I was indeed referring to your post, though I did not mean to imply that you and others hadn’t put your kids through the system or done your share. I was merely pointing out that when your kids are in school (my daughter), or about to enter school (my son), and people want to close the school on the basis of dubious numbers, both in terms of savings and in terms of construction costs, it’s harder to accept than it may be for those whose children have already benefited and are in college and beyond.
I agree with all your other points. I have no idea why property taxes are the main way education is financed. Senior citizens who have worked their whole lives to pay off their houses are unfairly penalized in this system. I also hope for positive change out of Beacon Hill, though I’m not holding my breath.
I still hold that Option D is the best one, given what is now known.
Patrick: I guess that I am the one that you stated that I had no children in the school system now.
I did have four children go through the Montague school system, all four have good jobs and are doing well, thanks to the education they received within the system.
Although this may have been some years ago. I am still paying taxes on yours and other children, and I believe that I probably support the schools much more than many of the people who transcribe on this Corkboard.
By the way my taxes went up 32 % on my nearly ten acres of land and 25% on the home. I think that this is quite a hit, but i will probably continue to support your childrens education.
A thought that should be considered is the fact that just a few years ago the Town Highway Department had 28 people working for them, and now they are down to just 13. These men are asked to do the same amount of work as in past years, and probably more.
My question is, are we asking the Town employees to keep up the pace as in past years with less employees or should we seek another override?
I sure hope that something comes out of Boston with the new atmosphere that Duval Patrick has stated that he will attempt, because if nothing happens we are all in for a tough row to hoe.
I sincerely do not mean to offend anyone by this post, I am only trying to post my opinions.
The Finance Committee and the Selectboard both have a tough job ahead in dealing with this coming budget and I am sure that they are trying to do the best that they can for our community, so let’s sit back and see what happens.
I’d be glad to speak to some builders, and try to get them to send their cards in. The ones that aren’t moose-hunting in Maine right now can probably use the work.
The point I’m making has more to do with using vague numbers as the main justification fro closing a school. If we need to close a school to save money, we should at least have concrete numbers to back up any decision made, and I think it’s pretty clear that we don’t. I understand the difficulty in getting the quotes, and the ones who talked to me may balk at working up a quote for a job which is unlikely to exist. However, time and time again people have used these vague numbers as the sole reason to select for closure a school which is otherwise beloved in the community and successful by any other standard.
I stand with Jeff and others in stating that, given the facts we have, option D is the only sensible one.
Patrick -- are the people you’re talking to figuring on paying prevailing wage? If so, maybe they should send their cards to the GMRSD business office -- I bet Lynn Bassett would be glad to hear from them.
I’ve heard that it’s hard for the district to get estimates because they so seldom go ahead and do the work. Contractors complain that time and again they put time into putting together quotes only to see nothing come of it -- not "nothing" meaning somebody else got the job, but "nothing" meaning there never was a job in the first place. If the people you know are willing to step up and offer quotes, I expect they’d be welcome.
There’s another issue, IMHO, which is not directly related but seems relevant in context. The buildings are owned by the town of Montague, but everyone expects the school district to figure out what needs to be done, how much it should cost, when it needs to be done, how serious it is, etc. This is a fair amount of work on the district’s part, and all for buildings they don’t own (to be sure, their lease is something like a dollar a year). Personally, I don’t think that’s very fair, but I’m a minority opinion on the subject.
MikeL -- I’m glad to hear that the state is now encouraging renovation. The old policy of "we won’t pay to fix it, but once if falls apart we’ll pay for a new one" seemed nuts to me. I still think that any major project would run into both things like building codes and the "doing it all at once is cheaper than doing it piece by piece", but any flexibility in the requirements seems like a good thing.
On the subject of renovation costs: you’re absolutely right that any legitimate renovation of the Montague Center School- or any other elementary school- would have to be of a scope that brings the building entirely into compliance with all municipal codes: health codes, building codes, etc. The same is true for many- but not all- "educational codes".
The SBAB -school building assistance bureau- (when we got the high school project, the "SBAB" was two guys and a filing cabinet in a converted men’s room, if you can believe that, and they did an incredible job!) was legally mandated to follow a strict set of specifications when approving plans for renovations or new construction. The MSBA (the Mass school building authority), which is the upgraded and redesigned SBAB, has significant discretion regarding the enforcement and imposition of these standards. Because the building authority’ emphasis is now on renovation over new construction, the MSBA can overlook classroom size requirements; acreage requirements; etc., etc.- especially when doing so results in the maximization of existing public resources (like the sawmill river watershed; branch libraries; municipal recreation facilities; or wildlife management areas). It is, frankly, a better approach- even if the commonwealth’s motives are a bit cynical (renovation costs are far less than the cost of new construction).
You are right, the quotes on this whole Montague Center renovation are really high and the problems can be addressed over time, as we have done with other buildings. It is much less than the pool, which we paid for and which is much less important to education. Also this whole cost issue should be considered in the context of the broader needs ot the town: we could well save some money on the other side with option D which would open Hillcrest for other purposes. We need a broader vision. On the other hand MikeN is on the capital improvements committee and it is not really their job to come up with a vision for education.
Is the Montague Center building the crux of the problem? Not at all, it is just one issue, and certainly a valid concern But on the other hand these debates sometimes have the quality of a shell game. We argue about the budget and when it is shown the savings there are very small we move on to the cost of the building. And then when it shown that the costs are inflated and can be dealt with in a broader context, well then it is back to enrollment declines and the budget. All valid concerns to be sure but at some point you have to stop going back and forth.
The basic question is, do renovation costs and budget savings mean we should go with a broken grade span, have two K through 5 schools next to each other or pile everyone into Sheffield? Are these things good for education and will they attract people to the district (and avoid more school choice losses?) Do the budet concerns reflect a vision for education or simply throwing one out the window? At some point you make a choice. My choice is that option D, despite problems, represents a positive, hopefull vision for our future,
I’m no expert either, but I’ve talked to several engineers and builders who have said that those figures are extremely high. One said "I wish someone would give me a quarter million for an elevator and 50K for a ramp". The super said the figures were based on one quote from a builder taht has a reputation for being expensive. Any organization I’ve ever dealt with requires 3 quotes to put in a sink, let alone these kinds of repairs.
If this number is the crux of the whole argument, I wish they would come up with something definitive. As I’ve repeated ad nauseam, when the super was questioned in one of the forums about these figures, she essentially said that she didn’t know what it would cost to do the repairs.
Also, the restroom figure is for kindergarten classrooms which have been doing fine without. I understand that these issues crop up when you start considering repairs in general, but if we can’t afford it I hear no one complaining about it. My daughter went through kindergarten there and I never once heard about a problem with the bathrooms.
Anyway, it seems the whole thing is based on a lot of speculation. If this is the main argument for closing a school and causing major changes in many people’s lives, it ought to be easy to understand why there’s so much resistance. After all, the people who advocate for closure and say they "will take whatever is decided even if it is not what I wanted" don’t have to worry about where their children will go to school next year.
The current $730,000 estimate for MC school renovations includes a handicapped accessible ramp, an elevator, restrooms, the roof, and the floors. No mention is made of electrical or plumbing, but I’d be surprised if they are completely adequate if the school doubles its population and grade span. (Of course, I’m no expert, and I’ve been surprised before. I’m just telling you my opinion.) The elevator cost estimate ($250,000) seems to be about 5 years old, so I’d also be surprised if it’s still accurate.
Additionally, I think that once there’s serious talk about renovating the building, a number of other issues will come up, under the heading of "it’s cheaper to do it all at once". For example, the new middle school/high school has a building security system -- won’t people argue that any other renovated school building needs one as well?
Once costs start creeping up, there will be pressure to try to get some funding from the state through the SBA, and that will mean complying with a host of state requirements. Maybe the district will resist, but I think the same argument as was used with the middle school/high school will apply: we can get a mediocre renovated school if we fund it ourselves, or we can get a great renovated school if we take the state money, and it’s just about the same cost.
Again, I’m no expert, but going on the principle that things always cost more than you expect I predict that if this comes to pass it will cost more than $1 million. If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you both a beer.
MikeN writes: "We’re told that "research" strongly favors k-5 or K-6 configurations, but our neighbor Greenfield seems to be quite happily considering other arrangements. Are they just stupid (or ignorant), or is there more than one way to build a successful school system? IMHO, this may be one of those cases where there may be more than one right answe."
Well I certainly don’t think that we should do something just because "the research" says we should do it. But I don’t think we should throw the research out the window either. And in this case, based on my own personal experience, what I have seen here in Montague with the broken grade spans, the choices parents seem to make,, the various small school experiments around the country and the results of the poll taken by configuration committee, "the research" seems to be well supported by reality.
The one thing the school committee seemed to agree on about a month ago was that we should go with a K though 5 or 6 grade span. Mary Kociela asked if there was a consensus on this and EVERYONE nodded. Then we got this big budget gap number and half the committee retreated to the current broken grade span
As far as Greenfield is concerned, I think they, just like Montague and other communities, are confronting budget panic and ignoring what makes schools work.
I agree with many of MikeN’s comments about the broader budget issues. My problem here is that most school officials and many politicians are trapped in what I call the "Hancock logic": the idea that we need a big infusion of state money to fulfill ed reform and equalize spending between rich and poor districts. This is also related to the idea that we need to fix "the formula" to solve our budget problems. It is my view that such an approach would be counter-productive and probably will not work as a lobbying strategy anyway.
More money coming in from the state in the traditional way simply ratchets up school budgets even more, creates greater fixed cost increases which is the problem, and makes us even more dependent on annual state chapter 70 appropriations which is also the problem. That is to say, it recreates how we got into this mess in the first place.
The state and federal government must play a bigger financial role or we are sunk. But it would be better to take pieces right out of the local budget rather than simply pour more money into it. For example, Special Ed above the average cost for an average pupil would be federal. Create a state-wide pension system. Ditto health care and maybe even a statewide contract for teachers, which would eliminate disparities in a key are between rich and poor districts. These are perhaps somewhat radical and unrealistic ideas right now but I strongly feel we need to get out of the box we are in, change the picture frame. The old ed reform way has not worked!!!!!!!
You know, maybe I have a misimpression but I don’t recall this whole MC school ADA ’budget buster’ argument being on the table when this debate began and the MC school closing was held out as the ’budget saver’ by the district.
Now it appears to be generally agreed that closing that school will either not help the budget much or help it only a little, depending on which set of numbers you agree with. But it will even come close to closing the (alleged, but yet to be specifically quantified) gap. So in comes the ADA estimate which as far as I understand was ballparked by one contractor.
Can we bring any more murky info to the table here folks? Any other half-pieces of data, guesstimates, astral chart readings or other obfusckery to add to the mix?
Mike: You asked for other opinions............ Here is one: IMHO------ MC need some work 1) a roof-----which it will need if the Town ends up with it or leases it out, 2) Handicapped ramp, 3) It really needs new floors,and[probably take up old asbestos floors] Even with that, it is not near a million$,
I am still disappointed how this entire issue continues to be debated in a devisive way.
Everyone should know by now ,that closing any school before it is ,without a doubt, the appropriate thing to do
will not come anywhere near close to closing a potential gap of 800 plus thousand!!
Why do some folks keep suggesting that closing a school is central to solving that problem?Sorry to disappoint you folks , but it isn’t.!!!!!!!!!
For instance, what has efforts have been exerted recently to INCREASE revenues in NEW growth with industrial /business developement. It is a little like growing crops, you have to plant seeds to have crops grow!!!
Maybe it has been happening and I just haven’t heard about it!!! Anybody have any information on that?
Could you elaborate on why you think it might cost "more than $1 million"? Because I think that’s a huge piece of the puzzle that’s missing.
The thing that I found frustrating at the school committee meeting last Tuesday was that, after forums and meetings in which all kinds of issues were brought up, the justification for closing MCS was still only "ADA compliance". Yet no definitive numbers have been made available. The superintendent produced some figures based, apparently, on a single verbal quote, and then quickly retracted them when challenged in the forums. If it’s true that MCS cannot be a viable school without a huge amount of repairs, I’d like to see the evidence of that. If it’s merely a matter of handicap access, I think having one ADA school (Sheffield) in the district is enough. And, in that case, I think the arguments in favor of Montague Center outweigh those in favor of Hillcrest.
The school committee has been performing a thankless job in what is clearly a no-win situation. No matter what they do, there will be more finger pointing and divisiveness, and the problems won’t be solved anyway. Cuts need to be made, and they must be fairly drastic. Even if there is a chance that an override of some sort could pass, which is doubtful, I’m pretty sure the School Committee would have to meet the taxpayers "half way" before asking for more handouts. That is to say, if there is a $600K shortfall and they come up with cuts for $300K maybe they can get people to pass the other $300K as a good will gesture. If they haven’t made the cuts, forget it.
One other thing: I haven’t heard people in this forum threatening to choice their kids out. I certainly have not done that. But many people in MCS certainly have said they will choice their kids out, and those of us who have mentioned that are merely reporting, not threatening. One of my daughter’s classmates choiced out during the forum period, along with her sister. While I think that is a reactionary, hasty approach, I think that there will be an inevitable drop in enrollment if the school does indeed close. Conversely, the tremendous community support for the school could translate into parents recruiting other parents as a result of a promised period of stability. Surely not enough to balance the budget, but a worthy goal nonetheless.
PaulK -- no need to apologize; your post was just the sort of discussion I was hoping to have, and I agree with pretty much everything you said. I especially like the following:
The district should stand up for what it believes fosters educational excellence. Not too many years ago, when MCAS was first appearing on the scene, we heard from "experts" that it was in no way a good measure of educational achievement. Now it’s being held up as the main way to judge how well our schools are doing. You can’t have it both ways -- the SC should decide what it really thinks and then proceed. I’m also a little leery of all the emphasis on "research", since it seems to run the risk of blunting the need for critical thought. We’re told that "research" strongly favors k-5 or K-6 configurations, but our neighbor Greenfield seems to be quite happily considering other arrangements. Are they just stupid (or ignorant), or is there more than one way to build a successful school system? IMHO, this may be one of those cases where there may be more than one right answer, and the chief key to success is to put together a consistent plan and then stick to it. Is that what our SC is doing? Or are they cobbling together disparate elements, sometimes based on "research", sometimes on "budget reality", or whatever?
Once a vision has been chosen, if state or federal mandates don’t play into it, they should be challenged. And to be most effective, the challenges should be regional, or bigger (the more the merrier). All school districts face the same issues -- they should be working together instead of competing with each other for school choice dollars (a lose-lose situation if ever I saw one, and I cringe every time I hear someone suggest that a big school choice influx will solve our problems). There has been talk in the past of different districts working together -- in fact, districts did work together in challenging some mandates in court -- but there should be more of it. IMHO, one priority should be to find a lawyer with aspirations to public office who will take one the cases for a reduced fee in exchange for the attendant publicity, which could be enormous.
Finally, the unions should definitely be brought to the table, but as partners (if possible) not as adversaries. We’re all in this together, and we share some of the same goals. The argument that if people aren’t paid top dollar they’ll bolt to some other district has never really held water with me -- some will, to be sure (some already have), but if everyone did that then Franklin County would have no one left working here but the misfits and also-rans. Looking around, that doesn’t seem to be the case, so what keeps good people here? I think we need to figure that out. IMHO, most people want a job that they feel uses their potential and allows them to make a difference: if you offer teachers a successful school system in a pleasant community then they might be willing to trade top dollar for it (look at all the stories we’ve read about people leaving high-powered jobs in the city for a better quality of life). And it’s not like we have to pay them nothing, especially if things like SPED and numbers of aides can be on the table.
I also agree that the debate over school closings addresses none of these issues, and in that sense it is a sideshow. I won’t be surprised if the SC decides to do nothing by having no motion pass, which might not be a bad option except that IMHO Montague Center school needs a lot of work that I think will be difficult to pay for. Pace to Jeff S, but I think a debt exclusion to fix up MC school will have a much harder time than the pool did, and I also think that it will cost more than $1 million.
sorry, miken, i have to butt in here. i posted the original remark about mary k’s quote at the meeting and i wasn’t as much questioning the appropriateness of linking a closing with the budget problems as i was pointing out what i thought was the inappropriateness of her remark. to wit: by asking the anti-school-closing folks to spell out how they would solve the budget crunch, she was implying that closing the schools would solve the crunch. and it obviously doesn’t. i was pointing out that the folks pushing hardest for closing 1 or 2 schools were not presenting those closings as part of a larger plan that would address the budget problem and include a vision going forward for our schools. when she says, "okay, if you’re against closing a school, tell me how you’re going to solve the budget problem" she’s implying that her solution does. and it doesn’t.
look, i appreciate that this is a tough tough problem. i don’t envy the SC members. i know they are working hard on this. doing their honest best. trying to keep everyone happy - which will be impossible. all that being said, the SC Chair challenging school advocates, parents and townspeople that their point of view is invalid unless they can do what the superintendent, school committee, and select board and TM have been unable to do for years - namely figure out what to do about the school budget every year - well, that’s just unreasonable.
personally, if i were the super or the SC, i’d tell the Mass Dept of Educ and the Feds to take their unfunded mandates and shove em where the sun don’t shine. i’d scale back sped programs, federally mandated testing and state mandated testing programs, and all of that stuff and tell affected parents that given budget constraints the district can only do what it can do and if they don’t like it they should get the state and fed govts to pay up. i’d tell the unions that health care is on the table, like it or not, and that cuts in subsidies for health care are on the way. i’d take a look at retirement plans as well, make sure they’re in line with social security benefits all the rest of us suckers will have to live with.
i would hold a vision of educational excellence that included K-6 schools in MC and Turners and a regional middle/high school rivaling amherst and deerfield. i would stop rushing out to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every few years to buy new teaching materials so i could teach to standardized tests that have never even been proven to work. i would organize with educational leaders in surrounding cities and towns to fight for responsible leadership in boston and washington and if that meant calling for an organized "disobedience" vis-a-vis sped and testing, then so be it. for years, boston and washington have mandated increasingly expensive requirements in these areas and have left local property owners footing the bill. that is just wrong! and probably could be challenged in court!
bottom line, mike, is that shutting down schools should be the last option on our table but in this situation it feels like the first and the only one folks are talking about. i’ll be the first to admit that i am not privy to the details of the school budget. i don’t know how much is being spent on what. i don’t know if our priorities are straight in the budget or if there’s a lot of room for improvement. i don’t know if adding a few more desks to each classroom would hurt students and if so how much it would hurt them. i don’t know if the super has too big a staff or too small a staff (either way could be part of the problem). what i do know is that this debate about the school budget has been going on for years and that it will continue to go on for years even if we close 2 schools. that makes me feel as if, for some people, there is an agenda to close schools that really is only tangentially related to the budget. that’s what if feels like to me. and i think that voting to close 1 or 2 schools without having a larger plan for dealing with the budget is irresponsible. it’ll be pretty near impossible to open MC school back up once it’s gone. what’s the rush??
for the time being, i like the option that leaves MC school open as a k-6, utilizes part of hillcrest as Pre-k and turns sheffield into k-6. this leaves all of our future options open and saves a little money and returns the district to k-6 (or 5, okay, altho i don’t like the idea of sending 6th graders to the junior high) schools which parents and a lot of educators prefer. as jeffs likes to say, win-win-win. except, of course, for the rest of the $800k.
Jeff, you wrote "the point was fair.And let me reiterate again that all the options on the table right now would close a school and save some money for the budget so the point is moot."
I don’t think the point is moot at all: there were people at the meeting questioning the need to close any school, and Ms. Kociela was speaking to them. You’ve already said that you favor closing a school, so she wasn’t speaking to you, and -- arguably -- neither was I.
Of course, you did say that you "strongly agree with the last two posts" -- posts that question the need to close any school, or at least the appropriateness of linking a closing with the budget problems. My point was that I think that question is off-base: closing a school is not a great solution to the budget problem (nor is it a complete one), but as an option it is no worse than ones that have already been taken to balance the FY 2007 budget (and, I predict, will be proposed to balance the FY 2008 one). I think people who criticize Ms. Kociela for her statement should step up and present options of their own, which I don’t think they have done.
Again, I don’t include you -- not only do you favor an option that closes a school, but you’ve offered your views on how the budget problem should be addressed. I don’t agree with all of your solutions, but that’s what makes for useful debate -- at least you have ideas, and you’re willing to put them on the table.
I’m less persuaded by your argument that there is no budget problem because we don’t yet have budget numbers. Technically true, and clever I’ll give you, but by extension there is no point in putting together budgets in the first place because we never know what will happen in the future. All budgets -- in fact, all planning that attempts to anticipate future events -- is based on assumptions of what those future events will be. To say that we can’t plan because we don’t know what will happen is to fly in the face of experience: we do plan because we have found over time that we can make assumptions about future events that prove useful more often than not. If we were always right, we could make a killing on the stock market and we wouldn’t be having this discussion, but the fact that we are sometimes wrong doesn’t change the fact that most of us still consider planning (including bugeting) to be a useful exercise.
The "budget gap" foreseen by the school district was based on assumptions that have in the past proven to be more or less accurate. The size might change, but there has in fact been a gap every year since I started paying attention (back in 1999), so I think it’s reasonable to assume that there will be one again this year unless something significant changes. At this point, there is no reason to assume that Chapter 70 aid will be greatly increased or that the town’s departmental budgets (or capital needs, or other state aid) will change significantly, so projecting them out with increases consistent with prior years seems reasonable. Ditto on the school district side, and I think that given past experience the sooner we all start thinking about how we might somehow change the expected scenario the better. Arguing that there’s no point in doing that because we don’t know what the future holds isn’t helpful to that effort.
As for school choice, I don’t think it’s a long-term solution to the problem, either. A sudden influx of school choice students would help in the short term, so if there’s reason to think that might happen it might be worth pursuing. But long term, the only thing that will help is figuring out how to reduce the rate at which expenses outpace revenues, and I don’t see how anything other than a perennial increase in school choice students (which I don’t believe is possible) could do that.
Come on, Mike.I don’t think we were picking on Mary K.Maybe the tone was not perfect but the point was fair.And let me reiterate again that all the options on the table right now would close a school and save some money for the budget so the point is moot.
But option four reflects a positive vision for elementary education in Montague. It creates three good elementary schools with long grade spans. This is consistent with the research, the work of he configuration committee and the choices parents make. It does close a school and saves some money for the budget.But no one loses a community school because there is still a school on the Tuerners Campus.Hillcrest keeps the pre-K program, one of its strengths, and the building is open for town needs. It is win - win- win. The option also creates equity and a common vision across the district, yet there is also diversity and each school has its own identity. We are supposed to be learning from school choice and charter schools: this does it. Given our serious fiscal problems, what can we do to improve things that costs relatively little money? This is it, in my opinion.
And what vision is there for the alternatives? not much in my opinon.Mostly panic created by a budget gap which in fact does not now exist.How can you have a gap when you have no budget, no Chapter 70 estimate, no department estimates etc on the town side? And you are delaying town meeting because you have no good numbers until late in the spring? Mike, I know if you were on the Fin Com this sort of thing would drive you nuts.
As far as school choice is concerned, I share your impatience with school choice being used to justify everything. But in fact I don’t think the situarion is nearlyas negative as you say. The jury is still out on the high school but I think they are doing prettywell right now. I can say personally that the HS is quite appealing compared to some in the area and I know several parents who feel the same.
The elementary schools have been very unstable so what do you expect. But the evidence is all around us that stable, small K though 5/6 schools draw students.That is why Leverett, Hatfield, Williamsburg and others live off of school choice.I personally know quite a few people who would now be in the district if Montague Center were a stable K though 5/6 school. That makes some people mad, unfortunately, but my main point is that there is some pretty solid evidence that a certain configuration will have an impact on enrollment and the budget itself
"And i guess my reply to Ms. Kociela would be, ’For people who think we should close a school, I want to know how you plan to balance the budget. (Since closing a school would only address less than 25% of the projected budget shortfall). What’s your vision?’"
Right -- let’s gang up on Mary Kociela instead of taking her challenge seriously. The only "vision" I’ve heard from people who don’t want to close any school, at least from the budgetary perspective, is "let’s make some great schools tht attract back all the kids who’ve left, and then some." As one school committee member said at one of the forums, that’s what was supposed to happen last year, and it didn’t happen. In fact, that’s the promise that has been made over and over for at least the past five years. The new middle school/high school was sold, in part, on the promise that a brand new building would bring students back, and the pool was sold on the promise that it would attract school choice students. Is there any evidence that _any_ of those promises has borne fruit?
From what I’ve seen (and I’ll be happy to recant if anyone has evidence to the contrary), the answer is "no". District enrollment has continued to decline, and the school choice outflow has not improved. I’m all for grand visions, but in the end somebody has to mind the store, and I think Ms. Kociela deserves credit for trying to realistically confront what she considers to be an unpleasant reality. IMHO, those who fault her choice of options need to come up with a workable alternative, because she’s right: there’s a (budget) problem that needs to be solved over the next two months, and no amount of wishful thinking will change that.
I agree that the savings from closing one or more schools will not solve the whole budget problem, nor is it a long-term solution. But neither are using money from the district’s E&D account, the town’s stabilization fund, or raiding unused special article balances -- all of which were used to balance the FY 2007 budget. I thought coming out of that process that the selectboard, the finance committee, and the school committee were committed to looking for new ways of doing things, but so far I don’t see a lot of evidence that that has happened (the fin comm’s discussion of employee benefits being a possible exception).
Right now, Jeff S’s "vision" for dealing with the FY 2008 budget is that "we need a combination of budget reductions a[nd] revenue increases". Revenue increases, IMHO can mean nothing else but Prop 2 1/2 override, and Jeff noted "that is my opinion only right now". He may be right on that last part, since at the 11/28 GMRSD meeting Patricia Pruitt said that she didn’t know anyone at town hall who would support going for a Prop 2 1/2 override. (Ms. Pruitt, meet Mr. Singleton. I’m sure you’ll find many things to discuss. . . :-).
Personally, I don’t think a Prop 2 1/2 override will fly, but for the sake of discussion let’s assume that there’s a $600,000 shortfall and that a $300,000 override is sucessful. That still calls for $300,000 worth of "budget cuts" -- should they come from the towns or the school district? Depending on your answer, what should be cut?
As I see it, Mary Kociela sees that coming, thinks it likely that at least some of the cuts will have to come from the district, and figures that saving money by closing a school is the best among a number of bad choices. I’d like to hear those who slam her lack of "vision" explain how they would deal differently with this problem.
While I strongly agree with the last two posts, it is important to point out that all of the options voted on by the school committee last Tuesday would close a school. Even option 4 which I support would close a school and save a little money.
A key reason for this has nothing to do with the so-called "budget gap" but the fact that from the very beginning of this process there was great dissatisfaction on all sides with the current configuration. Some of us strongly believed we should move to K thugh 5 or 6 schools but it did not seem that the town of Montague would be willing to keep renovating three buildings. And two K though 5/6 right next one another did not make a lot of sense. So that reluctantly produced the need to close a school.
But option 4 is not only or primarily driven by a "budget gap" (or by resentment toward a school and a section of town). In fact all the options would save roughly the same amount of money unless you close two schools. (And even that does not save much more because you have to beef up administrative capacity at the consolidated school and would lose a lot through school choice. Not to mention the fact that it contradicts the research (such as it is) on school size and essentially gives up on reducing the school choice outflow).
So if all the options save roughly the same amount and do not address the core causes of this "budget gap" anyway, what is the vision? It is great to post on this corkboard but I think citizens need to contact their school committee members and ask them this question. This is an extremely important question for the future of this town.
And i guess my reply to Ms. Kociela would be, "For people who think we should close a school, I want to know how you plan to balance the budget. (Since closing a school would only address less than 25% of the projected budget shortfall). What’s your vision?"
The last place we should be hearing that kind of buck passing and evasion is from someone who accepted responsibility for guiding the school system in the first place.
And i guess my reply to Ms. Kociela would be, "For people who think we should close a school, I want to know how you plan to balance the budget. (Since closing a school would only address less than 25% of the projected budget shortfall). What’s your vision?"
I was a bit surprised at that quote myself. All the options the committee voted on would have basically closed a school and would have roughly the same impact on the annual operating budget. (And of course in my opinion the savings are all small and do not address the core fiscal problem).
Thus it seems that the great emphasis on the so-called operating budget gap, reflected in the Reporter’s coverage, is misplaced. The real question is what option is a positive, hopeful vision for the district as a whole given the fiscal constraints. That is what the committee really should be addressing but I did not see it, either in the coverage by the Reporter or the Recorder.
Among the values of watching the tape, you get people’s quotes exact.
I am sorry to say I misquoted the chair of the school committee in a significant instance in this week’s coverage of the school closing debate, and after being informed of this I hasten to correct the false impression I created in doing so.
Mary Kociela did not say, "For people who think we shouldn’t close Montague Center, I want to know how you plan to balance the budget." She said, according to the videotape, "For people who think we shouldn’t close a school, I want to know how you plan to balance the budget." I apologize for misquoting Mary on this sensitive and important point; my notes were in error.
I write as fast as I can to get down what everyone is saying as exactly as possible. But if you want it absolutely verbatim, there is no substitute for the vidoetape, other than being there in person.
If anyone can spot any other errors in reporting in the paper, on this or any other topic, please let me know, and I will make sure they are corrected in print the following week. We do our best. -david detmold, editor, montague reporter
Well, I guess I’ll just have to find some positive outlet for my rage and despair.
Seriously: apology accepted, it’s not the end of the world, and I certainly intend to read the Reporter’s account of the meeting. Much as I enjoy those accounts, though (and I do enjoy and value them -- in most cases, they make actually having attended the meeting, at least for me, unnecessary), there are things you can get from watching a meeting that are impossible to convey in print. There was an awful lot of back-and-forth discussion at the 11/28 meeting that I found fascinating, and I would have very much liked to have heard and seen the process of actually taking votes.
However, if it were really that important to me, I could have attended the meeting, couldn’t I? Instead, I chose not to, and perhaps it’s fitting that that choice has proven to have a certain down side.
The one thing I never understood about GMRSD is how we have two early elementry schools operating in one town (MC and HC). To me in a perfect world, which I know it is not, I would like to see an early elementry (K-2)in MC, mid-elementry (2-3 prek could even stay in its own wing there)in HC and late elementry(4-6) in Sheffield. This is simular to the set up I taught in the Orange school district. A district, by the way, that had no body school choice in in 2003-but last year had 48.8 choice in and only 14.5 choice out.
While some may call it a broken set up I see it as a way to focus on the specific age appropriate curriculum. Curriculum wise and developmentally early and late elementary education are VERY different-I am not sure schools that have trouble with the MCAS will be able to confront the wide span of curriculum correctly. My concerns for my students as a fourth grade teacher trying to get her students to pass the MCAS would be extremly different from those of a kindergarten teacher who at that age is more focused on early reading schools and social relationships. Not only would you have all students in town together (maybe taking away some of the equality argument) but teachers of the same grade would be together too. I am friends with teachers from MC and HC and they are split. They don’t work as a team within the school district. When you work as a team you broaden your educational horizon, new methods of teaching come in to play, and you can improve the quality of education.
We need to start looking at why be people are leaving the district, besides the threat of closing a school, that can’t be the only reason. Has the SC ever done a study on what attracts people to thriving school districts? What are we doing different? What needs to change? What attracts some people to our system?
Jeff: I respect your thoughts, and I mean no disrespect to either you or any of the residents of any of the Villages, but I’ll still stick by Option #1, and I do hope that you will realize that I too have attended the meetings on this issue and have given it considerable thought.
Oh geez... Bad news folks. We just got the video tapes from the high school for tonight’s rebroadcast of the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, and guess what. The last fifteen minutes weren’t taped. Doug Finn, who usually runs the cameras / boards / record deck wasn’t there that night. Someone else taped the meeting, and they weren’t paying attention to the record deck and so didn’t notice that the 2-hour tape used to tape the second portion of the meeting had run out at about 2 hrs and 2 minutes. Coincidence? Hmmm...
Anyway, the upshot is that those last fifteen minutes are now lost to the world. I’m sure you can read about the end of the meeting in detail in the Montague Reporter. Looks like they devoted two full pages to the meeting.
Sometimes, things happen that can’t be helped. Our apologies.
mik, many of the discussions on this board have pissed me off and i’ve chosen to stay out of most of them for fear of saying something i’ll regret. there is always the opportunity to deal with issues in a positive way, in a constructive way, but, seriously, man, with the possible exception of MikeN and JeffS, most of the posters on this board only speak up when they’ve got something negative to say. maybe that’s human nature. i don’t know. i hope it isn’t.
you can put part of the blame for the latest flare-up on my shoulders if you want to, but please note that Patrick, Jeff, and I only lose it when we’re going toe-to-toe with your bud who has an unhappy talent for pushing peoples’ buttons. can’t honestly remember a time he ever had anything positive to say on this board. would be happy to be proven wrong.
hope this doesn’t push you over the edge. i do know what you’re saying.
But we can be less acerbic in our disagreements, lest we turn people off from the discussion altogether.
If "restraint" means nothing but buy/sell and cub scout announcements, then so be it. That’s what the corkboards were built for, not bickering. I contend that it’s possible to discuss opposing viewpoints and data without delving into personal attacks on each other, the school committee and the superintendent. Let’s all think back to our days on the debate team.
Actually mik, most people see any type of disagreement as inherently troubling, which is why most adult interactions are trivial and dull, or consist merely of like minded individuals parroting their views back and forth. There are loads of sites on the internet who thrive on political discourse, and it always gets heated.
The last time you called for ’restraint’ you ended up with a week or two of nothing but for sale items and cub scout announcements. That’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.
And yes, I do believe your own views in this matter are coloring your reaction.
This is too a long post but I hope people will read in comment.
You asked a few questions, particularly about special education at Montague Center which I am not sure I can really answer. I am hardly an expert on the issue to say the least. I think these are good questions and important to address. On the other hand sometimes we focus entirely on these questions and miss the broader vision, the research, the choices parents make, the broad work and effort of the configuration committee. I am not criticizing you at all and in fact think youhave brought this corkboard discussion around to a better tone (Yes Mik). But I think some folks (not you necessarily) are losing the forest for the trees.
The pool was entirely financed by town money. It was far more expensive than the handicapped access problems at Montague Center School (Which again have some very inflated estimates). Of course that in itself does not mean that we should spend the money on MCS. But many of the folks who have been acting as if the condition of MCS is an huge obstacle supported and even advocated the pool. It really is not a credible position at all.
No I did not assume at all that you wanted to close Montague Center School. Quite the opposite, I noted that you said in the first post that you did not want to close any school.
I agree that having to K though 6 schools right next to each other does not make a lot of sense which is why I do not support that option. Another option is to put everyone into Sheffield which in my opinion is a terrible idea, not at all consistent with the research or the choices parents make or all the work of our own configuration committee. It is essentially giving up on bringing people back to the district which we were told.
The other options are various versions of the broken grade span which we have now and which the school committee agreed by consensus a month ago they did not want. Now suddenly they have turned 180 degrees and it is back on the table again with little explanation. Why? I have my opinions but the point is that some SC committee members have now reversed themselves on the ONE issue the committee agreed upon and which is consistent with the research and the work of the Elementary study group.
So that really leaves Option 4, which saves the same amount of money as most of the others, has much more equity and a common vision across the district, is consistent with the research, the work of the Elementary Committee, the poll we took etc. In my mind the main reason folks can not bring themselves to see this is not being able to see the forest for the trees, resentment and the habit of constantly putting Montague Center on the table so it is like rolling off a log to advocate closing it.
I guess this post does not answer your questions about SPED. When my son was there there were quite a few sped students but they probably were not physically handicapped in the upper grades. My sense is that Hillcrest and Sheffield had more SPED and this does raise equity issues. But that really was the policy of the district (to have more SPED services in Turners). Not ideal I agree but whatever configuration you take that will probably be the case.
Finally, why I would prefer to keep all schools open, I think the current configuration, particularly with its broken grade spans, does not satisfy anyone and is a constant source of friction. We are also losing students because of it. Of course we could go with three K through 6 schools in Montague (four altogether including Gill) but I don’t think the town of Montague would support the capital costs of that. Particularly since the town has big capital needs ot its own. There just would be too many empty rooms and small classes, not poltically viable. And if you had four K through 6 schools you would have two right next to each other on the campus, which does not make a lot of sense.
So to me all roads lead to Option 4, K though 5 or 6 schools at Montague Center, Sheffield and Gill.
Excellent!!!!! I know I’m no angel when it comes to the BS. Anyway, instead of the bickering why not listen to some of the ideas on the board and present them to the sc? Everything seems to always turn into a pissing contest lately. Maybe its the weather? Unfortunately a school is at stake here. The townspeople have done everything possible to keep schools open. Studies, raising taxes, meeting after meeting, etc, etc, etc. Its time to make the move.
You know, this discussion is beginning to really piss me off. We have an opportunity to deal with the issue at hand -- the possibility of a school closing -- in a constructive, open, respectful manner in which the entire town could participate, but what we have here on this corkboard instead is bullshit squabbling. I don’t like to point fingers because I do get into it on occasion with folks here on the topic of Bush and co., but this is really something, this you said I said you said I said stuff. And I’m putting the blame squarely on MrMetro, and Patrick and PaulK and even Jeff for responding in kind.
I think differing opinions are a delight and are required if we’re going to ever come to a decision that most people can deal with, but we’ll never get there if posts are written with a snide, condescending, authoritative, armchair-quarterback demeanor. I’m friends with all of you and walk almost every Thursday with Metro, so I say this with a bit of hesitancy, hoping you’re all adults and can deal with this rebuke.
Please, knock it off already! Stop being so insulting or I’m going to pull the plug for a few days. I can’t take it anymore and it’s making the people who are really interested and worried in this topic want to go away and discuss it somewhere else. I ask them if they read such and such post and they brush it off with a wave of their hand saying "Oh I don’t read the corkboards, they’re so.... childish."
Post your information, and even opinions, but please be respectful, and mature. No more snideness. It’s very unbecoming.
And for homework tonight please read the User Rights, Privileges and Expectations:
Leave it to knee-jerk anti-government conservatives to label everyone who disagrees with them a “liberal.” Oh, and calling them a “Valley Liberal” is supposed to be even more insulting. It never fails. Every time I’m winning a debate I get called a Valley Liberal. As if that trumps my reasoning and automatically loses me the debate. FYI, I am proud to be a liberal. Call me a liberal anytime you want. I believe that government can work for the common good when it is not under the thumb of religious ideologues, bankers, insurance and drug companies, arms dealers, oil companies, or politicians who hate and fear government. I believe our government was created to protect the common people from the tyranny of the powerful and rich.
I did not call the “rest of the world’s” definition of democracy wrong! When did I do that? Where did I do that? What I did do is question your ruse of selecting one very narrow aspect of Webster’s definition and presenting it as the only definition. Here’s another definition of democracy I just found: “Democracy: the control of an organization by its members, who have a free and equal right to participate in decision-making processes.”
In your first post, the one that sucked me into Mik’s romper room, you said, and I quote: “how come other towns are prepared to act responsibly? Maybe because they’re not saddled with an absurd and un-democratic ’consensus’ requirement, that allows just two members to keep the whole district hostage.”
You thereby implied that our school committee had acted irresponsibly. And that the committee which drew up the regional school agreement had acted irresponsibly. You thereby called the process they are involved in “undemocratic and absurd.” How friggin irresponsible on your part! Once again, I suggest that your bitterness is driven only by your not agreeing with the outcome and has nothing to do with wanting what’s best for the community.
BTW here’s what the dictionary has to say about Consensus: "general or widespread agreement among all the members of a group." What the hell is undemocratic about requiring that there be a consensus among our school committee members before taking the drastic action of closing one or two of our three elementary schools?? Forever??
Thanks for the explanation -- I can appreciate the difficulties of trying to predict the schedules of live meetings, and it sounds as if you tried pretty hard to get it right. I’m particularly happy, though, that the truncation of the live broadcast does not mean a truncation of the taped replay. The meeting was cut off before the vote began, and I’m looking forward to seeing in when it airs.
It’s nice to know that, in general, if we’re watching a live meeting and it’s cut off, we can expect to catch the rest on the replay. Thanks!
First of all I want to say again at this point while it looks like the SC is going to try to close at least one of the schools, I am not in agreement that that would be the best decision. To me it seems that you are under the assumption that I brought up these issues becauseI am looking for a reason to close MC. I went to MC as a kid, taught at MC years ago and now have kids going to Hillcrest -I honestly am just trying to see all different sides of this story-unfortunatly (or fortunatly forme) I see pluses all around. That is why I need some clarification/insight into plan four. Would students from anywhere in Montague be able to go to MC or just Millers, the Lake and Montague Center residents as it is now? Or is school choice within the district going to be brought in? My biggest issue, going back to sped., is the distribution of sped. students in the district. When you have 27% sped. students at Hillcrest and 3% at MC of course Hillcrest’s test scores are going to be lower. It is also going to put a strain on classroom learning to have such a disproportionate number of sped. students in a class.
I think problems such as a ramp can be dealt with. But is it true that an elevator would also have to be installed. When you mention the $1million pool did we get grants for that or was that out of our pockets? Could we get grants for upgrades at MC?
When your son went to MC were there students there with severe medical issues that would require the use of a ramp or elevator. How did MC deal with it then? Or were the sped. issues more general-such as ADD or speech? I don’t know-I am curious. I really do want to know how these things have worked in the past. When I worked in the pre k I could just pick a kid up and help them up the stairs---you can’t do that with most fourth or fifth graders-it’s not safe for them or the person helping them. With the amount of classrooms available at Hillcrest or MC in a K-5 school would there be room for special education rooms? Not all kids can be part of an inclusive classroom and do need a seperate space to learn in for at least part of the day. (Side note: To me putting two identical K-5 schools a few hundred yards from each other is preposterous).
Now what about sped. teachers---it the K-5 set ups (no matter what school there at) would we have to double up on positions such as sped. teachers? That to me seems counterproductive.
I am blessed that none of my children have severe special needs. But as a former sped. teacher I do have these qustions.
To me handicapped access is part of the vision of the system-if I am going to have to spend thousands of dollars on giving children the proper atmosphere in which they can learn---with an education they are entitled to no matter what their ability level-then it has to happen---but how?
Like I said before I am not saying close MC it needs repairs! I don’t think it is narrow or negative to have these questions. I am happy with my child’s education-I also put a lot of time in with her at home. However, I am concered with the bigger picture for all students, in particular sped. students.
Metrowest-Why do you even try? You are never going to be right on this site. I think you have brought up some valid points-but they are only going to be seen as negative because you don’t agree with the "majority" on this site. I say---keep going---this is not a onesided issue. Some of you talk about having open minds---and yet you are so onesided on this issue. When anyone seems to bring up a different point of view they are misguided-wrong.
Patrick you are the biggest instigator on this site-but you , unlike metrowest, have the backing of your neighbors. You know why people can offer do do something with Hillcrest--because it is a viable building---unlike MC--but for the sake of a some you rather have us sink our money into all the repairs and upgrades it needs.
As a Montague resident I am sorry---but I am sick of ANYONE in this school system threatening to pull out their children because they don’t get their way-basically taking your ball and going home---I am tired of being held hostage by this. Closing a school is BIG---but an education is more than a school. Get involved. That doesn’t mean just attending forums or reading the paper-that is only a first step. It means going to your kid’s principals, teachers, and administrators and saying---what can I do---how can I make my child’s education better? And you know what a lot of you do that already-good for you-good for everyone. So take the next step---go to the same people and now ask---what can I do for OUR school system? How do I make it better? I think we as parents should be required to do some kind of volunteering for our schools---whether big or small.
We need to start focusing on an education for everyone in town.
The MCTV staff was told that the meeting was ending at 9:00 sharp, so they programmed the rack to carry the live feed until 9:10 just to be safe. Since no one is in the office at that time of night we try to be pretty smart about when live programs will end so as to not leave an hour of no programming afterwards. Live meetings are notoriously unpredictable. What we typically do is give extra time for a meeting, like three hours, which is what we did last night, but didn’t take into account that there were actually TWO meetings: a one-hour business meeting, and then the hearing on the budget / school closing. Our mistake was in not setting the rack to carry the feed for 3 1/2 hours (because of the double meeting) and start the next taped show at 9:30 just to make sure, instead of 9:10. The meeting actually ended at 9:20. And had I not had a fever yesterday I might have stuck it out till the end of the meeting just to make sure it all aired (which I have done in the past).
The meeting was taped and will air in its entirety tomorrow night, Friday morning, and next Tuesday and Wednesday. See the schedule on the MCTV page for exact times.
I did not mean to say there were no educational problems with a lack of handicapped access. What I meant to say was the fact the Montague Center school needs handicapped accesss work is hardly a vision for the future of elementary education in Montague. It may be true but it is very negative and narrow, hardly a positive rationale fo going with other options. Also the problem really can be solved (after all we spent $1 million for a pool) and I think the estimates for solving the problem, which can be done gradually, are wildly exagerrated.
Option 4 on the other hand has the negative of closing Hillcrest but in other ways it reflects a positive vision for the district as a whole. You get three small K through 5 Schools, consistent with the research and the choices parents make. No one really loses a school, since there still will be a neghborhood school in Turners. There is a coherent vision for the district as a whole (in the other options there is one for Gill and a very different one for Montague), I think with a bit of time it will help reverse some of the school choice issues. You save about the same amount of operating budget money as closing MCS but open up part of the Hillcrest building to satisfy town needs.
I think if people could get beyond some of the resentments that have been built up over the years it would be a win-win situation, By contrast the other options seem mostly to be driven by various complaints about MCS rather than a coherent vision. Handicapped access, although it must be dealt with, is not much of a vision. (And as I say it really can be solved without breaking the bank. I mean we have this huge estimate for a ramp, for example, which reflects a negative "no can do" attitude )
I guess I do not understand your point about about SPED. When my son Daniel was at MCS there were SPED kids going to classes on the upper floors.
Fair enough, metro. I am talking about how, in your never-ending quest to prove just how much smarter than everyone else in the group you are, you hold on to everything that anyone has written so you can throw it back at them later so as to make them see just how stupid they are. I thought the subtitle and topic of this group was "all things Montague", but apparently on your browser it reads "how I can prove I’m the smartest." Pretty sad, really.
How can handicapped accessebility hardly be an argument for education? Have you seen the percentages of sped. kids in other town schools? Coming from the view of a former sped. teacher-of course hanicap accessebility is an argument. Don’t you remeber the days when preschool was at Montague Center? The preschool was confined to the bottom floor-there was no need for the sped. children to travel upstairs. But those children do move on and go to the higher grades. How, if Montague is kept open, are these children to attend school there? How do they get to the auditorium, or the bathrooms, or down to the cafeteria? Where do we get the money to make these improvements?
If you make a certain amount of repairs don’t you have to bring a building up to code? Where is this money going to come from?
We have to look to the future to.
I am not in favor, at this time, of closing any school. Whether people choose to believe it or not, each school does have a value.
I think we need to have a closer look at how finances have been handled over the past several years in the school district.
I was going to say something myself, but Stash beat me to it. I didn’t notice the exact time, but I believe that the school committee meeting was cut off somewhere between 9:00 and 9:15 (I think closer to nine). I remember Mary Kociela giving the "ten minute warning" at about 8:50, and I noticed that when it got to be nine o’clock the meeting was still going on, but it was cut off shortly after that.
I think Mike & Junkman’s show (great show, by the way :-) was cut off right around ten o’clock. Mik and Junkman had both shot shot their second rounds and they had seen their targets, and Mik had interviewed someone about the history of the club who recalled how it had gone from 100 to 200 to 400 members. I don’t recall exactly what came last, but I think the show was cut off shortly after that.
I must say, I was very disappointed not to have been able to see the school committee meeting through to the end. IMHO, if meetings are going to be taped at all, they should be taped from start to finish, and the other scheduling should work around them. I think that’s generally been the case, but the school meetings seem to be a different story. Wasn’t the Gill forum on 10/26 also cut off, or am I mistaken?
"As for your comments about me personally - I love it. Here we have someone who simply states as fact that his definition of a word is right, and the rest of the world’s wrong, and in the next breath accuses someone else of always wanting to be right. Now that’s Valley Liberalism - X-Ray vision when seeing the faults of others. Blind as a bat about your own."
Geez, you sure do hold on to ’em. Do you have them posted on your wall, with darts through them? You’re not that anthrax guy, by any chance?
Our democracy is a constitutional democracy and does have rules other than rule by majority. However, all of our rules are amenable to change, and I can think of no instance where consensus is required. Amending the constitution requires 2/3rds majority of the house and senate, and then ratification by 3/4s of the states. This is a very high bar as it should be, but not so high that the constitution has not been amended many times, and generally to its benefit. Perhaps the founders, unlike those who designed the GMRSD rules, were as concerned about being tyrannized by minorities as they were of majorities.
As for your comments about me personally - I love it. Here we have someone who simply states as fact that his definition of a word is right, and the rest of the world’s wrong, and in the next breath accuses someone else of always wanting to be right. Now that’s Valley Liberalism - X-Ray vision when seeing the faults of others. Blind as a bat about your own.
I don’t know what the growth is due to. Again, I wish I did. If it’s not health care as I surmised, then they don’t even have that excuse. But I do know that if I were emplyed in an organization where the CEO demonstrated the grasp of facts and figures I witnessed last night, I’d be out looking for another job.
(i know i’m going to regret this...oh, what the hell)
democracy is not "majority rules" despite what the dictionary says. democracy is rule of law, those laws created by democratically elected representatives. the US has a House and a Senate precisely because the founders were leery of "majority rules". the rules of the school committee were created by elected representatives to facilitate an orderly process of government and administration. that they are being honored and enforced is, quite simply, democracy in action.
metro, you can argue until you’re blue in the face, and i’m sure you will, and be snide about it too. here’s what i think the problem is:
a) you like to argue
b) you didn’t like the outcome of the committee process
c) you have to always be right
d) you always have to have the last word
e) oh, did i mention you seem to like to argue?
patrick, a few days ago you surmised that the 20% growth ($2M) in the school’s budget was due to increases in health insurance costs. With a little simple math, it’s obvious that the entire health insurance bill for the district is almost certainly less than $2M. It’s unfortunate that good financial data from both the town and schools, public data, is not readily available to all of us.
Jeff - Chapter 70 money won’t be known until almost July, correct? Wasn’t that what happened last year? You can’t begin your budget process in June. It seems to me that taking last year’s Ch 70 money, looking at how much it has increased year to year historically, and budgeting with that figure is quite reasonable. I don’t know that this is what Gee has done, but it seems possible to budget reasonably without the actual ch 70 figure. As to the timing of the gap’s announcement - there’s a lot of spinning that goes on in town politics, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this were another example. However, given that the schools are $250K short for this fiscal year and in light of last year’s deficit, I’d say a significant deficit for next year is a reasonable operating assumption. If you really want to be on record as saying there’s no gap, you’re welcome.
you can look at budgets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. I have not examined the school budget at length, I wish I had the time and the opportunity. But I do know that the super has a shaky grasp of figures and money, whatever her qualifications as an educator may be. EVERY time a financial question is asked of her, she either looks to the business manager (who has a marginally better understanding) for the answer or she admits that she has insufficient data. She appears ignorant of the basics of math and finance, and that I certainly do have a better grasp of.
Metrowest - right, there is no "cabal" to use the so-called budget "gap" to drive the configuration discussion. It is obvious and out in the open. Last year we were told - month after month well into the spring - that "we don’t know anything yet" about the budget because we did not have good state aid numbers. This has also been the tendency in previous years. The district has been militant about this, So we are delaying town meeting this year for that reason.
So why advertise and $800 million gap this year as early as November. Come on, metrowest, I know you like to argue but let’s get real. It’s obvious.
And it doesn’t matter much anyway because the annual operating savings from Option 4, which I and others support, would be more or less the same (maybe more depending on school choice). So either way we save a little operating money (Which in my opinion will have almost no impact on the chronic budget problem, Actually this whole consolidation debate here an elsewhere is partly a distraction from dealing with the real causes of the local budget problem)
So you are left with deciding on which option reflects a positive vision for elementary education in the district as a whole. It seems to me that a strong case has been made for option 4 and virtually no case for the other options that I have heard. They seem to be based on negative arguments, sometimes resentment, panic induced by a budget "gap" etc
(Concern about handicapped access is legitimate, I suppose, but is hardly a vision for elementary education. Realtively easily resolved without a huge expense, particularly if the town saves money by using Hillcrest.) And proposing inflated costs for solving this problem at MCS is no more acceptable than floating a non-existent budget gap, And no that is not a "cabal" either
I just popped over to the TV station to review last night’s program for the broadcast rack and, indeed, the rack was programmed to go to the Rod & Gun club at 9:10 and then Montague Update at 10:00 (which was a mistake, seeing as how the R&G show is 64 minutes long). I think what happened was the staff person who changed the schedule to accommodate the earlier school committee meeting time simply moved the Rod & Gun show from 6:00 to 9:10 thinking that surely the meeting will have ended by then (and indeed it did end at about 9:20 I’m told, so pretty good guess, but still the R&G show should have been eliminated from the schedule). It was a simple mistake that didn’t execute until after everyone had left the station. Oops. I’ll talk to them about it. Thanks for letting us know.
The comm meeting was on when I turned to MCTV about 7-20. Didn’t look at the clock when you cut to the rod and gun. I think it was 10 when that got cut. I shpuld have been paying more attention to the time. Sorry.
paulk, the problem is that 3 votes against means that they will keep going at it. Unfortunately, there is much less support for closing Hillcrest. One of the things that was not mentioned, to my knowledge, is that Patricia Pruitt said that the town would certainly have a use for an available Hillcrest, but no one has suggested any use for the Montague Center building. It does seem that these points fall on deaf ears, though.
Ah. I understand now. Do you know about what time it was cut off, and what it switched to? When I left the TV station at 8:30 the school committee was still going, and the schedule was slated to give it room till 10:00, when Jeff’s show (with Lisa Davol) was supposed to start.
Also, when was my show cut short? Are you saying that at 6:00 the Gun show started, then cut to Jeff’s show, and then the school committee? I’m confused. Jeff’s show was supposed to air at 10:00.
This is the schedule as it appears in the paper:
6:00 This is Montague: Rod & Gun Club ** pre-empted
7:00 GMRSD Meeting
10:00 Montague Update: Lisa Davol
Your input is always welcome, just I’m confused on what you’re reporting you saw.
Jeff, it’s hard to believe that someone who used the phrase ’perennial crisis’ to describe this and other town’s budget situations, and who knows full well that last year the schools had a $600k deficit, would be so irresponsible as to suggest that the schools should proceed as though there is no budget gap at all. Coming from the chair of fincom, a board alleged to be looking out for the town’s finances, is an illustration of why amateurs should not be controlling large sums of other people’s money. Oh, and according to the Recorder, the schools seem to looking at a $250K shortfall in this year’s budget - where’s that money coming from?
I would call Gee’s estimation of a budget gap (now estimated at $1.1M) ’prudent’ and probably right on, given that so many of our neighboring towns are also projecting significant deficits. And speaking of innuendo, isn’t suggesting that Gee is projecting budget deficits only to drive the elementary configuration a bit of innuendo on you part? After all, she’s paid to look out for the interests of the district as a whole, but you seem to imply that she’s just part of this huge cabal of people trying to destroy education in Montague. And I don’t know what Greenfield and Mohawk did last year, but they both appear to moving toward closing one or more schools this year.
patrick, It’s great that having a attended several school committee meetings you now have a better grasp of the district’s finances than a professional administrator with years of experience who deals with the school budget every day. And you’re right about points that fall on deaf ears - like the point about Hillcrest being ADA compliant and MCS requiring hundreds of thousands to become compliant.
As to democracy - here’s Merriam-Webster - "government by the people; especially : rule of the majority". Having to get eight of nine votes would be more properly called consensus. Two thirds of the school committee voted to accept a plan that would have put a contentious issue behind and allow them to begin work on even more difficult problems. To work, consensus requires great self discipline, suppression of one’s ego, and the ability to hold the interests of the group as being as important as your own interests. Better luck next time.
Thank you to the 3 Board members who voted to keep MC Center School open as a K-5 school. I hope you keep voting your conscience and don’t knuckle under to the pressure I’m sure you’re receiving. And thank goodness the framers of the Regional District agreement had the wisdom to design a process that made it tough to shut down a school. It should be tough. And, yes, this is democracy, even if you don’t agree with the results.
Way to once again drag the discussion into the mud with insulting innuendo and false, uninformed statements. But the facts are still the facts no matter how much you try to push people’s buttons on this corkboard.
1. There is no $800,000 budget "gap" because the school committee has not seen, not to mention approved, a preliminary budget. We don’t know anything about chapter 70 aid which is crucial. And on the town side we have not even gotten preliminary estimates from the departments, much less decided how much we can afford for the school assessment.It is also a fact that last year we heard "we don’t know anything" (about the budget numbers) from the school district well into the spring. Thus we are probably delaying town meeting until June this year. So why do we suddenly hear about a budget gap now, much earlier than ever before? To drive the elementary configuration process, that’s why.
2. I have never said, as you suggested, that we should not try to resolve the elementary school issue this fall. Quite the opposite. I don’t think the current configuration works at all and we should change it, and in the process save a little money. That is why I support Option 4, which is a big change. I just don’t think this phony budget gap schould drive the whole discussion
3. I believe option 4, again which I support, would save as much as closing Montague Center. But the savings are not the main reason I support it, I believe that option is best for education in the district and is consistent with the research and the choices parents make. It represents a coherent vision for the district. I have yet to hear a positive, coherent vision for the other options.
4. It is just plain false to suggest that Greenfield and Mohawk are quickly moving to resolve their elementary school issues while we in Montague are digging our heels in. Greenfield is just in the preliminary stages of its discussion and in fact has been arguing about closing schools for years. Much of this focuses on the Green River School which has constantly been thrown up on the table just like Montague Center School. Mohawk could not reach a decision last year for almost the same reason there is no consensus here in Montague. They could not reach a consensus.
I have no doubt that these facts will have no impact on you, since your main goal seems to be to push people’s buttons. But they might be interesting to some who read this corkboard.
My "bias" was formed in meetings with the super, by attending 4 of 5 forums and several school committee meetings, in addition to lenghty discussions with dozens of parents, teachers and school committee members on both sides of the issue. Yours, on the other hand, seems to come from this forum and from the Recorder.
The super may have supreme educational qualifications. I am not qualified to jegde that. But that does not mean she has the understanding of financial issues that is necessary to run a large organization.
Sorry that the Rod & Gun Club show with me and Junkman was pre-empted by the GMRSD School Committee meeting at 6:00. The MCTV staff had scheduled my show at 6:00 thinking that the school committee meeting would start at 7:00 as is usual, but of course the meeting started at 6:00 instead, and being more important, pre-empted the Gun show. I wouldn’t quite classify this as "dropping the ball", but whatever. My apologies on behalf of the station and staff. I’m sure the show will air again, if you haven’t already seen it by now. I believe it’s aired about a dozen times already.
As for the actual "coverage" of the meeting, the producer is Doug Finn, the school’s TV Instructor (and former GCTV Technical Director). He runs the video and sound boards by himself and adjusts the cameras all on his own. I think he does a fine job. But I’m sure he could use help with the cameras. If you’re interested in what the volunteer School Committee does for this town and are willing to help Doug with the coverage of the meetings by operating a camera or two, please contact the school and ask for him. 863-9341 Tell him Mik sent’cha.
The ONLY rationale I heard offered by the 6 who voted for closing Montague Center was "ADA compliance". On the other hand, Mike Langknecht adamantly defended the idea of no transitions, and Ted Castro-Santos was very eloquent about community support for Montague Center School and questioning the effectiveness of "consolidation".
There was very little discussion of the many issues raised in the forums, and also some disturbing math by the superintendent projecting the savings from closing MCS into $1M+ over 5 years. When challenged by Castro-Santos, the super had no explanation for her reasoning and quickly backed off.
I am feeling extremely disappointed in our elected committee, in particular the inability by almost all of them, seemingly, to understand the questions being asked and offer pertinent answers.
Once again, Superintendent Gee’s budget figures have been overruled by the person who really runs the schools. Since there’s no budget gap, there’s really no reason to be having this divisive school closing discussion at all - perhaps the committee should get back to wrangling over whether the t.p. at the high school should be two-ply or a more economical one. Hopefully that doesn’t require eight affirmative votes.
As to this being the first time the school committee has discussed this issue - if so, it’s only because they’ve been ducking it so assiduously. I think that ESG Matrix thing (posted to the left on montaguema.net home page) was done about three years ago. I’m sure others have read articles on Greenfield and Mohawk preparing to consolidate schools - how come other towns are prepared to act responsibly? Maybe because they’re not saddled with an absurd and un-democratic ’consensus’ requirement, that allows just two members to keep the whole district hostage.
Thanks Montague Reporter for the information. Your write: "For details on the discussion, look for this week’s Montague Reporter, on newsstands Thursday afternoon. "
I am much more interested in the rationales for the various than the votes than the votes themselves. Why dd various school committee members support the options they voted for? Why do they think their plans were best for education in the district as a whole? Did short-term savings for this years so-called budget "gap" rule the day? Were educational values and the research taken into consideration?
For example, I think it is strange that many SC members supported versions of the campus model, with its broken grade spans.I thought the one thing the committee had sort of reached a cnsensus on a month or so ago.
Actually while I would like to resolve this issue I think it is unfortunate that a vote was taken at this meeting. Despite the myth that has aggressively been created that "we have talked about this too much" I have never, in my seven years here, seen the school committee actually confront and debate all the issues involved. (And maybe listen to each other and change their minds). There have been subcommittees and polls and studies and hearings where SC members for the most part sat and listened. But little discussion on the School Committee itself.
I assume key were discussed but now the focus will be on whether the committee reaches a consensus rather than the substance of the issue. Again, I would like to know why a month ago everyone seemed opposed to the broken grade spans and then suddenly appeared to support them last night.I attended three of the hearings and watched the other two and so no new information that would change that original consensus (Again, the ONE consensus there seemed to be).
Stash - There is no $800,000 budget "gap" and I think it was wrong for the school district to be waving that number around town. The school committee has not even passed a budget yet. We know little about what state aid is going to be. The town has barrely begun its budget process so we do not know what we have for the school district.
I hope the school comm. can figure out how they plan to come up with the $800 grand. I doubt the taxpayers will cover thier inability to do thier jobs again. I still say change the health bennies to one the town can afford and close a school. I also enjoyed the coverage. I think it was great that we got to see Mr. Junkman and Mik do the show. But wait-- That didn’t run all the way either. Real great TV. Sorry Mik but somebody really dropped the ball tonight. To all voters.. Remember how to vote next time around for school comm. IMHO
The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee failed to reach consensus on closing an elementary school in Montague on Tuesday, but several key members indicated a willingness to re-examine options in view of the projected $800,000 budget gap looming over the district. The committee took three votes on various elementary configurations, all of which failed to reach needed majorities.
The first vote, on a motion by Mike Langknecht, seconded by Ted Castro-Santos, would have created an early education center at Hillcrest Elementary, where Montague pre-K students would be educated. Forty-five pre-K students are presently schooled at Hillcrest, which is also home to about 125 students in grades K-2. Under Langknecht’s proposal, the K-2 students at Hillcrest would move to Sheffield, expanding the grade span at that school from 3 – 6 to K-5 or K-6. The Montague Center School would also expand to a K-5 or K-6 school.
[School superintendent Sue Gee has proposed moving sixth graders to the underutilized Great Falls Middle School. Langknecht’s proposal provided leeway for this change to Montague’s grade configuration.]
According to the regional agreement between the towns of Gill and Montague, eight affirmative votes are required to close a district school. Langknecht’s proposal avoided the necessity of reaching a “supermajority” of the nine-member committee by leaving the Hillcrest School “open” for the education of pre-K students.
The school district’s attorney, Fred DuPre, present at the meeting, said a simple majority of the quorum would be required to pass Langknecht’s proposal. With all nine school committee members present and voting, five yes votes would have been needed to pass it, but when the roll call came only Richard Colton joined Langknecht and Castro-Santos in the affirmative.
Next, Valeria Smith proposed closing Montague Center School and leaving the Turners Falls campus intact, with a pre-K through grade 2 school at Hillcrest and a grade 3 through 6 school at Sheffield. Under this proposal, the 86 students at Montague Center would be absorbed into the two Turners Falls schools. School committee chair Mary Kociela joined Colton, Langknecht, and Castro-Santos in voting against this motion, which fell short of the required eight affirmative votes.
Finally, Terry Lapichinski proposed a pre-K through K school at Hillcrest, and a grade 1 through 5 school at Sheffield, with Montague 6th graders moving to the middle school, and Montague Center closed. This proposal gained Kociela’s support, and found Castro-Santos abstaining. Colton and Langknecht voted against; the proposal failed to gain 8 affirmative votes.
The school committee asked Gee for more financial data on the impact of the first and third proposals, since they represented variations on scenarios previously considered, which had showed savings in the range of $90,000 for closing half of Hillcrest School to $255,000 closing both Hillcrest and Montague Center. Closing Montague Center alone would save the district between $139,000 and $159,000, depending on how the Turners campus is configured.
Kociela adjourned the meeting by urging members to return on December 12th ready to take up the proposals once again. “I think we did a lot tonight,” she said. “We finally had some very good discussion (among the committee). I’m looking forward to the next meeting to sift through the information and try to get some movement.”
For details on the discussion, look for this week’s Montague Reporter, on newsstands Thursday afternoon.