If anyone is wondering about the outcome of the Super search, the School Committee voted- and declared unanimous- to hire Michael Sullivan of Northampton Massachusetts.
If you go to MCTV's website, you can hook up with the video form the interviews and the decision meeting, etc.
P.s. He said he'd work with the tech panel... ;)
Yes I will be going to the budget hearing tomorrow. Here is a list of questions I sent to the school district about three weeks ago and will be asking some. Some have been answered because several SC members asked them too. I am posting them here although it is perhaps not that helpful without the original budget packet handed out.
TMS = "Management Solutions" who essentially runs the GMRSD business office and created these materials.
Analysis and Questions re the proposed FY 14 budget (TMS version)
This packet contains 1) An intro with budget assumptions (1) 2) TMS Preliminary line item budget (pp. 2-19) 3.) Another budget that appears to be full funds (20-26) 4.) Salary and operating increases? (p. 27) 5.) Assessment sheet (28) 6.) Grants list (29?) 7.) Revolving accounts (30). There is also a FY 2013 Budget report of current status.
General comments and questions:
1. The TMS line item preliminary budget does not appear to be an “all funds budget”. It totals $17, 257,629.18. The budget on the assessment sheet is an “all funds budget” and totals $19,155,043. Grants, school choice and circuit breaker are then pulled out under “less other revenues” We have not had these revenues outside the budget in the past and just wonder about the rationale. Not criticizing but raises questions about some of the the line items (for example school choice) and how they work etc. Also raises questions about sustainibility but this format in some ways is more transparent in this area.
2. The long term fiscal plan (Table B) does not appear to have been consulted. This may not be true but it certainly appears that way. The budget increase and and town assessments appear to be significantly higher than in the latest version of Table B. For example Table B assumed a budget increase of 2 ½% and a total assessment increase of less than 2% while the TMS budget assumes a budget increase of and an assessment increase of . It seems to me if you are going to start out the process this way there should perhaps be an explanation a bit of evidence that the long term plan was consulted.
3. Not clear how this budget was developed “without administrative input.” Not a criticism, just not clear how it could have been done.
Other comments and questions.
Budget assumptions (page 1)
This seems to contain most of the key revenue and expenditure assumptions. It would be good to have the actual numbers as you do in some cases with totals so one can see if revenues and expenditures meet.
*Minimum local contribution – Municipal growth factor seems logical as initial adjustment. Governor’s budget scuttlebutt clams to be fully implementing the reforms of 2007 (aggregate wealth model) so the minimum contribution may be a bit lower. Unclear however whether this requires proposed state tax increase. IMHO this does not really impact overall town assessment/funding which are far above minimum contribution. Does impact the ratio between Gill and Montague.
* 4% increase in health insurance – basis for this estimate? GIC?
*Salary increase of estimated $781, 005 or 11%. Obviously this is one of the big budget drivers. What is the basis for this.. staff increases or decreases? Steps? Colas? Role of grants?
*School choice funds at $750,000. Is this net in and out? Probably not. I really feel school committee should understand this and how it relates to line items because this method is different than before TMS. Line item in budget was net and there was no school choice revenue on assessment sheet as here.
*Grant funds $700,000. Same issue to some degree. Not clear how this relates to line item estimates in prelim budget, sustainability. Seems like a huge cut compared with your grant list at the end but perhaps not.
*Circuit Breaker $586,334. Same issue Not clear how circuit breaker revolving account works and how use of this revenue source has increased or decreased over time. Obviously this could have an impact on future budgets if GMRSD is reducing assessments with increased amounts that are not sustainable. Not saying this is so but should be considered See revolving accounts. p. 30.
*$300,000 E and D use. This is more than Table B calls for, which is $200,000. Given the already bit gap between assessments in this budget and Table B this obviously needs discussion. When we created Table B DESE raised questions about whether the lower $200,000 was sustainable.
Line item budget..
I have a number of questions but will wait for the budget hearing for most of them and try to send them out in advance. Again, the final amount of $17.257,629.18 is obviously much lower than the “all funds” budget on assessment sheet. Thus it probably includes the use of grants etc to reduce line items whereas on the assessment sheet these are subtracted from the all funds budget. (27). This may be the right way to go but it raises questions about how the line items are calculated and whether these various uses of grants, school choice funds, circuit breaker etc are sustainable. The good news is that the new TMS process allows us to see this better than the old process.
A few picky points… The line item budget is labelled T1T2 but is not the traditional T1T2 as it used to be presented. That was a shorter budget summary sheet. The line item budget is rather hard to follow due to the smaller type face and the way the broader “functions” at the end of lists of line items appear. Maybe just some changes in type face would make it easier to follow. We have had this in the past.
Material on pp 20-26. Not clear to me what this is.
Salary and operating increases. (p. 27)
This provides more detail to support budget assumptions on page one. A total increase of $689,989.66. Again I would want a bit more of a breakdown in terms of how this number is calculated. Especially re salary increases. The comments say “no individual contract increases” so does this not include steps and colas? If not the the projected increase would no doubt be much larger.
Assessment Sheet (28)
TMS seems to have returned to the traditional format. Not my favorite but I think this is good for historical consistency and it is the basis for Table B.
Again, the method is a bit different since the FY 14 budget is an all funds budget. then School Choice, Circuit Breaker and Grants are subtracted. These did not used to be on the assessment sheet but this may work out better. Again raises questions in my mind about relationship between these revenue sources and the line items that appear in the previous budget. Also sustainability issues.
Enrollment seems very low. 783 for Montague and 124 for Gill for a total of 907??? Is this what I am seeing. I thought the foundation enrollment was just under 1,100??
Obviously the assessments and increases are significantly higher than in Table B, the long term plan.
Grants (p. 29)
Very helpful chart on historical use of grants. Does not include FY 14. Why, since they are part of the all funds analysis? Creates the impression that there has been a huge decline in FY 14 which is hopefully not true. Again, need to review for sustainablity.
Again, extremely helpful. Need to understand how these work and how they work their way into the budget. For example I assume the $445,613 reported for Circuit Breaker for 7-1-12 is used to fund the $586,334 use assumed on page 1 and on assessment sheet? Maybe, maybe not but if so how does this work and what are the long term implications?
Ditto school choice. I was under the impression we lost money via school choice (more out than in) so how do we get a balance that seems to be used to fund shortfalls in other line items etc. More favorable balance than what was originally assumed?
Just a reminder that GMRSD will hold a public hearing on their proposed FY14 budget this Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 5:45 pm at the high school. In the past, these hearings have often been sparsely attended, which seems a little odd given the intense questioning the district has faced at town meeting. ;-}
This is a great opportunity to get questions answered, express opinions (pro or con), and/or just find out more about this very important part of our community. I hope to see a good crowd this year! :-)
Re the incident of racial harassment at a local school.
If my kid was being subjected to racist remarks I would be a "bit sensitive" too and the question seems to be... is an in school suspension and an apology really zero tolerance? My impression is that homeowner does not think so and this may well be a valid opinion. My personal view, for what it is worth, is that I would judge the school response in part on the basis of whether it works... that is, whether the incidents at the school stopped. To me the response seems to fall a bit short of zero tolerance.
But this is an issue of school policy, and of course racial harassment is near the top of the list in the area of key school policies. It is often at the very front of these policy manuals we see. Parents who are not satisfied with policies should have ample opportunity to question them and ask for changes. There is a pretty elaborate structure for "parental input" at public schools like Sheffield, some of which is required by state law and regulations. There is usually some sort of "parent advisory council" and or a PTO. We also are supposed to have an elected school committee that is supposed to listen to input and exercise oversight. re policies. The goal, IMHO, should be a problem-solving culture that builds confidence among parents and the community in part so these incidents do not blow up into huge unresolved controversies.
Stuff happens, mistakes are made, sometimes policies don't work. It is how the system responds that matters.
BTW I am very skeptical of Responsive Classroom, particularly in areas like this, based in part on personal experience. But that is another discussion.
The beauty of this approach is that it's instilling and reinforcing so many other positive values as well as the ones being discussed. Done authentically, and not manipulatively, it demonstrates to the kids our trust in their trustworthiness and in their intelligence and in their worthiness to be included in the discussion. But it has to be done with a true intention of meeting them honestly. If it's approached as simply a technique to get better adherence to rules or to 'make the kids be responsible', the smart kids will smell a rat a mile away and just go through the motions. It has to be based on an honest faith in the humanity, goodness, and grown-up-ness of the kids and in their ability to empathize with others, be thoughtful, be kind, be loving. This ain't no party trick. This ain't no new way to train them. It's a way to remind them of their own humanity and to welcome them to the community as participants.
This is not the way things are normally approached in schools - most anyway - and the results are in: most schools fail.
" That's not to say that all Center School children behave perfectly all the time"
Agreed, from personal experience, but nothing works 100%, and family influence/situation can trump a lot. I think this approach has a good chance of a high success rate, which is more than you can say about some of the alternatives ....
Paul K - Agreed. This is what the Greenfield Center School does - it's part of the Responsive Classroom technique. That's not to say that all Center School children behave perfectly all the time, but it does establish goals for good behavior and caring for fellow students.
Any sensible adult should know that giving our youths the opportunity to have ownership in structuring our expectations of them, as well as their own with each other, will ensure higher levels of respect, responsibility and accountability.
"Zero Tolerance" should apply to the environment of the school and not automatically to a specific child's behavior. If "no bullying" and "no racially-tinged name calling" are truly part of the foundational underpinnings of the school as a whole, the type of behavior described would have social consequences above and beyond some punishment that the principal comes up with.
How do you create a true zero-tolerance environment? By consensus building. Not by handing the kids a printout of a set of rules on the first day of school. Zero tolerance should be built from the ground up, not handed out from the top down. So, engage students in discussions and lessons from Day One about those social or ethical issues and let them participate in the setting up of rules for acceptable behavior. That way, when someone screws up in the lunchroom or on the playground, his or her peers will feel empowered to step in on behalf of anyone being bullied or called names.
The incident described ought to be treated as a symptom of a larger failure within the community and not just as the screw-up of one student. Were there other kids around who witnessed this? Did they speak up? Is this kind of thing happening more than just in isolated incidents? Has the administration looked into all this? Has the entire school community been assembled together to discuss how they feel about it? This is the only way that 'zero tolerance' is really meaningful, in my opinion. Otherwise it's just a throwaway line to make people feel good about themselves.
Treat students as responsible participating citizens and they're likely to think of themselves that way; treat them as children and they'll act that way.
suspension then expulsion should only be done in extreme cases or repeat offenders.
First offense if a one time verbal comment I think a talking to and a note to parents should alert student that the behavior is not accdeptable. Repeat offenses or more severe incidents would warrant harsher punishments.
Suspension or expulsion would immediately involve the parents since they would have to come up with a way to deal with a child suddenly not in school. this is a severe punishment that I believe should try to be avoided at elementary age kids but I understand sometimes it is the onlyh way to get parents concerned enough to get involved.
To me, zero tolerance means completely unacceptable behavior that should get the perpetrator suspended if not expelled. That is probably the most severe punishment our schools give. A pattern of name calling, especially racially motivated, sounds like bullying to me.
The sad thing is, these kids tend to learn these attitudes and behaviors at home. Sending them home for a few days is probably not going to help change the attitude or behavior.
I'm curious to hear other opinions about this. When a kid does something wildly inappropriate, there is a spectrum of possible responses, from " kids will be kids" to drowning.
The extremes are clearly not appropriate, but where in the middle should the line be drawn? IMHO, to answer that question we'd need to know the answers to a number of questions that would establish exactly how aware the kid was of what she was doing and its likely effect on the victim. There's also the question of whether the goal is punishment or rehabilitation (behavior modification?) -- different goals suggest different strategies for achieving them.
Factor in a new principal -- how aware is he of the history and culture of the school in this area (which would help him determine how out-of-line this girl's behavior was)?
I don't know what the answer is. A simple answer is that "zero tolerance" means that any infractions are punishable by death and the erasure any record of the perpetrator's existence, but I doubt any of us really wants to go there. But if we don't want to go there, then "zero tolerance" is a slogan that sounds good but means ... well, what does it mean?
I don't know what the appropriate discipline is, but that is very disturbing and does not seem to have been taken very seriously. The chocolate milk remark sounds a bit silly, but the other is definitely not. Kids get ISS for things that are fairly trivial, so for a kid, especially one who is certainly old enough to know better, to only get ISS plus an apology doesn't sound like Zero Tolerance at all. A counselor recently said to me that making a kid write an apology when they probably don't even mean it is hardly a consequence.
Sorry to hear your son is being subjected to this kind of treatment. I've been impressed that almost all the kids I know in this community are very open to other races and cultures, but those who are not should not be allowed such blatantly offensive behavior.
Yesterday my son was again the victim of racial harassment by one of his peers. This 11 year old girl said to him "SHUT UP MY SLAVE" and "YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRINK BECAUSE YOU MUST DRINK A LOT OF CHOCOLATE MILK".
When this was brought to the attention of the new principal Mark Andrews, he had the student come in for a talk. She admitted to making the racial statements and was told she had ISS for the remainder of the day and had to write an apology letter to my son. That's it.
So, will someone please explain to me what zero tolerance really means and what it should look like in the elementary school? What do you think a school should do in a situation like this?
I don't want to be overly sensitive but after the attack on my son and him being called a "Dirty Nigger", I am a bit sensitive to racial harassment.
For those interested, the statement I read at the 12/11/2012 meeting of the GMRSD school committee has been posted in the "School District Budget Documents" section of this web site (see link at upper left). Look for in in the "Technical Panel" section .....
"I personally am not clear why this is suddenly an issue but if the current interim superintendent does not wish to attend our discussions that is his choice."
It's an issue because certain people MADE it an issue. It's not the responsibility of this VOLUNTEER panel nor is it required by the Superintendent. Why bellyache about it? Just submit the information to the various parties (School Committee, Finance Board) and be done with it. Why is a special meeting necessary? I have to say I'm slightly perplexed. You seemed to somewhat disdain the School Committees use of focus groups ("and if they really need people like you and me to tell them what they should be looking for in a superintendent, after all we've been through over the past ten years, then I think that's a problem."), yet you seem to be advocating the contrary. Is the tech panel (or their 'work') more valid that other groups (parents, communities, etc)?
I'm surprised to hear that the average superintendent stays for only three years. I wonder -- has that been true for other districts in our area?
It also occurs to me that the superintendents who have left GMRSD have mostly gone on to be superintendents in some other district. That's what Brenda Finn, Sue Gee, and Nadine Eckstrom did (and I'm reminded that Ken Rocke was a retired superintendent, who apparently couldn't resist doing it for another couple of years :-)). Ken Rocke left because he had to, of course, under the terms of his retirement, and then Carl Ladd left because of friction with the school committee (he went back to his former district in New Hampshire).
Maybe I'm missing something, but that doesn't sound like simple burnout from a high stress job to me -- it sounds like something else has been going on, at least at GMRSD. If I were on the GMRSD school committee, and especially if I were on the search committee, I think I would want to have a pretty good idea for how to minimize the chances of the next superintendent doing the same thing ....
Tricky Diego (?) - Please take a look at my post. Neither the School Committee nor the town boards do the work that the tech panel does, including creating and updating the long term plan (table B), research on projections of the Chapter 70 formula (not to mention understanding the formula!!!), and analysis of per student spending comparisons. This is why until now all the boards have found our efforts quite valuable. Two Superintendents have been on the tech panel and there has been no problem. In fact it has been very helpful.
The superintendent and school committee develop and meet with the town boards on the school budget. That is not our area and we are not interfering with that process.
This has been a very productive, creative effort. for nearly two and a half years Why suddenly is there a problem?
"Did you read Chris Curtiss' article in today's Recorder? It might help."
Yes, I did and it sounds like the 'tech panel' is a redundant VOLUNTEER group. If I'm understanding this right, the School Committee and the Superintendent already work with the Finance Committee and the Town Council, no? And the volunteers on this panel are also on the Finance Committee (Mike Naughton and Tupper Brown), no? I just don't get why a handful of people (including one or two on the School Committee AND the spouse of Tupper Brown) are so vehement about this panel participating when it;s not a requirement.
Re the tech panel... I have been on it from the beginning and here is my personal view. It is an informal group that does revenue and budget projections for use by the various parties in the compact that ended state fiscal control. It came out of a meeting of GMRSD, local and state officials in 2010 that wished to create a long term plan to end state oversight of the district. The technical panel essentially crunched the numbers. We produced Table B (the long term plan) and a "compact" for implementing it agreed to by all parties. This ended state fiscal control in December of 2010.
The technical panel has continued to update Table B each year to respond to new developments and real-time numbers. We have also done research and had discussions on the Chapter 70 state aid formula and its impact on the school district. There also has been research and discussion of GMRSD total per student expenditures, an issue raised by state legislators. This research has been given to the various parties in the compact. They have generally found it useful.
We are not a decision-making body and have never intervened in the GMRSD budget process. In fact we rarely have discussed the GMRSD budget per se. However our projections have certainly influenced budget and especially assessment discussions. For this reason the GMRSD superintendent has always been a member of the tech panel with very positive results. I personally am not clear why this is suddenly an issue but if the current interim superintendent does not wish to attend our discussions that is his choice. Personally I think it is a loss for the district not to have input.
Thanks for your clarity. I may not be writing this after all since is will also be covered in the usual school committee reports, but I'm interested in the questions you raise. At the meeting I attended, I was interested to learn that on average supers only stay for three years. It has become a very hard job with high burnout rates. That makes me less hopeful about getting someone who will stay for the long haul.
Some "general" observations concern the significant turnover in the Superintendent od Schools position at GMRSD :
It seems to me the significant turnover in the positon [over the last ten years +/-] has run concurrently with the significant controversey and upheavel on the Gill-Montaque School Committee . I would suggest that , maybe , MORE introspection needs to take place as to why "educated adults" [School Committee] trying to guide an educational enterprize [G-M School System] have not been able to behave as a "calm, deliberative , reasoned,and professionally loyal , board .
Just maybe, if that can be achieved , a selected leader of the school system [Superintendent] will be willing to commit to a longer period of time !!
Here is hoping so , for the good of my grandchildren, and ALL the other children in the GM school district !!!
Hopefully , a new commitment is being made for better "group dynamics " so that our children can truly be effectively served !
"... may I quote you on some of this--the 7 supers in 12 years and the fact that the focus groups seem unlikely to present new information?"
Lee - sure, if you like. The seven supers is public knowledge -- since 2000, we've had Roma Hansis, Brenda Finn, Sue Gee, Ken Rocke (known to be interim during each of his two years), Carl Ladd, Nadine Eckstrom (hired as interim; some confusion about whether she was on track for a permanent position), and Mark Prince (interim).
To be clear, IMHO it's not a "fact" that the focus groups seem unlikely to present new information -- it's just my opinion. Others may (and do) differ. If you're doing an article, I'd be interested to hear why people think the focus groups are a good idea -- what do they think focus groups will provide, and how will that help select a successful superintendent?
Also, I'd be interested to learn whether those involved in the search think that the superintendent turnover is a problem, and if so how they hope to attract a candidate who will stay long longer than two years.
At the last night's focus group re: superintendent it was mentioned that the current Superintendent may not continue to participate in the Technical Panel. There was an article in the Greenfield Recorder (I think today's) that reported that the current administration feels the Panel's work has been done. Seems to me not a great idea!
Turners Falls 36 Ware 8. Turners basically dominated a very big, tough, physical Ware team that was on a roll until this game. Ryan Wilder appears to have broken the Franklin County single season rushing record but as usual it was a team effort and a lot of players stepped up and made plays.
The win was particularly impressive given the emotional and exhausting win over Greenfield just last Thursday ("Turkey Day"). But there did not seem to be much of a letdown.
The Division 4 Finals, also known as the "Superbowl" will be Saturday, 10:00 on four days rest. Turners will probably be playing Pathfinder, a very strong team that I do not believe has lost a game all year.
I think you misunderstood my post. First, I never said my perspective was "more valid" than anyone else's. Second, I am a community member, so when I say "a bunch of parents and community members" I include myself. And I didn't "ridicule this method of including the community"; I said I thought it should be superfluous (that's not the same thing).
Of course your opinion is valid; so is mine. But neither of us is on the school committee, and if they really need people like you and me to tell them what they should be looking for in a superintendent, after all we've been through over the past ten years, then I think that's a problem. Maybe you don't, but please don't call me arrogant just because we don't agree.
Frankly, your comments about the finance committee and other town officials strike me as arrogant and uninformed -- you write off a large group of hard-working people who are trying to do what they think is best for the town. You don't have to agree with them, but you don't have to insult them, either.
"Asking a bunch of parents and other community members what they want seems nice on the surface (can you say "inclusive"?), but I'm not sure what the point is. As a finance committee member, I want a superintendent who can bring in responsible budgets, which I define as budgets whose assessments the town can afford..."
Excuse me, but your comment seems a little arrogant. Why 'as a finance committee member' do you deem your opinion more valid than that of a 'bunch of parents and other community members'? Seems disrespectful to me as a parent. My opinion matters as someone who has a true investment in the outcome of the hiring of a Superintendent - one who has a child in the district. Poo poo the process all you want, but I'm sick to death of the finance or town committees thinking they have more of a valid say in the school district than that of 'a bunch of parents'. It's evident that you are not aware of the process since you think it's a step to 'outsource that to us'. If you don't want to be a part of the process, then step back into the peanut gallery and let those that want to be included do so. It is STILL the responsibility of the school committee to hire a Superintendent, but to ridicule this method of including the community is not helpful at all.
I agree that the enrollment decline is a big problem: both because of its effect on the district's finances (and thus on its educational mission); and because it has been recognized as a problem for years by the school committee, yet they seem to have no strategy for solving it.
I would add that the SC has hired at least seven superintendents over the past twelve years. Two of them (Rocke, Prince) were known to be short-timers, and Ekstrom was arguably a question mark, but the rest were assumed to be in it for the long run, as is the eventual candidate for the current position. IMHO, the school committee should know better than anyone else in the district why those other superintendents didn't work out, and consequently what lessons can be learned from their experiences.
Asking a bunch of parents and other community members what they want seems nice on the surface (can you say "inclusive"?), but I'm not sure what the point is. As a finance committee member, I want a superintendent who can bring in responsible budgets, which I define as budgets whose assessments the town can afford; were I a parent, I would want lots of wonderful programs aimed at my child's particular skills. We all want what we want, and that's fine, but we elect the school committee to run the district, and we've heard several times over the past few years that their only real job is to hire the superintendent. Now they want to outsource that to us?
It occurred to me that if the school committee doesn't already have a pretty good idea of what it wants in a superintendent, then no amount of public participation is going to make much difference, and if they do already know, then public participation may not be necessary. So either way, the fact that it probably won't happen may not be such a big deal ..."
I totally agree and would go much farther than this. This whole business of organizing a focus group to figure out what the district needs appears to be "listening" to the public but really is a top down, controlled effort to ignore the obvious. The district has lost nearly 1/3 of its students over the past decade, a reality that threatens both its fiscal and educational viability. This reality has been emphasized time and time again. The school committee voted to make enrollment a focus about a year ago and then discussed some concrete measures to turn the situation around. That vote still stands but the current leadership seems deeply committed to ignoring the problem.
We need a superintendent committed to turning around the enrollment disaster or we will soon say goodbye to the GMRSD. Focus groups will not change that reality.
I understand that there are many doubts and questions about the emphasis on enrollment, which I played a major role in promoting.But we should talk about these issues (at public meetings with citizen input) rather than sweep the whole problem under the rug, reinventing the wheel again and again. This is all stuff created by the process industry that grew in the 1970s and '80s. It provides work for various process professionals, who help us spin our wheels in the mud.
There will be a focus group held on Wednesday, November 28th from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Turners Falls High School Theater, for interested parents and community members to meet with a representative from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to give input that will assist in developing a profile for the new Superintendent of Schools.
"What happened was that there were six parents and a community member."
Wow. Impressive! ;-}
It occurred to me that if the school committee doesn't already have a pretty good idea of what it wants in a superintendent, then no amount of public participation is going to make much difference, and if they do already know, then public participation may not be necessary. So either way, the fact that it probably won't happen may not be such a big deal ....
we had parent teacher conference last night which was scheduled way further in advance.
How about posting an email address that people can send their thoughts to since some people have more spare time at different times during the week?
What happened was that there were six parents and a community member.
I would say if the school committee really wanted community and parental input they would have advertised it better. They should know that. Hopefully in the future they will actually work a bit harder to get the word and and make sure that it gets out. To do otherwise would suggest that they really don't want to hear from the community (including parents.)
Given the impact the district has in the communities, I hope that the SC will, going forward, make sure more voices are included in the decision, and reach out to the community.
I'll kick off the discussion by saying (no surprise) that I think we need someone with strong financial management skills. I believe the district is facing another financial crisis, caused by the state's unwillingness to increase Chapter 70 aid in the near term.
Some will argue that we can somehow change the state's mind, and I wish them luck and hope they succeed, but right now I take it as a given that Chapter 70 for GMRSD will rise by 1% or less for the next two or three years, anyway. That means that the district's budget will need to grow by about 2% or less over that period if we want to avoid another fiscal showdown with the towns, who (IMHO) are simply not in a position to make up for the state's shortfall.
That's not very much growth, and it will take a skilled hand to make it happen. (I believe it can be done -- Carl Ladd kept the budget level for two years, and Nadine Eckstrom held growth to about 1% -- but it obviously won't be easy.)
Without that, everything else -- innovative programs, academic excellence, embracing diversity, etc. -- is moot. If the money isn't there, eventually you have to shut your doors, and then it doesn't matter what you had planned to do if they remained open. I'm not saying those things aren't important -- on the contrary, they're crucial, but they have to be pursued in the context of a tightly managed budget.
That's the challenge for the district, and for the incoming superintendent. We need someone who looks like they have a reasonable chance of meeting that challenge.
"A session for parents is scheduled for tomorrow (11/15) at 5pm and a session for community members is scheduled for 6pm, both at the High School!"
Thanks, Mike! missed the sessions tonight, due to the short notice -- perhaps you (or someone) can share what came out of them?
Also, perhaps there can be a discussion on this corkboard about what sort of superintendent the district needs. We don't represent everyone, but then who does? We've got some pretty intelligent folks on this board, some of whom care about education generally and the district in particular. I think it might be useful ....
The district is also holding "focus group" sessions to solicit input on the superintendent search. A session for parents is scheduled for tomorrow (11/15) at 5pm and a session for community members is scheduled for 6pm, both at the High School!
Complaints dogged Montague’s new principal
By CHRIS CURTIS
TURNERS FALLS — Montague Elementary School’s new principal is leaving his job as principal of the East Brookfield Elementary School under a cloud.
Interim Superintendent Nadine Ekstrom announced at this past week’s School Committee meeting that Mark Andrews was hired to replace Maureen Donelan, who is leaving the district for a job in the Orange school system.
Ekstrom said Andrews had been a principal in the Spencer-East Brookfield public schools since 2007 and will begin the new job July 1.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported in March that Andrews was placed on administrative leave by the district superintendent following a review of his handling of a situation involving a sixth-grader threatening other students and complaints from parents including an allegation of harassment.
When asked about that report, outgoing interim Superintendent Nadine Ekstrom said she cannot discuss personnel issues specifically.
Ekstrom said of 11 candidates who applied for the post, she brought three forward to the search committee for the position, who elected to interview two based on their experience, certifications and knowledge of the curriculum used in the district, including the Tools of the Mind and Keys to Literacy programs.
“We did reference checks, we did research, we did all of that on all of our candidates,” Ekstrom said. “We discussed all of the findings and then we determined whether we wanted to appoint somebody or if we wanted to go out for another search, and there was a unanimous decision from the committee to appoint Mark Andrews as our principal.”
Ekstrom said the search committee included herself, Joyce Phillips of the school committee, Montague Elementary Assistant Principal Travis Yagodzinski, parents, teachers and paraprofessionals.
The superintendent has final authority in hiring most administrative positions including principals.
Reza Namin, superintendent of the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District, confirmed that Andrews is on administrative leave until June 30 and not having his contract renewed, but otherwise said he cannot comment on personnel issues. The committee was aware of the incident reported in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and was satisfied with the background check, Phillips said.
“The committee as a whole was very satisfied with the background check, with his resume and qualifications,” Phillips said.
Phillips discounted newspaper reports and said the check was conducted through Ekstrom speaking directly to others in the Spencer-East Brookfield district.
Phillips said his recommendations from everybody were very solid and with no gray areas or wavering.
Contact information for Andrews could not be found at press time.