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WVN #108: School Committee Update

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  • waylandvoters2
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 15, 2005
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      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
      sports."

      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
      district."

      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
      friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own
      copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters@... and they will
      be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up by
      sending a blank email to:waylandvotersnetwork-
      subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Click reply and send after receiving an e-
      mail confirming the subscription.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors
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