spreadsheet link you noted and saw in the Overview that Southborough rated lowest in its comparable district comparison for MCAS Growth (there were eleven towns in the comparison). The same report, however, contains additional information regarding district performance. It notes that Southborough score in the %Advanced/Proficient in ELA is 83%. That’s equal to Acton, and greater than towns such as Boxford and Lincoln. Only Sudbury and Concord score higher in this metric. In Math it’s 71%, which is toward the bottom of the pack but still higher than towns such a Northborough and Lincoln.

As you move across the tabs to the “Curriculum” tab, it notes that our ELA and Math scores are significantly higher than the state average. A further look at the data notes that the scores for proficient and above have remained remarkably stable since 2007, only varying by 1 or 2 percentage points. This is probably the source of the low growth rate. It’s clear there has been little to no growth in these scores, but it’s also apparent that they were reasonably high to begin with.

The Finance tab is very interesting. It notes that Southboroughs cost per pupil expenditure has increased by 27% since Fy06. Our cost per pupil expense of $13K is almost exactly the same as the average state cost. Our average teacher salary has gone up by 31.6% over the same period of time. Our average teacher salary is about 3.6% greater than the average state salary.

So what does this all mean? It might indicate that we’re getting very good performance for the money we’re spending. Our expense metrics are comparable or slightly above the state average, while our performance is significantly higher. It might also indicate that we could use improvement in our Math curriculum.

I used the same spreadsheet to pull up information on Shrewsbury, and I must say I’m very impressed with their numbers. The comparison with Soutborough, however, is a problem since Shrewsbury is reporting grade span PK -12, while Southborough is reporting PK -8. Any comparison of the two districts would not be viable.

22 Shubu Mukherjee March 1, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Jerry: who are you? Do you work for the Southborough school system? If I were to guess, I think you do for the Southborough school system and and you are hell bent in proving that Southborough’s MCAS scores can be ignored. I would be happy to be proven wrong :-).

I have already listed the MCAS rankings for Southborough. That data is out there. Make no mistake. Southborough is pathetic in MCAS. Whether that is good or bad is a separate issue. John is doing the right thing in questioning what’s going on. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions.

-Shubu

23 Neil Rossen March 1, 2012 at 10:39 PM

Shubu, the same thought had crossed my mind. “Jerry” (nom de plume) seems so much wanting to understand yet seems to have done much research. One wonders. Maybe he’ll let us know who he is.

24 Paul Gaffney March 6, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Well-done analysis Jerry C; you will likely find that facts are not the effective disinfectant that they would otherwise seem to be :) As a perhaps apocryphal news-person once said: why let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

25 Jerry C March 1, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Shubu,

I’m a resident of Southborough who’s lived in town for 16 years. I have two kids in the system… one in the 5th grade and another in the 11’th grade. I don’t work for the school system. I’m a person who works in private industry…. you know where you get a 2% pay increase every year and they strip you of your pension ( my attempt at humor).

When some of the recent articles appeared I became interested. Objectively interested. I didn’t know if the information was correct or not. I went out to research and validate the data on my own, and draw my own objective conclusion.

What I’m seeing in the data is different that what other people are seeing. I’m seeing a good performing system. Not a perfect system, not a system that doesn’t need improvement in some areas, but a system that seems to benchmark well with peer school districts, and very well against the state as a whole.

Do I think MCAS scores should be ignored? No. They are an important measurement of a school, but not the only measurement. They help to identify problems. MCAS indicates that there are problems with our students math performance, and the schools must work to improve in that area. We should hold them accountable for putting together effective programs for improvement and track the performance over the next few years.

In terms of John asking questions, I totally support it. It’s always good to shake things up. That’s what makes things improve. More people should ask questions… and keep asking…

One final note; it might be helpful to separate the budget issue from the school performance issue. John, and others, have a right to ask the schools to do less with more, and live within our means. Regardless of school performance, the teacher pay increases are not sustainable, and from my point of view can’t be justified. I can’t think of any other industry that has increased wages by 36% over the last 5 years. Also, the schools should look at declining enrollment as an opportunity to decrease costs and improve quality.

Thank-you for spending the time to respond.

I’ve always felt privileged to live in Southborough, and I’ve felt that my kids have received a good education… certainly better than most children in the world will ever see.

When I recently read some of the comments regarding our schools,

26 Shubu Mukherjee March 2, 2012 at 6:33 AM

I agree with Jerry that (in this first round of discussions triggered by JohnR’s comments) we need to separate school performance–particularly MCAS in this case–from budget issues to have an honest and objective discussion.

27 Al Hamilton March 2, 2012 at 8:03 AM

I am not sure we should separate funding from performance. Given that we fund and pay generously we should expect high performance. If those standards are not met then we need new management and perhaps new workers. There needs to be accountability.

However, the challenge is how to measure performance. First, we need to admit that academic performance is highly correlated with income. Southborough and Northborough are well to do suburban communities. We should expect that we would have high graduation rates and high test scores even if we had a brick for a Superintendent. Children that arrive at school, who live in a safe environment, have eaten 3 good meals, and have a parent or parents that insist they do their homework have a huge leg up in the process. In effect these lucky children represent fertile ground in which a school system can grow knowledge. Other children in other communities and other situations are not so lucky and planting that crop is just that much harder. None of this, has anything to do with school policy.

So, taking credit for high test scores and high graduation rates is really in large part taking credit for the efforts of parents. The MCAS growth statistic is one of the few metrics that attempts to remove the income effect and measure educational effectiveness. It is the cleanest measure of how good a job the school system, Superintendent, and School Committee are doing and they are coming up short.

We should be paying attention to the math scores because they represent an anomaly, a deviation from the expected performance. Shubu’s anecdotal report that many parents are taking steps to correct this deficiency is also instructive. Should the Superintendent and School Committee take credit for higher math scores when parents are compensating for the systems deficiencies?

Education is too important to be left to the educators. We need to insist on the achievement of high standards and high performance in measures of effectiveness. We have been very generous in the raises we hand out and have the right to expect uniform excellence. Those that do not measure up need to leave. We as taxpayers should expect no less and our children deserve no less.

28 Neil Rossen March 2, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Al, What you seem to be suggesting is pay for performance. As you know the unions resist this and any other program that measures performance. Whilst I rail against property tax increases, I am amenable to expenditure based on measurable results. What is not being discussed of course are residents on fixed incomes. Their interests will, as usual, get lost in the hubub.

29 Neil Rossen March 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM

FYI
While we discuss the various issues surrounding this topic, Gobron is actively canvassing for votes. Close to Town Meeting, on Wednesday March 28, he will be presenting at the senior center with handouts to illustrate the school budget. I very much doubt that he will present anything at all that does not bolster his case. Gobron is smart, as are politicians. Seniors vote and have the time. They can also be bamboozled by his hectoring tone.

30 Jerry C March 10, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Neil,

I actually have a lot of faith in senior citizens, and I doubt very much that many of them could be “be bamboozled by his hectoring tone”. Senior citizens as a whole are intelligent, educated, and have a lot of life experience. They can make their own informed decisions on what they think is right or wrong.

31 Bonnie Phaneuf March 10, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Mr. Rossen,
FYI
Visit the Senior Center you will find that they are not easly bamboozled [:dupe, hoodwink] they vote because they care and take the time. Most of the Seniors that visit the center still live independently in their own homes,drive, some still work and pay taxes just like you and I.

GIVE THESE YOUTHFUL SENIORS SOME CREDIT..YOU JUST MIGHT FIND YOURSELF AT THE SENIOR CENTER HAVING FUN SOME DAY.
I would like having coffee with you and bring Al,
bonnie

32 Neil Rossen March 11, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Bonnie, BTW I am a senior, and have borrowed (on my wife’s behalf) a wheelchair for a month.
My concern was that as Gobron, with his cohorts cheering him on, has bamboozled the Southborough taxpayers before with his one sided presentations, and that he would use this opportunity to do so again.
Maybe its just me and a few others who can’t get it into our heads that taxes should increase in the face of declining enrolments and inadequate MCAS resuts

33 Jessica Rosenthal March 23, 2012 at 8:56 PM

These comments have been quite entertaining for me to read. From accusing Jerry of “secretly” working for the Southboro Public Schools (and if he did – does that mean he does not have a right to post?), to implying that seniors can be easily be “bamboozled” by Gobron’s “hectoring” tone (though since he is my former sixth grade social studies teacher, you might have a point there haha!) Very interesting, and very entertaining discussion. And Bonnie – I’ve invited Neil to coffee before, to no avail. If he accepts your invitation…can I come too?

34 Neil Rossen March 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Jessica, John B may feel comfortable with the school results. I and others are not comfortable with mediocre MCAS results that affect property prices and are at least an objective measure. John is right though that the big problem is the outrageous cost per student. But then I do not expect beneficiaries of that high cost to find it objectionable. The divide between us is I’m afraid to great to be resolved over a cup of coffee. Continue to be entertained on your way to the bank.

35 John Boiardi March 12, 2012 at 7:11 AM

Comment,
The Southborough school system issue has been blown off course on this blog!

I will give you that our school system does a good job (MCAS or not). I will give you that Dr Gobron does a fine job. I will agree to what ever criteria you use to judge our school system. My issue is the COST of our school system! Why does it cost $1300 more per pupil to obtain comparable results to COMPARABLE towns?

Quit obfuscating the issue with eriudite posts about the quality of the education and give some insight as to how, in this economy, our school system became so expensive.
Hint—- Contracts.

36 Helen March 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Ok, a couple of items I’d like to point out here:

– First, I’ve noticed that the data collected by Boston Magazine doesn’t always jive… for instance, Hopkinton has a reported student body of 3,454 while Northborough-Southborough has 1,438, obviously not taking into account K-8. The ranking is for high schools, not K-8. So they’re taking data from K-8 MCAS, but not using the correct number for student population. Remember, they’re a magazine, they’re trying to make sales, mistakes can be made when trying to hit those deadlines.

– Second, I have to confess… one of my sons is the reason for the lower MCAS scores! I hope we don’t get run out of town for that confession… Has anyone taken into account the number of SPED students taking MCAS have issues with these tests… yet are getting a lot of help through the great programs that they’re in. The info is in their heads, but they can’t always get it down on the paper. People do move into town because of these programs, and when a child “graduates” from a 504 or IEP, they still may test lower, but not need the special services.

I agree that we need to keep on top of expenses everywhere, just as we all have to live on a budget at home. But I know how intelligent all my children are, and the one that tests horribly is no less smart than his siblings. It’s just that the test is ONE indicator, not the ONLY indicator. The schools are doing a good job, and we need to stick to budgets, but we need to make it less confrontational.

37 Annette Flaherty March 26, 2012 at 2:06 PM

It sure was an intimate group at the school budget meeting led by Dr. Gobron in the Woodward School this morning. Many school committee members were there as well as the principal of Algonquin Mr. Tom Mead. They outnumbered the public attendees. With all of this discussion, I thought there might be some others taking the opportunity. Dr. Gobron addressed questions and stayed afterward for discussion on many of these issues. If you are motivated enough to post or to follow this discussion, it would be worth your while to attend one of the two remaining meetings. Perhaps tonight? Thanks to Susan for the info.

Monday, March 26 @ 7:00 pm – Woodward School Cafeteria, 28 Cordaville Road
Wednesday, March 28 @ 11:30 am – Senior Center, Cordaville Hall, 9 Cordaville Road

38 susan March 26, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Annette, I’m not able to attend either of the sessions today, so I appreciate the update. For those of you who attend tonight’s session, come back to the blog and let us know how it went.

39 Shubu Mukherjee March 26, 2012 at 9:22 PM

Thanks, I did attend. Appreciate the note here as well as the notes from Mr. Randell and Ms. Murdock (to parents of Mary Finn and Neary).

The budget is what the budget is and I am sure the Advisory Committee and Selectmen will be looking into the Algonquin budget very carefully this year since it is a sizeable 7.7% increase that is being requested. In the end, the school budget always passes, so it is unclear what any debate, if at all, on the budget will be useful or not.

I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to see that the school system is taking the community’s concerns over MCAS seriously. I talked to Ms. Murdock separately and she has been trying to change things, which was very good to hear. In the end, the school system will have to strike the balance on what is important (e.g., between music/arts vs. math), but as parents our job is partly to help build in some tension in the system so that the school tries to continue to improve.

It was great to meet Jerry C finally in person. I wish him all the best in trying to improve the Southborough school system. His enthusiasm could become contagious.

-Shubu

40 Neil Rossen March 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM

Well, Shubu, as the budget always passes seems no point I showing up. Guess it doesn’t matter that student numbers go down, but costs go up and contracts are given to teachers. Guess we all roll over and stick it to those on fixed incomes – again.
Sad. Unions win – again.

41 Jerry C March 27, 2012 at 7:12 AM

Shubu,
It was also great meeting you.

42 Al Hamilton March 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Shubu

I hope you are correct. I fear that what is being said is just “School Talk” It goes something like this. “I hear you, I recognize the validity of what you are saying, we need to balance this with all our other priorities”. And then nothing happens.

Unless there is a real measurable plan I am afraid that it will just be business as usual. Next time you see them ask for specifics. I hope I am wrong.

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