WVN #108: School Committee Update
- Wayland Voters Network
September 15, 2005
Dear Wayland Voter,
Do you have complaints about Town Meeting, and ideas about how to
improve it? The Town Meeting Study Committee wants to hear from you,
and invites you to a public forum tonight, September 15, Public
Safety Building meeting room, 7:30 p.m. The committee has been
looking at ways to streamline the process, improve TM culture, make
better use of technology, and meet the needs of attendees. You can
add your ideas to the mix tonight, or at another forum on Sunday,
Oct. 2, 4-5:30 p.m. For more info, contact TM Study Committee Chair
Judy Currier 508-653-8554.
This newsletter is a report of the School Committee meetings of
August 29 and September 6. The September 6 meeting was taped by
Waycam for later broadcast on Wayland Channel 9, this Friday and
Saturday, September 16 and 17, at 7 p.m. The following report was
written by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca.
OPEN MEETING LAW VIOLATION A subject at both meetings was the
finding of the Middlesex District Attorney's office, in response to a
complaint from the Wayland Town Crier. The DA found that the School
Committee had violated the Open Meeting Law by conducting
Superintendent Gary Burton's personnel evaluation in Executive
Session last year, and then refusing to make copies available to the
public. Crier reporter John Hilliard was present at both meetings,
and extensive reports on the matter have appeared in the Crier. In
accordance with a request in the Assistant District Attorney's letter
to Town Counsel Mark Lanza, SC Chair Jeff Dieffenbach read the letter
aloud at the August 29 meeting. At the September 6 meeting the
committee discussed the DA's requests, which included release of both
the draft and final evaluations from June 2004 to the public, and
release of the individual inputs to the evaluation as well. The
committee voted to release the evaluations but declined to release
the individual inputs. When reporter Hilliard attempted to ask
questions regarding this decision during the final public comment
period before executive session, member Bob Gordon and then
Dieffenbach objected to the questions and insisted that Hilliard wait
until after the executive session (of unknown duration) to ask them
in a one-on-one interview. One observer described Dieffenbach's
demeanor as "having a chip on his shoulder." Voters may judge the
accuracy of this characterization for themselves by watching the
Waycam broadcast of the meeting on September 16 or 17 at 7 p.m.
It should be noted that this observer asked, by email to the
superintendent, for copies of the draft and final 2004 evaluations,
and had previously asked for a copy of the most recent (2005)
evaluation. All were sent and received promptly via US mail. The 2005
evaluation was reported on in an earlier WVN newsletter.
In contrast to the 2005 evaluation, the 2004 evaluation contains some
mild criticisms. For example, the document notes that negotiations
over a change in nursing coverage "started later and took longer than
was desirable." Further on, when discussing curriculum matters, the
document states "you might periodically challenge (which is not to
say overturn) your traditional and conservative approach to
education." Further on, when discussing the middle school renovation
project and the lingering problem with the heating system, it
says, "The fact that a fix has not been arrived at leaves a small
stain on an otherwise exceptional project." (Note: over a year later,
the problem is still not resolved.)
With regard to budgets, the document says:
"Two budget areas where we would have liked more prompt
information/action were the $480K "giveback" discovered at the end of
last year, and the near-term High School space needs discussion. In
both cases, it seemed to us as if we had to push harder than we
should have to see the areas addressed. On short notice, Joy Buhler
did a nice job of compiling information on modular science
classrooms; with a bit more advance preparation, though, her work
would not have had to be on short notice."
On the whole, however, the 2004 evaluation is highly laudatory,
collegial, and even admiring, and concludes with the following:
"Gary, on the occasion of your ten years of service in Wayland, it
continues to be a pleasure working with you. That we have identified
areas for improvement is not a criticism but a blue print. You
advocate for our children and our town with a passion and a sense of
humor that serves us all well."
If you wish to see the entire evaluation, you can request a copy from
the superintendent's office (Gary_Burton@... 508-358-
7728) or from WVN waylandvoters@....
JOINT WAYLAND-WESTON CREW - At the August 29 meeting over 100 people
crowded into the School Committee meeting room to lobby for official
recognition of the Wayland-Weston Crew team as an official school
sport. This was more than twice the number of people who attended the
next-best attended meeting in at least two years, which involved
class sizes at an elementary school.
This group has been formed, organized, and financed by parents, and
Sander Rikleen of Wayland, speaking for the group, made it clear that
the parents were happy to continue to do the heavy lifting. However,
they are unhappy that their sport is not accorded the recognition and
status that "official" sports have, citing specifics such as the
varsity letters and jackets looking different, not being listed on
the school web site, not being in the handbook or yearbook, and
generally not being treated like other sports. They have enjoyed
tremendous cooperation from other town departments such as Park and
Rec and the Town Surveyor (to lay out courses), along with some from
the schools. But, as Rikleen said, "We want to be a varsity program
just like all other varsity programs." There are over 100 kids
participating. Parents expect to continue to fund the capital
costs of the program - "This is not about the money!" he said.
The requests were discussed at the September 6 meeting, where the
committee agreed that there was no money to expand the athletics
program in the next year but that the schools could do a much better
job of recognizing the crew team in non-financial ways immediately.
They held out hope for financial support in the future, however.
Burton said, "As the school grows, we need to add more and more
SUPERINTENDENT'S GOALS - At the August 29 meeting Burton asked for
inputs for his goals for 2005-2006. He said the public can contact
School Committee members with suggested inputs. Last year the
superintendent's goal statement had three parts:
1. "To determine and properly manage the district's resources, fiscal
and otherwise, in order to preserve the quality of established K-12
programs, while helping to bring the high school building project to
an acceptable conclusion."
2. "To identify promising strategies and approaches to curriculum and
staff development opportunities necessary for this district to excel
in the daily instruction of all students."
3. "To recruit, hire, train, and retain educators and other school
employees needed to preserve Wayland's position as a premier school
TOWN CENTER PROJECT - The School Committee was asked by the Ad Hoc
Budget Committee to evaluate the impact of the proposed "town center"
project on the schools. They noted that all the schools were at or
above the desired 85% utilization factor: the elementary schools at
90-92%, the middle school at 85%, and the high school at 95%.
However, they decided to respond that the 40 new students projected
as coming from the proposed project could be comfortably absorbed.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BUILDINGS - Burton reported that Claypit Hill is
now in excellent shape - "the best building we have," he said. The
rest of the Happy Hollow roof needs to be done next year, and
the "Happy Hollow windows are in deplorable shape."
STANDARDIZED TESTS - Burton reported proudly that Wayland was
maintaining its tradition of doing well on standardized tests such as
SAT's and MCAS. This was reported in detail in the Town Crier.
BUDGET HEARING - At both meetings a citizen spoke to the need for an
early budget hearing to get inputs from the public before the budget
process seriously begins for next year, as opposed to merely
presenting a done deal in the spring. The committee agreed to have
such a hearing on October 17, at the beginning of its regular
meeting, at the middle school.
Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors