MWDN: Southborough K-8 officials to consider idea to close one school

Above: Neary is one of the schools that could be considered for closure

The K-8 School Committee meeting this week agreed to revisit the question of whether Southborough should close one of its four schools due to declining enrollment, reports the Metrowest Daily News. The decision comes after a tense meeting earlier this week with the Advisory Committee. At that meeting former Advisory Committee member Al Hamilton presented numbers that suggest the school population will decrease by 35 to 40 percent over the next decade.

From the Metrowest Daily News:

While Superintendent Charles Gobron confirmed Wednesday that enrollment is declining, he said he does not agree with Hamilton’s projections. Gobron has proposed eliminating one teacher from the fiscal 2013 budget because he expects enrollment to decline by 30 students next year.

Advisory Chairwoman Claire Reynolds — who expressed concern Monday about not receiving information — spoke during the School Committee’s public comment session Wednesday.

“Please understand that we are not looking for (the committee) to scramble around putting material together, we’re just looking for what you have currently put together,” she said. “An adversarial relationship does not help anybody. We want to work together. We really do.”

Citing its policy to not respond to public comment, the committee did not reply.

School Committee Chairperson Marybeth Strickland put the topic on the agenda for next month’s meeting. You can read more about the decision to reconsider school consolidation in this article by the MWDN.

14 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Al Hamilton
11 years ago

It is interesting that the Superintendents report that he provided to the school committee Dated Dec 1, 2011 shows a decline in enrollment of 44 students next year.

https://mysouthborough.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/20120110-southborough-enrollment-projections-district.pdf (see page 10)

I would be happy to meet with the Superintendent and discuss the differing basis of our projections. If my data is wrong or my methodology inadequate I will happily correct it and reissue the estimate.

Resident
11 years ago

So Mr. Gobron presented information in December that showed a decline of 44 students and this week changed that number to 30 students? How can the numbers be so different from one month to the next? It sounds like he may aim for a budget number and then make the data fit the number? That does not seem to be a fair way to approach this at all.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago

If one were a cynic you might expect to hear an argument along the following lines:

“If we try to maintain 20 students in a classroom then a decline of 30 students is one classroom but not two so our proposed reduction of a single teacher makes sense”

But that would make sense only to the most cynical observer since it would imply that admission that Art teachers, Gym teachers, Music teachers, Reading Teachers, Librarians and others are not teachers.

k
11 years ago

i hope they dont close the schools. if they so, many jobs will be lost.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  k

K

I am afraid that is the central issue. As a community, we have an obligation to provide the children of our community with a quality education. In order to do that we compel every property owner to pay a substantial amount of money toward that effort. In recent years we have required that all property owners, including those living on fixed incomes, to make ever increasing payments to support an expanding school system that was driven by an expanding number of students.

Now the number of students in our K-8 system is declining. We still own each of those students a quality education. However, we do not owe any school staff employment. School staff are only employed in furtherance of our desire to provide a quality education to the children of our community. When their numbers decline it would be immoral to use the monies taken from a senior citizen living on a fixed income to keep unnecessary staff on the payroll.

So, yes, we do need to shed the number of school staff. It is not a fun topic but one which we need to face regardless.

John Boiardi
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al,

Is there any way we can see or read the charter for our school committee?
I would like to know if the SC represents the schools to the town or does the SC represent the town to the schools. Is the school committee the taxpayers watchdog over budget, curriculum , and administration etc?

Dan
11 years ago

Why wasn’t this presentation made to the School Committee? I’m fairly new to town, but it was my understanding that the Advisory Committee is just that; a Committee tasked only to make a recommendation on town warrants. It would seem to me that this presentation, out of courtesy alone, should have been made to the School Committee.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Dan

A little over 2 years ago the K-8 School Committee formed a committee to study the issue of school population and possible school closing in light of expected enrollment declines.

At the time I was a member of the Advisory Committee. I sent repeated emails to the Superintendent and Committee Chair asking when the committee would be meeting, asking to meet with them, and offering to do the same analysis I did for the Advisory Committee. I never received the courtesy of a reply from either.

The committee appears to have met in secret, as they never had a public meeting, and developed a recommendation that they could not close a school in the foreseeable future. They made a presentation to the full School Committee and then to the Advisory Committee.

This irked me as I had requested a meeting to discuss my demographic analysis. and I believed (and still believe) that this process was a gross violation of the open meeting laws and certainly no way to conduct the public’s business.

I made a public records request for all the work products of the committee to both the Superintendent and the Chair of the K-8 School Committee who also sat on the sub committee. The Superintendent handed me a stack of my own emails asking to meet with the committee, a copy of the presentation and a single indecipherable spreadsheet used to create a chart. The Chair of the K-8 committee ignored my request and never responded. The only conclusion that I could make was that this was never seriously investigated and that the entire episode was designed to kick the can down the road.

I left the Advisory committee but have maintained my interest in this subject. I decided to do the analysis on my own and was looking for a forum where I would get an open review in public. That is why I chose Advisory.

By the way you are only partially right about the responsibilities of the Advisory Committee. Yes, they recommend action on warrant articles but they also, by town by law, have a very broad charge to investigate the operations of the town and make independent reports to town meeting.

John Kendall
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al…..in light of your article here, and the obvious disdain the School Comittee has for working with anyone else, is it time for the Attorney General steps and looks for violations? Open Meeting laws, witholding public information, whatever.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  John Kendall

John

I have been reluctant to take this step. In the end the school committee members are our neighbors and for all intents and purposes volunteers.

C. Nicholas Ellis
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Ignoring a problem because the participants “are our neighbors” is a slippery slope. Having said that, I see no reason to run off to the Attorney General just yet, and indeed I’m not well enough versed on the subject to know whether the Open Meeting laws have been violated at present (or in the past), though the School Committee certainly falls under the scope of the laws. I simply do not feel they should get a free pass simply because they are our neighbors. As far as I am concerned, every member of every board is our neighbor, and I would expect no less scrutiny for the Board of Selectmen or the Advisory Committee than I would the School Committee. All are equal in the eyes of the law. I do agree with the sentiment that we should let reason dictate our actions, rather than emotion, but that applies equally to almost any situation we may find in life.

John Boiardi
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al,

I’m not sure I understand your response. I know the SC members are volunteers and neighbors. My question still is– whose interests do they ( the SC) represent? They are elected representatives of the town. As such voters try to determine who they will represent when they are elected. It is no different than any election. Does the candidate represent labor, the banks, Democrats , Republicans, the teachers, students? Again I’m trying to determine who our current SC represents. Do they represent me when they approve contracts that average 7% increases per year (your figure), when the average worker hasn’t had a raise in years?
I respect your feeling that you do not want to step into that arena.
Your research and presentation on school population is commendable.

Claire C Reynolds
11 years ago

Reply to Dan’s message — 1/15 @ 8:32pm

Dr. Gobron and School Committee Chair Marybeth Strickland were informed by their Advisory liaison John Butler in an email sent Jan 6th. Text is below……

I wanted to bring to your attention that Al Hamilton requested agenda time with Advisory Committee. He will be presenting his findings on K8 school population on Monday at our meeting.

Al reviewed his presentation with me this AM. I have not had a chance to trace his data back to original source material (because I don’t have the data from you yet), but his projections seem fair minded and suggest a continued steady decline in K8 population, one which approximately mirrors that seen in the 1971 to 1989 K8 population here. It deserves continued serious consideration.

I would encourage any of you who can do so to attend.

John

John Kendall
11 years ago

I understand everyone’s sentiments here, and I applaud those who I know spend a lot of time being on committees, especially when there is low or no compensation. However, rather than using that tired old word “transparency” all I would like to see is honesty, being up front with issues such as declining enrollment. Not wanting facts to be published publicly is ……..I’ll leave it at that.

  • © 2023 MySouthborough.com — All rights reserved.